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Q&A with Deborah L. Price: The Heart of Money

by Staff

Based upon your experience, why is the subject of money such a heated topic between couples?

Money is the last of the great taboos and it is also a very emotionally sensitive and often, volatile subject that most people will go to great lengths to avoid. We will talk openly about everything else, but once money enters the conversation, people can become very uncomfortable for reasons they generally do not understand. It reminds me of what it must have been like in the 60's during the sexual revolution, when the subject of sex was first being openly discussed. I sometimes feel that the work I do is akin to that since my entire mission is about creating a “money revolution” in which we can begin to openly discuss and transform our personal and collective money issues. With so much at stake and so many people suffering financially today, it is becoming critical that we move beyond these shadowy aspects of money and heal this taboo.

Since most of us are aware of the divorce statistics, why don't couples get more help to save their marriages when they are having money issues?

Since money is taboo in virtually every culture in the world, it is an aspect of our lives and ourselves as human beings that is largely unexamined and suppressed. That we are far more comfortable talking about sex than we are money is quite revealing. It tells us that there isn't enough of a biological or psychological imperative to get us to go there just yet. Unlike sex, which if we don't enjoy, avoid and don't have, we would cease to procreate and eventually perish. So there's a big biological driver there. Plus we do tend to be more highly motivated by pleasure and desire. It's just not the same with money. Research indicates that money only motivates us to a point,that we are, in fact, content with less than we think we are. Plus, very few people find joy or pleasure in talking about money. To the contrary, they often experience fear, anxiety and emotional pain. So it's not a “safe” subject, which is why couples avoid rather than address it head on. Ironically, even at the cost of destroying their relationships and often, their financial lives as well. Money may also be only a symptom of other issues within a relationship that are even more highly charged or emotional. So, couples may avoid discussing money as a means of avoiding addressing much deeper conflicts.

What are the most common money issues that couples experience today?

Some of the most common issues I see are financial infidelity, the tendency to use money as a form of control or manipulation, the failure to understand each other’s money fears and emotional triggers, misunderstanding each other's true wants and needs, having unclear agreements, and assuming unconscious roles such as dependent/breadwinner. I witness these dynamics on a daily basis amongst couples.

Can you provide some tips to our readers to help them spot money issues in the relationships?

· Get to know each other’s “money type” early in a relationship.

· Talk openly about your issues, fears and anxiety about money.

· Don’t buy or withhold your love with money.

· Make clear agreements about how to money as a couple that works for both of you.

· Deal with money issues as they arise. Be proactive to avoid deepening the problem.

There are also some practical steps to make dealing with money easier such as:

· Create a Monthly Household Budget.

· Make joint decisions about what to do with the “leftovers” (eat it, spend it, save it, or invest it).

· Establish a monthly “allowance” to spend or save as you each desire.

· Share the financial responsibilities: divide up the tasks or take turns.

· Have a monthly “money meeting” to discuss and clear up any unfinished or new money business.

· Create a list of goals and dreams to work on together and have fun with it.

· Acknowledge each other in positive ways for keeping agreements.

In The Heart of Money, you wrote that money issues are often more of a “symptom” than the actual problem in one's marriage? What do you mean by that...what can money issues be a “symptom” of?

Money issues are most commonly a symptom of deeper issues of power and control in our relationship. For example, overspending is often a symptom of one person feeling controlled by their spouse, but are unable to express their anger openly. Instead, it can be easier to just "spend" their feelings of anger than to confront the issue directly. It's a form of unconscious rebellion or retaliation in most cases.

What made you decide to leave the financial services industry and to become a pioneer in the field of money coaching?

I left when it became clear to me that the financial services industry was missing the boat when it came to really understanding their clients needs and behaviors as a critical piece to being able to help clients create and sustain their financial plans. I felt compelled to do something to help fill this missing gap that our clients were falling into like an abyss. What I've discovered along the way is that if you don't understand the underlying behavior drivers of your clients, you don't know them well enough to advise them properly.

In your book, you talk a bit about the brain and money. What should our readers know about how their brain works relative to money and their behaviors?

The human brain is the “controller” of our financial life, our internal CFO, so to speak. Unfortunately, this "CFO" is often under the influence of some rather powerful physiological influences, hormones and neurotransmitters, such as cortisol and dopamine, which greatly impact and influence our ability to make calm, rational decisions. As a result, we are often judgment impaired and are more emotional than logical where money is concerned. This is why, for example, people buy high and sell low or purchase homes they can't afford that they may stand to lose when economies fail to sustain unrealistic economic growth and the "bubble" bursts. We are also prone to emotional attachment and our greed and desires can often get the best of us.

Why are people so emotional and often illogical, when it comes to money? Is this due to a lack of education?

Well, certainly if we understood money and the financial markets more, that would be somewhat helpful in perhaps being more objective but truly, education doesn't fully address the issues at hand. Money is a deeply emotional subject because of our own frequently painful associations from childhood on that develop into "hardwired" patterns and behaviors. Think of it this way: if you have painful childhood experiences or associations relative to money, or money was used as a means of manipulation or substitute for love, you will most likely be "wired" to react to others relative to money when you grow up to be an adult.

In your book, you talk about the “unconscious inheritance” that we receive from our family of origin. Can you explain what you mean by that and how this gets handed down?

Our money patterns and behaviors are very much deeply entrenched familial patterns that get handed down, largely unconsciously, from one generation to the next. In my experience, less than 15-20% of us inherit truly positive, affirming patterns and behaviors, largely because we don't talk about money in a healthy, open ways, nor do we formally educate our children about it. And what we don't talk about or educate around is the root of all unconscious behavior. It's a terribly opportunistic "hole" for people to fall into.

What are the keys to creating a healthy and empowered relationship with money with your partner?

The number one key is healthy communication; we greatly need to learn how to talk about money openly and safely. As we do that, we will model that for our children and they in turn, will grow up to be unafraid to talk about, learn and explore the money domain with greater ease and even, joy. What a concept! Over time, this will begin to filter down to future generations and then the “unconscious inheritance” will become a positive, more empowered one. The money domain should be a playground for us all to express and enjoy, rather than limited to those who have historically controlled it for their own purposes and gain. It's time for that paradigm to shift.

Are there specific times in a marriage that money issues are more prone to appear?

In my observation, there are a couple of key events that can occur in a marriage during which things can become challenging. One is when a couple drops from two earners to one, for say the child bearing years and the balance of economic power shifts. The other is when the kids are grown and the “system” that the marriage was based on, financially and otherwise, begins to reveal some cracks in their foundation. The balance of power, which is very much about money, may need to shift and to be renegotiated. This can create some disharmony if either party is inflexible and unwilling to allow change.

Is money coaching a good idea for couples prior to marriage or better taken on once they are married?

It's an essential idea! If we don't know our partner financially before we marry them, and have clear agreements about how your values, needs and expectations, you run a great risk of experiencing a wake up call once you're married. And as a result, have about a 50% chance of that lack of clarity and agreements leading to a divorce! It's much easier to just do the work up front.

The Heart of Money by Deborah L. Price

October 15, 2012 • Personal Growth • 224 pages • Trade Paperback & Ebook

Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-127-3

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