How Money Shapes the Story of Your Life

Sep 25, 2019 5:00 AM ET

How Money Shapes the Story of Your Life

by John Christianson, author of "The Wealth Creator's Playbook" and CEO of Highland Wealth Mgmt 

Everyone has a money history comprised of memories, experiences, and feelings about money that we accumulate over a lifetime. The interactions we have with money during our formative years are particularly powerful and often have a lasting influence on our adult lives. The story money tells isn’t always a happy one, and often is filled with pages of anxiety and frustration. Or, you might be one of the lucky ones, where your relationship with money has been mostly healthy and stress-free. Examining your money history will help you understand behaviors and relationship challenges around money throughout your life. Your money story is also one key to envisioning ideal future outcomes in your life, where money is concerned.

My money story began in a middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs of Seattle. My father was a teacher and worked evenings selling financial products to bring in additional income. My mom stayed home and raised three children. My parents modeled frugality in their money choices: reusing and getting the maximum life out of everything from clothes to tools, searching for second-hand gems discarded at the dump, and changing the oil in the car themselves. 

A sense of anxiety about having enough money followed me into adulthood. I was highly focused on earning enough money to buy the nicer things (houses, cars, clothes, trips) that eluded me as a child, even to the point of overspending at times. This behavior created tension, anxiety, and guilt because it was in direct conflict with my frugal upbringing. I can still get stuck in a decision spin cycle around money, and this played out recently when it was time to replace the Ford Explorer I had driven for 10 years. I considered buying a newer version of the Explorer but I really wanted something different. Because the nicer SUV’s are very expensive, I found myself hesitant to even start looking. I could see myself in a Range Rover, Audi, or Mercedes, and while I felt I deserved a nice car and could afford it, my money history was putting me into sticker shock with the higher-end models. With some coaching and encouragement from my wife, we finally purchased a used Mercedes SUV with very low miles that struck the right emotional balance between indulgence and a more practical price tag.

As a financial advisor, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years to uncover how their money stories impact their financial decisions and relationships. It has taken intentional introspection, growth, and coaching to understand and harness my own relationship with money and create better life outcomes (a process I explore in my new book, The Wealth Creator’s Playbook: A Guide to Maximizing Your Return on Money). I’m now able to recognize old, unproductive patterns of behavior and adjust my actions.

The following are 3 practical steps you can take to do the same thing - Read them in John full article here -