Two people holding hands showing support of financial therapy.

Financial Therapy: Empathetic Listening to Find Your Money Values

JUNE 30, 2020 | COACHING

In 2017, America had a national savings rate of only 2.1%–far lower than other industrial countries and certainly a predictor of national disaster as the population ages and pensions and Social Security become less trustworthy.   Causes for this include unrealistic expectations that government or corporations will handle retirement and the breakdown of the traditional family. Corporate advertising creates “societal money scripts” encouraging spending while government de-stigmatizes welfare dependency.  Yet work is ingrained in America’s spirit and this has given financial success–perhaps at the cost of broken marriages and narrowly tracked lives.  Surely life planners as financial therapists working on retainer may help workaholics find meaning from money as financial planners and showing recalcitrant savers the numerical means and psychological path to success. 

The Allegory of Scrooge

Modern financial therapists may take clients though therapy designed to find and change hindering money scripts; just imagine Ebenezer Scrooge greeting four spectres.  The ghost of Marley, chained with heavy ledgers, served to grimly warn Scrooge that he must transform himself before he bore heavier chains.  Then Scrooge met a non-judgmental, compassionate guide to his past dreams and shortcomings through the ghost of Christmas past.  Scrooge could not vanquish this spirit’s light because enlightenment once won always remains.

In fact, the spectres taught five principles of change relevant to all who seek enlightenment:

  1. Face your fear—see the chains of Marley.
  2. Visit your past—question the assumptions that make you who you are.
  3. Open your present—know the broader possibilities of existence.
  4. Envision your future—as it is and as it could be.
  5. Transform your life—now before it is too late.

Richard Kuhler summarizes Aristotelian balance in finance for those who “…who use money as a tool to support their lives, and exhibit financial flexibility in their outlook and lifestyles, probably have a reasonably good relationship with money.”  Wearing the hat of financial therapist, planners help clients to make and keep agreements with themselves and others, to obtain and organize financial information, to modify harmful behavior and to envision a future in line with their integrity. Carpe diem!

Graph on wall going up indicating growth from financial therapy