The stories we tell

I’ve started going to We Myndful, a mindfulness lecture held at the last Wednesday every month. Going through the archives, I found a recap of the July 2018 lecture on aligning your spending with your values. It’s worth reading because it tells the important idea that our consumption is based on the stories we tell ourselves.

In the course, we call them money scripts: the intergenerational, largely unconscious, and largely unidentified beliefs we have about money. It also goes to identity economics, the idea that our economic choices are both fueled and limited by our desire to reinforce our concept of self. The clothes we buy, the careers we choose, the location of homes and of our vacations, go to reinforcing how we see ourselves. It’s a reflection of our psychic needs and desires.

Deciding to take better care of our financial lives isn’t simply a financial decision, it’s a reflection of how we see ourselves. In particular, it’s a reflection of how we see ourselves in the present and in the future.

To quibble with the recap: 

“If you just have the right pie chart or graph or numbers you can know exactly the right decision to make. The issue is, the research tells us that our financial decisions are 100% emotional. But the story is that you can just make a rational decision.”

I disagree with that. We can make rational decisions, based on what we want. Instead of calling them emotional decisions, I prefer to frame it as value-laden decisions. Our choices on how we spend our money, how we earn it, and who we give it to, say what we value.

But the bigger point is: we can make our financial decisions strategic. It’s not just emotions and values; math is involved. Without having the concrete practical skills, all your financial decisions turn out poorly.

Taking control of your money to live the life you want takes both the soft skills of inner work and the hard skills of financial math.