We all have certain views, opinions, and beliefs about money that influence our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions around spending, saving, debt, worth, and our relationship with money. During our lives we have come to form these beliefs based on what we were taught within our families growing up, often passed down from generation to generation, our own personal experiences, societal views and opinions, and social influences. In Financial Therapy, these assumptions or views about money are referred to as money scripts and are typically followed unconsciously into our adult lives. Money scripts are very powerful influences in how we relate to money, which can be both positive or detrimental. When money scripts are problematic, it can have a significant negative impact on one’s mental and/or physical health, financial well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. In order to create a more positive and healthy relationship with money, the underlying assumptions and beliefs, or money scripts, will need to be identified, understood, and changed to create more appropriate and beneficial money scripts.

There are four main categories of money scripts which have been identified as having a negative impact on the individual who holds them. They are: money avoidance, money worship, money status, and money vigilance, which are described in greater detail below.

Money Avoidance: Individuals with money avoidance scripts typically have a fear, disgust, or anxiety about money and consistently avoid dealing with money and reject their own responsibility for their financial situation. They often view money as evil, a taboo subject which should be avoided, consider wealth as greedy, and associate negative feelings with money. Money avoiders will either significantly underspend to avoid dealing with money or overspend or give money away in attempts to have as little as possible.

Money Worship: Individuals with money worship scripts believe that having more money is always the answer and there is never enough. They will view money as a way to gain power, status, happiness, or the life they dream of, but their needs are also never met as that amount continues to always be increasing. Money worshipers may also view spending money on others as a way to show love and affection, be workaholics, be consumed with financial success and material possession, and display hoarding traits.

Money Status: Individuals who have money status scripts view their self-worth and net-worth as one in the same. They consider status a direct result of their net-worth and spending abilities. In contrast to money worshipers who value accumulation of money, individuals with a money status script will be more concerned with the outward appearance they are able to display in accordance to their wealth and material possessions, making sure they always have what is in style, the latest release of an item, the most popular product, etc.

Money Vigilance: Individuals with money vigilance scripts tend to be very cautious, concerned, and aware about their finances. They may be very anxious about money, distrustful of others not close to them in financial situations, opt to use cash and avoid credit cards more often, and may engage in financial enabling. Money vigilant individuals also feel a necessity to save money. Money vigilant individuals will also tend to be very discreet with their money and may suffer from workaholism.

All of the above mentioned money scripts have the capability of having significant negative impacts on the individual who endorses them unless they are uncovered and changed. They can cause stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, workaholism, or lower quality of life and can impact relationships, professional lives, and physical and/or mental health. However, in working with a Financial Therapist, it is possible to explore the origins of one’s money scripts, the impact on one’s life, and ways to changes one’s money scripts to be more positive and healthy which will result in more positive thoughts and behaviors about money.

Source: Klontz, B.T., Britt, S.L., & Archuleta, K.L. (2015) Financial Therapy, Theory, Research, and Practice. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.