The class was titled “Women, Money and Power” and I took it over 30 years ago.
I had attended countless financial classes, read countless money books but this one class changed forever my relationship with money–and, much later, my approach to teaching it.
On the first day, I remember sitting in a circle, in the middle of which was a clump of white netting, like a bridal veil, flung carelessly on the floor.
The instructor walked over to the netting, scooped it up, and announced: “This is what we’re going to do in this class. We are going to lift the veils that cloud our understanding of money.”
Underneath the netting was the Wall Street Journal, which (ironically) I’d recently subscribed to. I couldn’t understand a word of it and I was about to find out why.
“To lift the veils,’ the instructor continued, “We have to get in touch with the decisions we’ve made about money, most of which were made early in life and are now unconscious. These decisions are like veils that get in the way of our financial understanding.”
She patted her head. “The more we can see in here, the more we can see out there.” She pointed to the newspaper.
The instructor was speaking from experience. Although she was the director of the University’s MBA program, had a degree in economics, and an extensive background in financial services, she had a long history of financial neglect in managing her own money.
“I had all the technical information to act in a responsible way, but I wasn’t doing it,” she told us. “I realized that I may have some deeper issues and I better start working on them.”
Reflecting back, I asked myself: Why does the mainstream, male dominated financial industry still takes a strictly intellectual, left brain approach?
Why don’t they get that, regardless of IQ, education or experience, many continue to behave in disturbingly irresponsible ways with money?
The industry focuses solely on changing behaviors. Yet our behaviors are not the problem. They are symptoms of something deeper. And we aren’t likely to find the solution “out there’, in a conventional finance class or book.
If you see yourself exhibiting self-sabotaging behavior, keep this in mind. While you’re learning the facts you also need to examine your blocks. While you’re exploring the difference between a stock and a bond, you also need to delve into your attitudes, beliefs and early messages about money.
Unless you do the inner work, shifting your behavior will be a constant struggle.
Have you done The Inner Work of Wealth? What early beliefs about money did you uncover? Leave me a comment below.
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