Money Stories


Recently I have been making some decisions to invest in my business which, as I work alone, really means investing in myself. These decisions have created a lot of scattered thinking as I yo-yo between what I want and fear of spending money that doesn’t have an immediate and obvious outcome.

Noticing the powerful emotions of fear and the old beliefs around guilt and worthiness rising up, I have wanted to explore more how money influences me, and where the stories come from.

I’m not sure what money stories you grew up with, but here are a couple of mine that have been big influencers in how I relate to money.

I grew up in England in the ’70s and ’80 during a time of shifting political ideology and a move toward individualism. In my teenage years I was marching on the streets of London in solidarity with the miners whose pits were being closed. I marched to protest wars, to demand an end to nuclear arms and I felt part of something bigger than myself. As the nationalized systems set up post-war to create safety nets for our most vulnerable in providing health care, housing and education were being dismantled, the division between the rich and the poor grew. Traditional manufacturing industries were closing and unemployment was growing. The sense of social responsibility was declining in favour of a more individual focus. Coming from a family with a dad involved in the Trades Union movement the stories we grew up with were seen through a dominant social justice lens.

These stories have been the bedrock of my values. I always recognized our privilege. And I didn’t know what to do with that other than attempt to live my values in my day to day living, and to use my voice as much as I could. How could I do more? I didn’t know. I mostly felt powerless as a young woman, with my voice unheard. And I felt guilt that this was so, that I couldn’t be louder, more influential, more courageous.

Family money stories continued: I remember a family phrase was “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”, which I interpreted as being careful, thrifty, forward thinking, and always waiting for the rainy day. My parents were both children in the Second World War, and came out of their childhoods having experienced rationing, ‘making-do’, and the expectation of working and financially contributing as soon as they left school. These created values that included recognition and appreciation of what we had. And an understanding of how lucky we were – “there for the grace of god”, which is an interesting phrase for an agnostic household.

Relatively recent money story:  My marriage had ended, the financial parts of the divorce had not yet been settled and I had just moved back to Toronto with my teenage son from the East Coast, house sitting for friends of friends as I looked for a place to live. I had very limited money, and my business was not yet up and running. What on earth gave me the courage to move here?  It was financially reckless, and yet I felt the least fear I have ever felt around money. I somehow knew I would make it work. I had this belief in myself which I can only assume came out of surviving the challenging times of the previous few years. I was listening to my own inner voice, and I felt a sense of calm that I have never felt before, and quite honestly would like to replicate (but without all the preceding drama).

Fast forward to the present: Guilt has been a bummer in my entrepreneurial story – how can I ask people for money providing a service that I feel should be supported through our taxes and accessible to all who need it?  And at the same time how do I pay my mortgage? And guilt that I am lucky enough to have a mortgage. When my fears around judgement become dominant they tell me I will be seen as greedy and individualistic. These fears can impact decision making that loses sight of my needs and wishes.

I am still working out my stories around money, and privilege, and guilt and fear. I read a lovely blog by Chris Kay Fraser, the founder of Firefly Creative Writing where, and I paraphrase, the price we set for what we do or make is the way we let people know what we need in order to continue doing the work we do. That made such sense to me and felt very reassuring.

Over this holiday time, how can you listen to your money stories and reflect on how they influence your spending.  Do your money stories impact how you invest in yourself?

If you are interested in diving into your own money stories and how they impact your decision making in a creative supportive way, check out my Vision Board – Money Workshop in January 2019.

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