Our Relationship with Money- Part 1: Affluenza

We all have a relationship with money whether we know it or not. This relationship determines how we think, speak and act about money. It will impact our level of financial success. It will affect how we feel about money, how we approach it or what do we do with it. It also impacts the relationship we have with ourselves, our spouse, our children, our family and others. It shows up everywhere in our lives. From our investment decision making, our spending and saving habits or our approach to estate planning ― to how much we give away, our life style desires and the choices we make.

My work has allowed me to closely observe how deeply our relationship with money or wealth can positively and negatively affect every aspect of our lives ― mostly without our conscious awareness. I have seen how it causes divisions within families, between couples, between siblings and between business partners: How it destroys people’s sense of right and wrong, how debilitating it can be for heirs or how children are damaged by the belief that money is the answer to almost anything…

There is a great deal to say about our relationship with money, and therefore this month’s newsletter will be followed by others on the subject.
Our relationship with money, wealth, fame or success is a complicated one. We make the mistake of thinking that because we have what money can buy, that we should be sheltered from uncomfortable feelings, or from hoping that our children will be grateful and appreciative and from expecting that children will know how to responsibly deal with financial matters. Also, many of us think the opposite ― that the cause of our unhappiness is not getting or having what we want.

As our society is increasingly affected by the exponential increase in choices and opportunities available for those who have money and for others to make money ― and thus by the many, challenges, illusions and inaccuracies it represents. It is therefore important to understand our relationship with money and the impact that it has on our state of mind, our overall well-being, and how it affects the next generation.

In follow-up posts I will explain more about what I mean by “our relationship with money”. However, today I have chosen to share with you a little known, yet significant and unhealthy aspect of our relationship with money ― known as Affluenza.

All around the world, more and more people across all socio-economic levels buy into unbalanced attitudes and beliefs relating to money and wealth. These ubiquitous fallacies have created a collective social denial of money-related challenges that we all experience ― whether we have financial freedom or not. There are distinct feelings, attitudes and behaviors that people develop when they experience dysfunctional or unbalanced relationship with money:

  • Having more is never satisfying;
  • Growing feelings of entitlement (a false sense of entitlement);
  • Giving meaning to money rather than meaning to life;
  • Using money as a form of control (of others and situations);
  • Having life revolve around material possessions, status symbols or success;
  • Deepening feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem and self-worth, or an inability to have intimacy be compensated by focusing on the external aspects of life (rather than internal);
  • Increasing regard for the outer self coupled with a decreasing regard for the inner self;
  • Worrying about money, wealth, fame or success;
  • Being pre-occupied with self-image;
  • Spending frivolously or disproportionate hoarding;
  • Being addicted to work, technology, the latest trend, social media, cell phones, internet, media, etc;
  • Being unable to tolerate frustration and delay gratification;
  • Preoccupying oneself constantly with something external;
  • Being self-absorbed.

The symptoms of Affluenza can be observed throughout our culture: in those around us who have wealth; in those who are pursuing wealth; and in varying degrees within ourselves. The psychological dynamics of Affluenza are more complex, and more harmful, than one popularized definition. People across all socio-economic levels buy into the overriding value of money within our culture, and so denial of money-related difficulties is supported by society. Thus, developing a healthy relationship with money and wealth is a challenge for all of us.

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