Firstly, I am not a financial advisor and nothing that is contained in this piece is anything other than my own experiences and understanding of my situation.
I used to think of money as a commodity, something I do or don’t have. Money is the reward for efforts at work and gets used for the things we need and want. In this world, it is often given credit for having a life of its own with claims of ‘ it slips through my fingers’, ‘it goes out faster than it comes in’ and ‘…sure I can’t keep a penny!’ These phrases show how easily we detach- money is seen as completely separate to the person. I think we need to look at money differently and consider that I have a relationship with money. And as with any relationship there are things that we do consciously and unconsciously get us the results we see – whether we want them or not!
Chatting with friends, we’ve asked ourselves why it is we’ve had the same relationship experiences with different partners? It’s because we keep doing the same things time and time again; the lover might change but our behaviours remain constant and we don’t change. So it is with money. Where we come from, our family of origin and all the beliefs and values we grew up with influence our current relationship with money. What do I really think about money? Is it a figure in my mind that I fleetingly consider at payday not thinking of it until there’s very little in my bank account? Saver or a spender? Am I a little blasé about it? Am I envious of people who are ‘good with money’, have disdain for wealthy people? Believe wealth to equal something corrupt? Do I put the same effort into it as I would a long-term, valuable friendship?
Pause and consider how you feel about talking about money? It is not something we ‘do’ in Ireland- for many it’s vulgar or too personal (which reinforces the theory that money is more than a commodity) but this also prevents us getting rid of the taboo around the issue. Most importantly, this avoidance prevents us talking with our partner, close friend or family members about it. And talking about it is a really useful way to gain greater understanding of our relationship with it and if we need, to get help.
Once we understand the factors in our own personal relationship with money we can begin to see the behaviour patterns that give rise to the financial circumstances we’re in. And our relationship with money relates to it at a number of points – earning it, receiving it, retaining it, growing it and spending it. At any of these contacts points we are affected by the relationship we have with money.
So what has this got to do with being diagnosed with MS, my biggest life-changing event? Doesn’t this money talk apply to everyone? Yes it does. But while financial health and physical and mental health are not interdependent they can be strongly correlated. Having MS can affect our ability to earn. Not earning can cause a financial crisis and a financial crisis can affect our peace of mind causing great stress and emotional wobbles. And these can then go on to create a cycle of cause and effect from which we can’t see a way out. So, without understanding our relationship with money it can be difficult to get to grips with being able to make real change when we go through challenges we didn’t see coming. And money won’t solve everything but it does allow for choice and security- things that are which are fundamental to progressing just that bit more easily. Circumstances change, dreams don’t. When life gets in between us and our dreams it’s not time to stop. It’s time to feel, plan, hope and most importantly, act. Your money is a great place to start.
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“It’s not me, it’s you. We just can’t seem to spend enough time together. You always seem to be with other people, you run away from me before I get to know you and when I need you, I have to work very hard to find you. Then you’re gone again!”