Emotions and Money: How Your Subconscious Beliefs and Environment Impact Your Relationship with Money

Emotions and Money: How Your Subconscious Beliefs and Environment Impact Your Relationship with Money


Whether you’re a savvy investor, a good saver, or someone who has self-identified as being “ bad with money” – the key to your relationship likely lies in your childhood.

You see, your subconscious/unconscious mind is running your life and your conscious mind (the part of you that reacts) is driven by the subconscious. From birth (likely even earlier at conception) until roughly age 7 or 8, your subconscious mind acts as a sponge, absorbing information that is being fed to you (directly or indirectly) whether aurally, orally, visually, or through touch. 

This theory suggests that how we relate to ourselves, how we interact with others and our environment, how we handle any situation, and all of our expectations, hopes, and dreams reflect anything and EVERYTHING imprinted on us within the first 7-8 years of our existence. Essentially, your 7-year-old self is the CEO of your life. 

That’s not to say that experiences and environments after age 8 don’t have an impact, it’s just at that point in life, we’re working with less fertile ground. So what do we do? We identify & we override. We learn to recognize the habits, thought patterns, fears, reactions, and identities that we don’t want and consider what from our childhood developed these belief systems that now rule our conscious patterns. 

Now for the fine print. While we deal with a great amount of financial therapy for our clients, we are not psychologists, licensed therapists, or medical professionals in any way. We are finance professionals who look at the big picture and all of the contributing factors (personal and environmental) to determine the root cause of the challenges our clients face in order to create the right path that enables them to pursue their goals. We believe that strategies and plans should be built based on the needs of the individual which goes beyond the dollar signs.  The way we communicate, how we disseminate information, the type of financial plans we create, and the support we provide along the way are reflective of the individual’s relationship to money. Which, as we now know, is reflective of their past, inclusive of the belief system imprinted on them at a young age – hence our interest in this topic of Behavioral Finance. 

As such, much of our work includes listening and reflecting on their personal experiences with money, their fears when it comes to spending, saving, and the future, as well as their daily habits and their inclination towards having daily habits. Our intention here is to help draw awareness to a lot of what we see within ourselves and our own clients which is this: There are underlying belief systems that directly impact our other relationship to everything, including money. Typically these beliefs are driven by fear which originates from a sense of instability that oftentimes we pick up at an early age and never manage to shake it. Then as we grow older and experience life, we continue to build on those fearful belief systems and they often result in things like panicked action, a sense of overwhelming shame, and paralysis.  

Sometimes the incident(s) that trigger a sense of instability isn’t even directly related to money at all! But how we relate to anything or anyone in life is quite similar – whether it’s a romantic relationship, a relationship to a job, our relationship to self, expectations,  friendships, and of course money – it’s all the same. Heal one and you can potentially heal or partially heal the rest.

Let’s Talk About The Past

Parental Influence and childhood environment on Your Money Beliefs.   

Since we’ve already determined that our adult version is a reflection of the 7-year-old subconscious and that childhood subconscious is a reflection of all of the information that was fed to us during the first 7-8 years of our life, then we can begin to understand where much of our beliefs, fears, habits come from- the environment and people with whom we found ourselves during these formative years. Just like an adult finds that they’ve “turned into their mother or father”  our relationship with money is greatly informed by our parental figures’ attitudes and beliefs around money, jobs, and general security. 

Before you run off and curse your parents for your money woes remember that they too have been operating on their 7-year-old subconscious mind which, like yours, was a repository for any and all things fed to them by their surroundings and people closest to them who were also reacting to the world from their subconscious mind and so on and so forth. Do you see how it’s cyclical? Let’s break the cycle. 

Those who played a starring role in your upbringing – parents, guardians, and the like – their attitudes and beliefs about money get imprinted on you. It’s also not just what is said directly to you – it can also be what you see and hear around you as well as what is NOT said that can impact self-worth which is related to our relationship with money.  Whether a parent is a workaholic or can’t hold a job, or a prominent adult figure constantly complains that money doesn’t come easy, or a mother or father is emotionally unstable or unavailable and the child inadvertently takes on the role of the adult, that little child observes, processes, and internalizes the experience and translates it on future similar experiences. I mean, how many times have you looked in the mirror and thought – holy shit, I’m turning into my mother/father? Ask yourself the same thing the next time a fear-based money thought pops into your head. 

None of this is to put any blame on anyone- everyone is doing their best with what has been given to them. For marginalized groups, it is often even more difficult as they face socio-economic challenges & generational trauma from systemic abuse that other communities have and will never experience (more on that later).

Holding on to Past Experiences

Sometimes you’re working from a storyline that developed from a past experience you had without the help of anyone else. Have you ever been in the grocery store with a long line of people behind you and bags full of groceries only to have your debit card declined? 

Have you ever gotten that notification in your email that your bank account has hit zero? 

Was there a period of time in your life when you had to budget your spending down to the dollar and still feel you struggled to enjoy your life? 

All of these experiences can generate shame, embarrassment, panic, and then fear of it happening again. Before you know it, the experience of purchasing something in public is muddled with the feeling of shame so you experience panic every time you’re in the checkout line. These feelings then have a domino effect – questioning your self-worth, fear of the future, and even hopelessness depending on how bad you perceive your situation to be. Working through unprocessed trauma from past experience (with a professional!) could help improve your relationship with money. 

Mind/Money Matters

Your daily relationship with money, and your ability (and sometimes willingness) to manage financial insecurities/anxiety, can be greatly impacted by low self-esteem and psychological conditions like ADHD, OCD, depression, and anxiety. You are not only battling with ingrained beliefs and past experiences but also navigating an added layer of emotional complexity.

It is important to acknowledge and address those challenges, as they do have an impact on your overall well-being and financial choices. By being aware of these difficulties and identifying them, you can start to understand how they affect your spending patterns and take the necessary steps to have a better connection with your money. Keep in mind that you are not alone on this path, and getting expert advice can be crucial in navigating these challenging emotions and habits.

The pressure of Being a Sole Provider

Being the sole provider comes with an immense amount of pressure and responsibility. As the primary breadwinner, you are responsible for the financial well-being of your family, which encompasses not only the essential living expenses but also ensuring a comfortable and secure lifestyle. This significant responsibility can cause heightened stress levels and anxiety, which can have a ripple effect on other areas of your life. The pressure to maintain job stability in an ever-changing landscape only adds to the stress experienced by sole providers as they navigate their financial obligations and family needs.

Do you ever find yourself saying “Just one more hour?”

This stress can cause “workaholism,” due to prioritizing earning more money over personal well-being, relationships, or self-care. On the flip side, this can create an imbalance in other areas of life, leading to burnout, resentment, or a lack of fulfillment.

To manage the stress associated with being a sole provider, it is crucial to develop effective coping strategies. This approach can include seeking support from friends, family, or professionals, practicing stress-reduction techniques, like mindfulness or exercise, and actively working to create a healthier work-life balance.

The Role of Lifestyle & Daily Habits on Money

Make sure your daily habits are aligned with your goals and keep in mind – like nearly everything else, what you do in your day-to-day has a domino effect in other areas of your life. Get in the habit of asking yourself, is how I’m spending my time right now aligned with my goals? Funny enough – the way we do anything is the way we do everything, so if we’re disciplined and committed in one area in our life – we’ll see the impact across the rest. For example – if your mental health has an impact on your money choices, then take a look at how you’re spending your day and see if what you’re doing is fostering a healthy mental space. 

Generational Trauma

Feelings of fear, anxiety, and shame that you’re carrying may not even be yours to carry- it could be something that occurred generations before that has just been passed down by family members via belief systems and actions. 

The impact of generational trauma can manifest in individuals, entire families, and whole communities and has the ability to touch on all areas of our lives – including finances. 

With generational trauma (also called intergenerational trauma), emotions and behaviors linked to adverse — even terrifying — events are passed down through generations within a family, according to the American Psychological Association, or APA. This is particularly true for marginalized communities who have faced generations of systemic oppression. The effects of generational trauma can be seen in individuals, families, and communities — and these effects can touch every area of our lives, including finances. Working with a Financial Advisor who has experience working with marginalized communities can be a wonderful asset to help you in your money journey.  

Get Thee to an Advisor

By reflecting on our own emotional and psychological influences on money, we can make informed choices and take steps to improve our financial well-being and we do this with the support of various professionals, one of which is the right Financial Advisor. A study analyzed the role of financial advisors in the formation of their client’s investment beliefs and the findings conclude that advisors have a “critical role in facilitating the achievement of their client’s financial goals” and that financial advisors “act as facilitators” in that their input shapes their clients’ “investment beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.” Hence the importance of having a Financial Advisor that is right for you. 

But how do you know you’ve found the advisor appropriate for you? Is your advisor an empathetic listener? Do you feel heard? Have they asked any questions about your history with your relationship with money? Do they give you time and space to express your emotions around your current situation, your future goals, and the tools they are providing you with to get there? Are they taking the time to explain strategies to you rather than just putting your money into various investments? Are they empowering you through education?  

Similarly to a therapist, your financial advisor is looking at YOU, the complete picture of you, and providing strategies that reflect your unique needs which are reflected in your past experiences with money, your fears, your current situation, and your ideal financial state. 

Money doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be scary or difficult…and it doesn’t have to be something you manage on your own. 

The opinions voiced in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision.

PLEASE NOTE: The information being provided through the embedded links is strictly as a courtesy. When you link to any of the websites or articles mentioned, we make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these web sites.

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