How Your Money Concept Is Shaped, and How It's Shaping Your Life

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

We've all learned money concepts throughout our lives from the influences we've been surrounded by.

Whether it was a parent who never discussed finances with you while you were growing up or a co-worker's reluctance to disclose their salary, money is a touchy subject. Our views regarding money and how openly to discuss it comes from all the experiences and interactions we've had in our lives with others.

The money concepts you've learned might be negatively impacting you, so it's important to examine those concepts and figure out if a new way of thinking will be more beneficial for you.

You can't put a price tag on honest and open discussions. It isn't always easy to do, especially if you weren't brought up that way, but it's never too late to change.

Why Is It Hard To Talk About Money?

We're all social creatures, even those introverts who want to avoid all interaction with others. We've all been affected by the relationships we've had with others, and we've learned from them.

Some of us have learned that money is something that shouldn't be discussed. People are secretive about money in every way possible — from the amount that they make, what they have saved, and even what they paid for an item.

A lot of that hesitancy to discuss money comes from fear. We fear judgment from others, for not having enough money saved and being seen as thinking we're better than others if we have too much. Money often equals status in our society, and people are criticized for not having enough and for having too much.

That fear of being singled out, being judged, or being perceived as impolite to broach a taboo subject has convinced many of us not to talk about money at all. If we're doing well, we don't want to be perceived as bragging about it, even if we want to make a few helpful suggestions to someone who appears to be struggling with something we know a little bit more about.

Money, Secrecy, and Shame

Some people are starting to break the barriers around talking about money. Tammy Lally gave a great TED talk about her family's struggles with money, including her own brother's suicide, which she attributes to his financial problems and feelings of shame about it.

It's easy to get caught up in self-destructive financial habits that can lead to feelings of guilt, stupidity, and failure. That can make us feel like we aren't worth love or anything else good in our lives.

Lally points out that earning power is never enough — we'll always feel shame about what we earn, whether it's minimum wage or millions of dollars each year. We've likely all known some rich people in our lives who never seem to have enough. No matter how big their boat or how fancy their car is, they are always wanting more money so they can spend more.

Lally speaks about shaking off the money shame we all feel from a firsthand perspective — not just as an outside observer as to what happened to her brother. When the Great Recession hit, Lally said she lost her business and was staring down bankruptcy.

She felt crippled by shame for a year and spent a lot of time analyzing what she did wrong. Although she was terrified and ashamed, no one knew. She didn't speak about it to anyone and put on a smile when she ran into friends and family.

It made her reevaluate her family's money history and her own core beliefs about money.

David Sandler's "Head Trash"

Curious as to what head trash is? It's the negativity you harbor that's keeping you from getting to the next level in anything you do. It might be the negative emotions you have, or the thoughts you've long held onto.

It's not just your negative ideas that are holding you back, though — it's your assumption that those ideas are truths and not just your opinion.

Head trash is a term coined by David H. Sandler, who created the Sandler Selling System. This sales training has been a staple in the business world for decades, but head trash is pertinent in more than just the business world — all facets of your life can benefit from weeding out the trash in your mind and opening up to new ideas and concepts.

If you get rid of your negativity and strive to embrace that not all people are the same and not all beliefs are right or wrong, you can improve your relationships with your loved ones and even your relationship with your finances.

How To Release Money Shame

Releasing money shame isn't going to be easy — it's going to require effort and introspection. But it is possible, especially if you keep some key principles in mind.


  • Your current beliefs and ways of doing things financially stem from your background and your life experiences. You're going to have to do some soul searching to figure out why you spend the way you do and what your core values are.
  • It's not your fault. We are all products of our environment and our influences. That doesn't make you a failure — you are simply taking the lessons you've learned in your life and applying them to your finances. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not.
  • It's not anybody else's fault either. The key isn't to blame someone else for your relationship with money. If your parents were bad at managing money, let them off the hook. They were just doing what they were taught or trying to deal with their negative feelings as well. It's time to let go of blame and anger and carve out a new path for yourself.
  • Not everything is on a linear path. If you're an overspender, don't expect to clear things up overnight. You may have some slip ups, and that's ok. If you start to do the work and learn about responsible spending, you'll see progress.

One of the fastest ways to break the cycle of money shame is to start acknowledging that it's a real problem for a lot of people. You aren't the only one who feels it. Most people do — many of us beat ourselves up mentally, thinking we should be doing better with our finances than we are.

There is freedom in realizing that most people don't have their financial act together. People routinely lose their cars to the repo man, their houses to foreclosure, and many of us don't have nearly enough socked away to fund our retirements, according to most financial planners.

That's because we're overspending, and we overspend to make ourselves feel better about our own feelings of inadequacy, stress, or our sense of success. The first step in changing our mindsets about money is realizing we've had it wrong the whole time, and those people who you are overspending to keep up with probably are having the same issues you are.

Helping Kids Develop Positive Ideas About Money

Once you've begun to address your own money shame and start to reform how you think about money, you need to begin talking to your kids about money. If you don't help undo the lessons they've learned from you and anyone else in their lives, they may end up in the same boat you are, feeling intense money shame. After all, as they say, history is doomed to repeat itself.

Start by having frank discussions about money and how sometimes people overspend to make themselves feel better. Let them know those extra purchases may feel good for a little while, but in the long run, you're only hurting yourself by spending more than you can afford.

Make sure they know how hard you've had to work to get the items you've bought. The next time you see a flashy car, tell them how many hours you'd have to work to earn a car like that and compare it to how many hours you'd have to work to buy an affordable but practical car. Ask them if they'd like to tack on a thousand more hours of homework to buy a flashy car versus one that's affordable, just so they can try to impress people. Unless your child really loves homework, they'll get the idea.

Let them know that everything has a cost, and sometimes the cost is more than just money. Sometimes, an item also comes at the cost of stress, time, worry, and pride, and that cost is just too high to pay.

Teaching kids to discuss their feelings instead of just slapping Band-Aids on them in the form of more and more possessions may help them ward off the feelings of money shame many of us struggle with. Teach them money isn't an evil thing — it's a necessity that should be approached with mindfulness and respect.

Worth Its Weight In Gold

You can't put a price tag on honest and open discussions. It isn't always easy to do, especially if you weren't brought up that way, but it's never too late to change.

You'll be amazed at how much better and more in control you feel once you learn to release that money shame and change how you look at money. Your future self will thank you, and every area of your life will be improved.