“We need to start talking about money in this country. We have this very powerful culture of shame around money, because none of us want to be seen as failures.” – Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish & The Index Card

Like it or not, people don’t change money behaviors simply by being given the right information. We all live with this gap between what we intend to do and what we actually do.

That’s why good financial education takes a holistic approach. It takes the whole person into account, and recognizes that all of us live in contradictory ways.

When I train professionals looking to offer effective financial advice and education, I always remind them: “If you want to change money behaviors, study the stories driving them.”

Our behaviors around money are simply expressions of the stories we believe about money.

One of the most common money stories is, “I’m bad with money.” Ironically, the more we believe this, the more we act on it.

But in reality, there are many money stories driving this thought and its consequent behaviors:

  • constant advertising: we see 5,000 a day, all designed to enhance a problem then sell a cure.
  • deceptive credit card messaging: “You can get it now and worry about paying later.”
  • coping mechanism: retail therapy
  • behavioral economics: we spend more when spending is convenient or painless.
  • limiting beliefs: “Why should I save when I’ll never change my fate?”
  • reference group: we behave like the people we spend the most time with.
  • lack of financial education: most Americans didn’t and still don’t get formal financial education.
  • lack of self-confidence: women are most likely to be told they are bad at math and money.
  • lack of financial mentors: we may inherit limiting beliefs from our families.
  • shame: what happens when we blame ourselves for not knowing everything.

Here is something a recent audience member shared with me. I think it will make you smile and maybe even offer you another way to look at money mistakes!

“Sharing my story at your event made me realize that everyone makes [money] mistakes…and they don’t define us. After telling my story you asked the audience who else had made a mistake like this and the hand raises and head nods made me realize I was not alone in my experience. This helped me let go of the shame I had been carrying about this mistake. Thanks to the safe space your show created, I was able to let go and stop beating myself up!”

A mistake with money is simply the moment what you DIDN’T know became what you NOW know. A mistake with money is a lesson waiting to be shared with others.

Share your hard-acquired money lesson with our Facebook community.

Colin Ryan, CPFC is the author of “A Comedic Guide to Money,” has been featured everywhere from NPR to The Moth Radio Hour, and speaks all over the country.