Money is one of the most evocative aspects of our lives. Having spent over ten years working with wealthy families, I can assure you that “financial health” has very little to do with how much money we have. What matters most is being emotionally intelligent.
If we are not able to manage our emotions around financial decisions, our emotions will run the show every time. This is because of how our brains work. As authors Bradberry and Greaves explain in Emotional Intelligence 2.0, when we focus on our finances, we “…experience things emotionally before our reason can kick into gear.”
In the course of facilitating over 130 family meetings, I repeatedly witness the same complaints, problems and reactions that cause conflict, withdrawal, and avoidance. To better understand these dynamics I studied the most common archetypal patterns people experience around money. Turns out people who are financially healthy use empowering approaches such as courage, discipline, discernment, confidence, and trust. They also manage their emotional reactions, such as fear, overwhelm, shame and doubt, that can cause people to make decisions they often regret.
I’ve had the privilege to work with people in the midst of significantly challenging situations, and have witnessed them transform their lives, by helping them understand the emotional side of the money equation. Here are a few examples:
Stepfamily Estate Planning: One couple with a blended family was stuck and wouldn’t sign their estate planning documents. They had a clash of values and emotions. He wanted his two children from a prior marriage to be treated equally to their two children, and she wanted her two children from their marriage to be treated fairly, and therefore differently. After only four months of money coaching, they shifted out of animosity, resentment, and passive aggressive hostility to having a plan they both felt was honoring and supportive of each other’s concerns.
Pre-Nup: A couple with only eight weeks until their wedding sought out support when their prenuptial agreement negotiations came to a standstill. He came to the marriage with debt and erratic income. She brought family money and fears about his spending habits. In only eight sessions they were able to come to an agreement that specifically addressed her concerns, while allowing her to acknowledge him financially for the emotional support he brought to their union.
Sudden Money: A new beneficiary experienced tremendous overwhelm, confusion, and guilt when she unexpectedly received a substantial inheritance. She was paralyzed by fear of losing the money or doing the wrong thing with it. She needed support in building her self-confidence and competence in making decisions that were consistent with her values. She also learned how to assess whether or not she could trust those who advised her, which furthered her confidence and trust in herself.
As we learn to become more emotionally intelligent with money, we build our capacity to make wise decisions that allow us to truly be financially healthy in our own lives, and in our relationships with others.