The Kenwood Press
: 09/01/2014

Viewing yourself through your past

Donna Colfer

How do you view yourself around money? Jessie thought she was irresponsible when it came to managing money, but in fact she was great at it. It was her husband who was irresponsible.

When Jessie was growing up, her mom and dad both earned a good living. Jessie’s mom taught her that if you really wanted something extra you would need to save for it. Growing up in a frugal household, when Jessie wanted a new toy she saved her money and was able to buy it. Her mom still paid for her clothes until Jessie’s taste became more expensive as she got older, then mom offered to pay half. The only exception was her birthday. That’s when she could ask for special gifts. Jessie and her mom were close and even though Jessie was aware of the frugality in the household, they were creative together and always had enough to be happy and have fun.

When Jessie was a teenager, her mom became ill and passed away. This threw Jessie into a bigger role with more responsibilities within the family – taking care of younger siblings and her dad (he was devastated but did his best), driving kids to school activities, grocery shopping, and doing the laundry.

After high school, without much guidance, Jessie spent the next six years in and out of colleges with financial help from her father. She always worked a couple of jobs, juggling her expenses with credit card debt she incurred. It was a constant struggle between finishing school and earning a living but she graduated and secured a full-time job that she loved. Now it was time to pay down debt. She felt guilty having debt, knowing her mom wouldn’t have approved.

A few years later, Jessie fell in love with her future husband, David. David was from a wealthy family, whom he grew to dislike. David had a love/hate relationship with not only his parents but with money, too. He grew up in luxury – high-end schools, shiny new cars, and elegant clothes. From childhood he had learned to love money for the status it displayed, but as an adult, he hated the feeling of being unfulfilled. He loved Jessie for her pragmatic approach to life, her strong sense of responsibility, and her open heart. Jessie was very much a “Warrior” with “Martyr” tendencies. But they were polar opposites when it came to managing money.

David displayed characteristics of the “Fool,” a restless, undisciplined, risk-taker, not willing to look at the details. Jessie followed along with David’s ideas, picking up the pieces when they fell and juggling them in the air when they didn’t. She was very good at taking care of David, the household, and working just like she did in her teens after her mom passed away.

At times, they needed to ask David’s father to rescue them from David’s newest investment failure. His father would come through, but he thought it was Jessie who was irresponsible and living extravagantly! This was very hurtful to Jessie and couldn’t have been further from the truth. David and Jessie both knew David wasn’t that good at managing money, so she tried hard to make up for it, but she wasn’t in control of the finances. It felt similar to her college days when she was young, in debt, and living on the edge. So she started believing “maybe I’m not that good with money.”

After years of unfulfilled dreams and not getting along with his parents, David and Jessie wanted to change their relationship with money. They called me for help. After a closer look at each one’s money patterns and behaviors and how they developed, I realized how good Jessie actually was with managing money. She had learned the hard way, being on her own for so many years, and the experience contributed to her more disciplined, action-oriented behavior around money. David, on the other hand, grew up in luxury where everything came more easily. He felt more comfortable taking uncalculated risks.

You should have seen Jessie’s face when I told them that Jessie was a good money manager and needed to take a bigger role in managing the finances. David agreed.

We had some work to do. We created a Cash Flow Statement for more awareness of their lifestyle, made a list of any debt (very little, as Jessie liked paying cash for things, as her mom had taught her), saving for an “emergency fund,” and made a plan for vacations and dreams.

David and Jessie are much happier now. David has a great job that fills his heart with purpose. And Jessie is all smiles, taking in her new identity as a “really good money manager.”