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Turn Around Unhealthy Thinking and Habits About Money

During the course of a lifetime, many of us pick up some unhealthy attitudes and thinking regarding money.

These attitudes can come from our parents who may have taught us their fears about being poor, or living through tough times. Some can come from schoolteachers and pastors who may have even added a moral dimension to these fears by passing along quotes such as, “money is the root of all evil.” And some of our attitudes are born from our personal experiences.

Like the newly married man whose in-laws came to visit and he was so embarrassed at only having a few cans of soup to impress the folks that he vowed to never run out of anything ever again. He hasn’t, and his underground bunker with a year’s supply of fresh water, food and split firewood is solid testament to his beliefs and fears.

Or a very successful management consultant who has never been able to make over $100,000 a year because when she gets close to that amount she becomes physically ill. Maybe it has something to do with the messages her mother gave her when she told her that you couldn’t be rich and happy, too.

One of the best examples of fear bordering on paranoia was the 1930s era actor W.C. Fields’s fear of losing his money that caused him to open 200 bank accounts, some of which were never found. None of us are as paranoid about losing money as that, but there’s no doubt that most of us have emotional reactions to money that do not really serve us.

Many people have strong emotional attachments to and feelings about money – many of which are useless at best, and harmful at worst.

Researchers have found that helplessness, hopelessness, fearfulness, confusion and embarrassment show up more often than the feelings of comfort, peace, power and happiness that money can bring.

Olivia Mellan, a Washington D.C. psychotherapist and author, has defined a handful of money types, including:

  • The hoarder
  • The spender
  • The monk
  • The avoider
  • The amasser

Most of us will lean toward one of these money types, she says, as an emotional, rather than a logical response. Her website,, offers books, online classes and online resources designed to help people get a handle on money conflicts.

She also offers tips for breaking our old habits and feelings around money once we recognize our basic type. For example, a hoarder should make a frivolous purchase and a spender should put $50 into a savings account.

Basically, the concept is that you have to act against your emotions around money in order to break free from them -at least until the next time a monetary decision comes your way.