As human beings, especially the female kind, we tend to be affected, to one degree or another, by our family, friends and environment. It’s just the way we are, and it’s not a bad thing…unless our family, friends and environment aren’t the most supportive of where we truly want to go in life and who we are at our core.
When you are struggling financially, whether it’s not enough money coming in or too much money going out…or both…one of the key things you must do to change your financial situation is to change what I call you Money Matrix.
What is your Money Matrix? Well, let’s look at the definition of the word matrix…
“An environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.”
In terms of your financial situation, your Money Matrix refers to all of the influences in your life that affect you financially, and most of those are other people, including yourself right there in the middle of it all.
When you are finally ready to make changes in how you do and experience money, the second thing you need to do…right after you do your own necessary mental, spiritual and emotional adjustments…is to examine your personal Money Matrix and make changes, sometimes hard ones, where necessary.
Let’s look at the many different areas that make up your personal Money Matrix.
- Your own mental environment (which we will talk about later)
- Your personal beliefs around money and wealth
- Your parents (birth or adoptive)
- Your spouse or significant other/partner
- Your children
- Your best friends
- Your chosen career path
- Your co-workers
- Your church if you attend one
- Your friends from high school and college
- The media
- Your technology
Since the conversation about your own mental environment and financial belief system is a whole course on it’s own (and one we will absolutely get into), we’re going to talk about rest of the influences that affect you on a daily basis. Let’s look at them one by one.
Your parents were the first ones who exposed you to money. They instilled financial beliefs by the way they talked about money in front of you, by what they did with money in front of you and from the experiences they created for you around money.
You watched, listening and felt all sorts of things related to money that, even as an adult, you may not yet be cognizant of. Chances are, that unless you’ve taken a personal growth seminar that focused on personal financial beliefs, you are still under the influence of your parents financial beliefs.
I have found in my money coaching practice that humans tend to do one of two things relative to their parents’ financial beliefs:
1) They do exactly what their parents did with money, or,
2) They do exactly opposite of what their parents did with money.
Of course, there is a huge gray area but we do tend to move toward or away from the way our parents were about just about anything. Personally, I go as far away from how my father was in several ways and toward the way my mother was in many ways (but not ALL ways)…who I chose to emulate has a lot to do with what I value now as adult.
For example, my father thought rich people were greedy. I don’t find that to be the truth because I recognized it years ago when I was going through my own financial evolution (or revolution depending on how it feels to you). My mother, on the other hand, scrimps and saves and goes without and is on a very limited budget and I find that to be so confining that I tend to create enough money in my life to buy the things I want and need with no problem.
Your parents are the first place to look when you start doing the financial introspection you must do in order to unearth why you do the things you do with your money…if you want to change the results you’re getting, that is. More on this later.
Your spouse, partner or significant other
If you are in a relationship of any type — long term, short term, traditional or not — you are affected by your partner’s financial beliefs, habits and choices. The chances that you got into a relationship with a person who has exactly the same beliefs, habits and choices is slim, but it does happen, especially if you have meaningful dialogue about money before entering in the relationship in the first place.
More than likely, you are either the polar opposite when it comes to your relationship with money or just different enough for it to be annoying, distracting, and otherwise unsupportive. The fact is, you could be the financially dysfunctional one or your partner is…or you both are. Since most of us are a bit, how should I say it, off with our money, it goes without saying that the person you’re in relationship with has a huge influence over what you think and do with your own money.
There are generally two situations that happen (and I mean generally because truthfully, there are as many situations as there are couples). The first is that the two of you have come to some understandings about money and have both some individual and shared financial goals. This is great and makes decision making a whole lot easier when it comes to financial choices that deal with saving, spending, investing and donating.
IF, on the other hand, you do not have any shared financial goals, THIS is when you start running into trouble. One of you saves while the other spends. One invests while the other once buys stuff that he or she never seems to use. One of you always has extra money while the other one doesn’t. This type of thing almost always (and I always try to refrain from using absolutes…haha) leads to resentments in one person toward the other. Never a good thing…hence the statistic of 50% of all divorces ending due to financial issues.
It’s a challenge and there is no one solution to what’s happening between the two of you. The point here is to begin to realize how this person is affecting your financial life by paying attention to what you’re doing and why. You must make sure that you know what YOUR goals are and that you’re working YOUR plan and not letting the other person take you off the track you put yourself on if they aren’t willing to be on that same track with you.
The easiest way to make sure you’re following your own financial goals and not being swayed by another is to listen to your gut. You know when you’re about to spend money you don’t have or spend money you didn’t plan on spending. Your entire being is screaming, “Don’t do it!” when your hands are about six inches from handing the store clerk your credit card to pay for a purchase your spouse influenced.
You must learn to stay true to your own financial goals and values but also know that as you become more assertive, your partner may not like what’s happening. Good communications skills are essential at this point but just know, having a partner be supportive of your financial goals is going to take some discussion and agreement on both sides. I promise it’s worth the time and effort you put into it.
Lastly, we are in a society where the woman is often expected to make her own money and pay her own way. While I have no issues at all with the old-fashioned traditional relationship where the man makes the money and the woman takes care of the family, or even the opposite where the woman makes the money that supports the family and the man stays home and takes care of the family (family meaning with children), one of our favorite sayings at Creative Wealth is that a Man is Not a Financial Plan and conversely, a Women is Not a Financial Plan…unless the plan involves the whole family and supports everyone’s goals and well-being.
OMG, this is a huge area…especially if you are part of a divorced or separated family where kids are split between the parents in some way. There is a tendency for one parent…the parent who has the children the least amount of time…to be what is commonly referred to as a “Disneyland parent.” This means that that parent feels like he or she has to be the child’s best friend and has to buy the child’s love in some way: presents, meals out, playdates with friends, shopping sprees, fun, fun, fun.
Well, all of that fun comes with at least two inherent dangers. The first is that the child ends up comparing the parents and uses what one parent does against the other one and second, the parent forgets how to be a parent. A third danger might be that the child grows up to be an adult who thinks that stuff equals love.
If the words, “No, we can’t afford that this weekend,” or, “Nope, not in the budget for the next six months,” are some of the hardest things you might have to say to your child(ren) then Houston, we have a problem!
Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child to be a well-rounded, responsible adult. Giving the child everything he or she wants isn’t the way to this.
Children learn so quickly how to manipulate their parents and asking for money and ‘stuff’ is one of the most common things they ask for. You have to stand firm and be ready to say “No” while you explain how your financial goals are affected if you were to buy everything they wanted every time they wanted something.
One of the “Three Keys to Raising Financially Savvy Adults” is to talk to your children about everything related to money. I find that when the lines of communication are open with regard to family money situations, children become much more supportive of their parents decisions and when they feel like they are part of what’s happening and can participate in how to make life a little better, they usually quickly engage in supportive behavior which then makes sticking to your goals a whole lot easier.
Your best friends
Have you ever gone out with a girlfriend to a store SHE wanted to go to and found that it was YOU who ended up spending money? This happened to me about a year ago when I visited a friend who just had to go to this cool store in the new shopping area of Bend, Oregon.
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the sweater vest thingy I bought and wear it all of the time but the jeans she kept telling me I had to buy still sit in my closet wishing they had a different owner…one who would take them out to play.
The fact is that I hate jeans (and I rarely use the H word but I really do hate them). I don’t find them comfortable, they don’t fit my body right, they don’t move when I do like my yoga tights do and well, I wouldn’t have spend that $79 if I had been a little stronger in my resolve.
Moral: it’s important to explain to your best friends about your financial goals so they understand when you choose not to spend money or you need to go to lunch once a month instead of every Wednesday like you used to. I have found that when my friends understand that I am on a stricter budget, they’re cool with whatever we do…and actually, as it so often turns out…they’re happy they didn’t spend money also!
One of the most common phrases ever uttered when it comes to what a person does with his or her money has to do with the Joneses. People who haven’t developed their own financial discipline yet and/or don’t have any personal financial goals are often either jealous of what their neighbors have or trying to outdo them by making sure they have the best of this and the best of that.
This type of behavior too often leads to one or both sides incurring piddlyjunk with debt. This is not the path to financial freedom and you need to get a handle on why you feel so inclined to impress those around you.
If you have ever felt like your neighbors were looking down on you because you drove an older car or acted strange toward you because your children weren’t going to the same private school their children were going to, you understand the artificial and ignorant attitudes many people deal with every day when it comes to financial judgments from others.
The main way to combat this type of thing is to think enough of yourself to not care what the neighbors think. Period. If they really care about this type of stuff, they aren’t very good neighbors.
Your chosen career path
I have friends who tell me they have to drive a new car so potential clients or customers will want to work with them. Or they feel like they have to have very expensive, brand-name clothing to wear to work or people won’t take them seriously.
Seriously? If this is you, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that you’ve bought into someone else’s ideas of what your choices and behavior should look like because these things just aren’t true. No matter how much you tell yourself, or me, they are.
If you’re a realtor and you show up to pick up a client in a clean, 7-year old Jetta that has plenty of room for them to get in and out of, and you knock their socks off with service, honestly and authentic communication, that client is going to see that you have his or her best interest at heart. They will be able to tell. Showing up in a new Mercedes won’t make them any better clients or make you a better realtor.
And the person at work who is judging what you are wearing? THEY are the ones with the issues, UNLESS you let these artificial pressures influence you right back into the next expensive store to buy more clothing you can’t afford.
Go back and revisit your financial goals. Make some pre-determined decisions about WHO you want to be in your field and realize that who you’re going to BE is far more important than what you’re wearing or driving.
The sad thing is that it takes most people many years or even decades to develop enough self-esteem to realize they can truly be themselves and don’t have to abide by some artificially prescribed pattern of behaviors in order to be successful.
The most interesting thing is that others tend to look up to us when we’re being ourselves.
Moral: take some time to develop your real self and see who shows up in your life to support you. You might be very surprised.
Your co-workers often have the same type of influence on you as you family, friends and neighbors. Why? Well, because we’re all just trying to fit into this existential existence and we haven’t learned that fitting in doesn’t mean doing things like everyone else or having the same things that everyone else has.
Fitting in means finding a place for YOU to be yourself. When you do this, you begin to influence those around you as you set an example of what it means to be authentic, vulnerable and human.
When you notice that you’re being affected in any negative way by a co-worker, stop, take a breath and ask yourself “Why?” You might be surprised by the answer to the question. When you know the why, you can then change your behavior.
Your church (if you attend one)
I’m not religious in the normal sense and if you asked me to describe my spiritual leanings, I would have to check the “spiritual but not religious” box on the dating profile form where it asked for your religion.
What I do know about humans beings who are deeply religious in the biblical sense is that they are highly influenced by not only the beliefs they grew up in (and we do grow up IN an environment of beliefs before we realize we can choose our own) but also by the people they associate with in the church that they go to.
This is not a bad thing…it’s a great thing when the beliefs and people are supportive. It’s not so good when you find yourself influenced by people who don’t think what you’re doing is good, right and the way to your personal dreams.
It’s easy to know that you are being influenced. Just watch yourself (have you noticed a recurring theme here…watching oneself seems to be a major key to seeing who and what is influencing your choices and behavior) and notice when you are thinking about what others are thinking and doing more than you’re thinking about what you are thinking and doing.
Your friends from high school and college
This is an area that is becoming more important now that technology allows us to stay connected to people from our past and reconnect to people who, perhaps in the past, weren’t such good influences on us.
If you still have friends from high school and college, depending on your age, these bonds can have huge implications in terms of the choices we make and the directions our lives head into. We are so connected to these people that we look to them for answers, watch them for the right ways of being, allow those deep strings to influence where we go.
You really need to look at the people from your past that you hang out with and how they affect your life. Are they supportive? Do you find yourself held back because you don’t want to make them feel badly about themselves? Does the younger you want to hang on so tightly to how life WAS that you don’t respond to your inner guidance in terms of where you want your own life to go?
The media (TV, blog posts, podcasts, social media, news)
OMG, this is a huge one. Much more so than you probably realize. In America, we seem, as a culture, to be so influenced by the news…and by the news I don’t necessarily mean what’s really going on…I mean the news as it is reported.
If we believed, for a second, what the news tells us each day, we might think that the world is a dangerous place, that people are only in it for themselves, that the bad guys are out to get us and worse. So many of us take what we hear as gospel and then compound the problem by having heated conversations with others who either have or haven’t heard ‘the news’ about what’s going on. This type of conversation just compounds the issues and makes you believe the world is going downhill fast.
While we really do have some issues that we need to resolve, I believe we have always had issues that needed resolving. The thing to remember is that now we have technology to make it so much more real because we can SEE it and hear about it all of the time.
The cool part is that that same technology is allowing us to make progress faster, connect to the people who can really make a difference and make the issues known in ways we never could before.
Suggestion: if you find yourself being highly influenced by what you’re watching, reading and listening to on any media platform (radio, newspaper, magazines, TV, blog posts, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter…and the list goes on!), do what I did almost two decades ago…go on a Media Fast.
When I found myself tearing up when I would glance at my then husband’s newspaper in the morning as it sat idly on the kitchen table where he’d left it and feeling terrible for a short (or long) time afterward, I made a decision not to watch, listen or read the news in its traditional sense.
People ask me all of the time, “But how do you know what’s going on?” I reply, “Well, if it’s really important, someone will tell me about it and the stuff I really need to know to make a difference in my chosen field will surface as I intentionally search it out.”
It was by far, one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself.
OK, I have saved the most damaging and most supportive for last…technology. According to Wikipedia:
Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia) is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, etc. or it can be embedded in machines, computers, devices and factories, which can be operated by individuals without detailed knowledge of the workings of such things.
In terms of this definition, technology is anything we have developed from new knowledge that we can use. Whether we use it for good or not so good is up to us.
Technology has changed how we interact with life; how we communicate with others (texting, Skyping, emailing, connecting) and how we do business (online store where there is no human interaction at all in the old-fashioned sense).
Technology has also changed how we get new information from which to ‘do’ life. Those of us who thrive, even crave, new information to think about and to help shape our lives each day, look to motivational speakers, best-selling authors, high profile entertainers we respect for new ways of being, new ideas to shape who we want to ‘be’ in the world.
When technology helps us become better versions of ourselves, it’s great. When technology starts becoming a distraction to our lives, we have a problem. We tend to get immersed in any number of ‘screens’ all day long and we forget how to enjoy a flower…heck, I don’t think kids even see the flowers anymore.
We become influenced by the never-ending stream of information coming from our current form of electronic technology and more and more people are living in a state of, “I have no idea who to listen to, what to do, how to make a difference, where to go, how to change, etc. ad nauseum.” This is when you have to shut off all of your electronic devices and take a few deep breaths. Heck, take a lot of deep breaths.
Ask yourself this question:
“If I wasn’t looking at this screen, what would I be doing instead?”
The answer to this question, if you can come up with one, might be the more supportive thing to do with your precious time.
The answer to this question might take you in a whole new direction if you act on it.
The answer to this question might be the answer to why you continue to allow everything in your life to be a distraction instead of a powerful force from which to go to a new and more rewarding, more satisfying, more purposeful place for yourself.
Develop your own personal money matrix
The key to making sure you’re heading in the direction that only you can choose for yourself is knowing this one powerful thing:
Your why is simply that…why you’re doing what you’re doing or wanting to accomplish something in the first place.
When your WHY is big enough and you know you’d do anything to accomplish it, you’ll find your susceptibility to the outside world decrease and your ability to act and choose your own best way increase.
When you do this, you’ll find that your natural inclination is to create a Money Matrix that supports you and your goals, dreams and aspirations.
Please note that sometimes there are some painful aspects to this process…you may find yourself having to do what is often referred to as a ‘friendectomy’ and that’s OK. At some point in the future, in my own experience, you may be able to find your way back to that friend, when you’re older, wiser and stronger in your own power. But sometimes you can’t. Only time will tell.
I’ll leave you now with a personal quote from years ago when I was contemplating the past, present and future. It’s a quote that will make you think about your current moments in a new way…a way that helps you make choices with intentions based on what YOU really want…and isn’t that what life is all about…creating the life YOU want?
|Elisabeth Donati, aka The Financial Literacy Lady, is an expert in teaching the basic financial principles people need in a way that is engaging, empowering and fun. She is the owner of Creative Wealth Intl., LLC, creator of Camp Millionaire, Moving Out! for Teens, The Money Game, Celebrating Women and Wealth and other financial education programs, products and services.She is the recipient of the 2010 Financial Educator of the Year Award from the National Financial Educators Council.
Elisabeth is author of The Money Jars: Your Magical Money Management System, The Ultimate Allowance, and co-author of Rocks to Riches for kids based on Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich.
Her blog, Financial Wisdom with a TWI$T, is a great place to start learning to think differently about money. For information, visit www.CreativeWealthIntl.org or www.ElisabethDonati.com or call 805-957-1024.