Yes, you read that right, money ON the couch, not IN the couch. There is a blooming field of financial therapy taking hold across the country. Financial planners and mental health professionals are teaming up to help their clients address the dysfunction they may possess in terms of their financial situation. Common issues include overspending, gambling and financial infidelity (I.e. shopping without telling your spouse or partner what you spent, or it could also be using family money to set up a separate account) but there are other issues as well, such as feelings of unworthiness that may lead to squandering money or overly self-conscious feelings about how we may have handled our money that prevent us from getting the help we need.
This is serious stuff.
I started studying behavioral finance some year’s ago when my clients weren’t always doing what I recommended they do (tsk tsk!). This troubled me. WHY weren’t they taking the steps I so carefully crafted for them to improve their financial situation? Was it because they didn’t trust me? Was it because they didn’t want to spend the money? I wanted to know WHY. So, I started asking a lot more questions, and my questions got more and more unusual (such as “Do you think you and your spouse are on different pages?”) (very often, “Yes”).
I’m of the philosophy that what we think and how we feel directly affect our behavior, including those behaviors surrounding financial decisions. I’ve met with several mental health professionals and, in the process, have learned a little about cognitive behavioral therapy and, from what I understand, much of what troubles us includes our thoughts about things that have happened or of things that may never happen. We may not be correct in our assessments, but we hold tight to them just the same. The best way to stop the tape recorder from playing the same message in your head is to simply change the message.This is where the therapist comes in.
Once your issues are laid out on the table (or, the couch), you need to do the work to improve your mental wellness. That may or may not be done simultaneously with financial planning, but I’d say that if it’s done before, your financial plan will be much more meaningful, easier to implement, and successful. You will have clarity of mind which serves as an excellent tool for improving your situation because you know who you are, what you want out of life, and what you need to do to obtain it.
I’d challenge you to think about your feelings about money and how they are affecting what you do (or don’t do) with it.
Feel free to email me if you want a copy of my Money Profile; it’s a great financial self-assessment tool.