Four Ways to Make Your Money Emotional

If therapy were vital for you to have a healthy retirement forty years from now, would you still do it?

Or do you only do it because it gives you an outlet now to metabolize your feelings with a professional who ultimately provides you with the tools to figure out what kind of life you want to live…

So you can go get it?

It’s probably the latter.

The “boring” and “confusing” things (that are often the clearest pathway to stable mental and physical health) in life are the ones we neglect.

Not only that, but we don’t always realize we’re neglecting them. Maybe you keep track of your credit score. Perhaps you check your retirement account balance weekly. You might even use a budgeting app to monitor your spending and set goals for yourself. (Studies show most of us aren’t doing those things — if you are, you’re off to a great start!)

But part of the reason *~* finances *~* live in obscurity for so many is that we don’t feel connected to them. We know we need money. We’re not stupid. Most of us can do the arithmetic required to calculate our monthly expenses and understand how much income we need.

If that were our principal issue, we’d have all solved it by now and be living in abundance and security (the current state of late-stage capitalism notwithstanding.)

It isn’t. Here’s the root of our cognitive dissonance when it comes to our money: We haven’t made it emotional.
Just like in therapy, those skills and tools are only as important as your vision for your life. Without knowing what you want to build, what use is a hammer?

Let’s talk about how you can infuse emotion into your money and thus, give it dimension…

Pick a Problem You Want to Solve

Money is a tool. We forget that because we get wrapped up in its culture…

The survival mindset coming from not having any, the status mindset coming from having more than you know what to do with…

If you want to start making your money emotional, pick a problem that you want it to solve.

Start thinking about what you’re ready to improve in your life. It doesn’t have to be noble — you may want to upgrade your old TV to a smart one because you’ve thought it was a frivolous purpose for years and you’re tired of not treating yourself. It can absolutely be noble — maybe you’re ready to go back to school but you don’t want to take out student loans for your first semester at community college.

Determine how much money you need to solve that problem — your ancient TV or your almost-finished degree — and calculate the number of hours you need to reach that goal.

Every time you work one of those hours, you’re one down. One closer. You’re solving your problem and money is getting you there.

Connect it with Your Childhood

Plenty of us have financial trauma resulting from our childhoods. Struggle meals when paychecks were a few days away… Eternal hand-me-downs… Missing your parents because work was more important and after all, they paid for a live-in nanny…

Often, our parents were just as consumed and disconnected from the emotionality of money as we are now.

Speak to your inner wounded child through what money can do for them.

Always wished you could have vacationed in the tropics like your friend in school did?

Set a goal. March towards it. Right that wrong. Sometimes, we think because we missed out on something as kids that the chance is over — you’re the grown-up now!

Realized your own kid hasn’t hung out with you in a while because you’ve been so focused on hitting the next milestone in your investment account? Take a beat — reinvest your dividends or cut back on another expense so you can treat your kid to quality time.

Pay it Forward

Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in our own lots in life — too much fortune, not enough, endless drudgery — to remember we’ve got the power to help other people.

And that if everyone thought like this, we’d be a more grateful people and there’d be less suffering overall. (Again, capitalistic power structures notwithstanding.)

When you start to feel frustrated at your relationship with money, resentful of its overabundance or lack thereof, pay it forward.

Cut out an expense this month and contribute to a cause. Donate goods to a winter drive. Send money to a friend you know needs it — it might mean more than you know.

Step it Small

When your footing is unsure to begin with, it can feel very overwhelming to set goals. There’s so much advice.

Diversify your portfolio. Pay down your debts, smallest to biggest — or highest interest rate to lowest! Invest in real estate. Invest in cryptocurrency. Make sure you have three to six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account. Max out your retirement contribution.

What if you haven’t done any of those things… but want to do all of them?
Step small… and make it emotional.
What do you have experience with?

Have you ever been unceremoniously let go from a job, and found yourself unprepared to live without help? Start there — you’ll feel extra motivated. Did one of your parents retire with almost nothing in their retirement account, and you’re watching them live on social security? Open a retirement account so your kids will never have to worry, and set aside a little extra every month to send to your parent.

Money doesn’t have to be evil — it’s how we all move through this world. No one gets by without it.

Rooting your mental health in your real-life goals can be immensely activating. So can rooting your money in your emotions.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.