What’s Your ‘Money Script’?

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Our subconscious often stands in the way of our conscious efforts to save for college, prepare for the future, or spend what we’ve saved once we retire.

Some psychologists and financial planners believe these roadblocks are rooted in an individual’s “money script” – the story about money that we’ve told ourselves repeatedly since childhood.  They’re typically passed down from our parents, extended family, or culture, and they are extremely difficult to change.

Writing in the Journal of Financial Planning, two experts in financial psychology, Bradley Klontz and Sonya Britt, presented their research associating three specific money scripts to poor financial behavior.  Their study was based on a survey of 422 individuals who were largely middle-aged, white, and highly educated.

Click on a money script in one of the boxes below to read their descriptions of each one, excerpted from the November JFP article, to see if any apply and to learn how they affect the way we relate to money.

The researchers found that one person can hold multiple scripts, and these scripts can even contradict each other.

For example, the authors say that it’s not surprising that those who see money as the key to happiness and the good things in life (money worship) also tend to see money as the key to self-worth (money status).

What is surprising is that those who see money as bad and as a source of fear, anxiety, or disgust (money avoidance) also tend to see money as the key to happiness and status (money worship and status).  Sometimes they scorn money and those who have it, and sometimes they have an inordinate amount of confidence in the ability of money to improve their lives.  The crosscurrents in these research findings reflect the complex factors that drive individuals’ financial behavior and decision-making.


Great stuff, especially now with the current situation so many students are in.

Murray Gendell

Be careful interpreting these findings. The sample is not representative of most adults. It is limited to a “convenience” sample of clients of financial planners. So it is not clear how applicable it is even to such clients who are white, on average middle-aged, and have at least some education beyond high school, let alone those with other characteristics and who are not financial planners’ clients. See for yourself. It is a short report, which can be scanned quickly.

Craig Smith

Interesting study. I think most of the money scripts people have are inherited from family beliefs or family tradition. Im not sure 422 people is a good “study” but interesting non the less.

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