(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

Money Autobiography

Posted on: Oct. 5, 2010  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: Boodle-cise, General

I am not a believer in “money therapy.”  The way money operates in our lives has much to do with economic forces much bigger than ourselves alone. What’s more, our “money selves” are not only individually, but socially constructed as well. Institutions, heritage, and history shape how we relate to money in our individual lives. Still, I do think that before we as individuals or a society can change anything about our money world, we need to look at the psychology of money as we know it. While, I don’t believe that analyzing your money “hang-ups” can un-hang you (and free you to become rich), a la the Rich Dad, Poor Dad approach, looking at your conditioning is a first step in starting to do something different.  How did your cultural heritage influence your interactions with money? How did the generations that came before you in your family relate to money? How did your parents, who may have had different styles and values when it came to work and money, influence you?

If you have looked at Boodle-Cize No. 2, we have included a money autobiography.  We include it here within the blog in a slightly different context.

My own money autobiography, for instance, reveals to me that both of my parents instilled in me the value of education and hoped that I would train to enter a profession. When I delved deeper, I saw that was just about where their similarity ended. My father was a dreamer, a “business man” whose exact business was hard to define. Once, when I got tired of trying to explain to my friends just exactly what he did, I took them down to my father’s office on Camden Drive in Beverly Hills and asked him to explain. Though he charmed us with his answer, none of us walked away any clearer. I suppose he fancied himself a middle man between creative people and people with the funds to support creative ideas. Once I remember visiting one of his “clients,” a mad scientist with 50-mile long eyebrows who was concocting elaborate perfumes in his garage. Mostly, it seemed, my father surrounded himself with Damon Runyon characters. It was not uncommon to find him coming out of a matinee at the local movie theater while waiting, he said, for a deal to close. Once, we drove around for hours instead of driving home; someone was following us and he didn’t want them to know where we lived. Like a lot of kids, I was taught not to open the door to strangers. For most, that was a safety tip. In my family, it was just in case there was a process server there. Despite all this, my father was warm and funny. He once got us onto the set of Star Trek because he had a good rapport with the guy at the front gate of the studio. He believed that no one was better than you and you were better than no one, and he hired people of color long before Civil Rights laws. He was attentive to his family, but—with the exception of the way he got dressed in the morning—didn’t seem to have both feet on the ground. I learned that it was not a good idea to trust him when it came to money matters.

My mother was the practical one, strong and, when it came to money, very disciplined. She took care of the day to day expenses and saved. She believed in spending on quality items that were built to last, but was never frivolous with money. She and my father argued about whatever current get-rich-quick deal he had cooking, with my mother expressing skepticism and my father assuring her it would be different this time. She picked up the slack for my dad when things went bad. And go bad they did. When I was fourteen, we lost our house and had to move into an apartment. My mother got a job as a secretary and saved a quarter a week in some kind of savings or insurance plan that endowed us each with $500 when we were 18. My dad had already talked my older brother and sister out of their money on their eighteenth birthdays, convincing them to invest it with him. I knew he’d lost it all for them. Still, I couldn’t resist him when he asked for mine. When it promptly vanished into thin air, I was not surprised, merely sad.

In looking at my own family history, including many details not included here, I saw that, unconsciously at first, my career path has taken me in a direction of making adjustments to help me navigate the two poles of my parents. Like my mother, and in stark contrast to my father, I have been extremely responsible and practical about money, especially when it comes to managing other people’s investments. But, like my father, I am also drawn to creative ideas and unconventional approaches. I have used this strain in my work getting clients out of patterns and ruts.

Now it’s your turn. Write your money autobiography (I do think there’s something powerful about actually writing it down, and if you’re willing to post it, too, I’ll respond with some free advice if you want it. Heck, you might even make it into my book if you’d like). Try to answer all the questions that are relevant in each set of questions or at least one question in that set (these are adapted from a variety of great sources, cited in the “exercises” section of the website).

Spend five minutes writing everything that comes to mind about memories, feelings, ideas and attitudes surrounding money during your childhood.

1. What messages did you hear from your parents?  How did your family talk about money? Were there frequent discussions about money?  Did your parents argue over money or avoid speaking about it?  How much emphasis did your parents place on financial success?  Have you fulfilled their expectations around money and success?  Has your relationship with your parents been affected by money.

2. What was your mother like with money? How did your father address money?  How did they differ?  Was one parent’s method for handling money favored over another.

3. Did you have many toys and/or expensive toys?  How did you treat them?  Were they hand-me-downs?  What happened during birthdays or holidays?  Did you ask for money for daily activities, clothes or special occasions?  What was the response?  How were vacations handled?

What were your family’s financial circumstances compared with others?  Did you feel rich, poor, or that you were just getting by? How did you feel toward your friends and their financial circumstances?  If you were wealthier, did you try to hide it or share it?  If poorer, did you envy other, better off friends or think they were different due to their money?

4. Did another family member besides your parents or your cultural heritage dominate or impact your money perspective?

5. What hobbies or activities, such as sports, did you do?  What talents did you have?  What recognition did you get? What happened when you were sick?  Were you given an allowance?  Were you paid to attain things such as good grades at school, or to complete chores, etc.?  When were you allowed to purchase things on your own?  What did you buy with the money you had?  Did you ever get punished for what you bought?  Did you save any money?  Did you steal anything?  Did you borrow money or have money borrowed from you and how did that make you feel?  Did you have to negotiate to get money?  Were there any addictions that you came into close contact with, such as alcoholism, work addiction or eating disorders?

6. As an adolescent:  Did you work?  Were you given a credit card?  Were you instructed on the how and why of saving money? Did you open a checking account?  What attitudes and messages were received around career? What attitudes and messages were received around marriage?  How did you feel about what your parents did to earn a living?  Was there a change in financial circumstances so that you felt richer or poorer than before?

3 Comments

  • Rick Kahler says:

    I could not disagree with you more. I am a CFP who’s been practicing for 30 years. I’ve spent over 500 hours doing “Money Therapy” that I call financial therapy with trained therapists. I’ve never seen people make faster progress than when they’ve done financial therapy. I invite you to come to one of my financial therapy programs and see how increadibly effective financial therapy is.

  • Ronnie Kahn says:

    Again, while I feel therapy can miss the social side of our makeup of things and there is already an overemphasis on the self and the therapeutic model in our culture, I strongly believe in having a dialogue with my clients. I feel we, as CFP’s(R), can be effective by seeing progress in this way so perhaps there is a little bit of semantic labeling here but I would love to hear some specifics of how clients have been helped and made progress.

  • Rick Kahler says:

    Ronnie,

    Well, I could write a book on that! Actually, I did. The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge has some of the success stories. I can’t tell you how many issues around risk taking, lack of risk taking, overspending, etc. come from events in a person’s life that seemingly had no connection to money and would never come out in the normal course of dealing with just a financial planner.

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