Money blocks, how to identify and overcome them

I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit – the drive to create business for personal and financial fulfillment.

We are born to learn and develop our skills, even business skills.

As a kid, I was always trying to make money to buy candy and pretty clothes.  I became a stellar negotiator with my mom over my “fee” for doing extra household chores.

I didn’t have any money blocks yet.

I grew up on a small acreage in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t get a lot of traffic passing by our house. But I waited outside for the odd car in hopes they would stop and buy from me.

My most memorable attempt at making money was when my friend and I decided to have a mini-garage sale on the side of our dirt road.

We went through our houses looking for things we thought would fetch a buck. My dad had some dusty old books. I thought he wouldn’t miss these old raggedy things.

Dusty books, money blocks

I remember a man stopping. He was surprised we were selling the books. I thought it was odd that he was surprised. They’re just old books. He bought them. I got enough money to buy a root beer and candies from the corner store. He was our only customer that day.

My dad came home and found out what I did. He wasn’t impressed.

They were collectibles. Oops.

However, I remember him smirking. I thought it was weird. Was he mad or happy? I wasn’t sure.

I think he was a little impressed I took the initiative to earn money even if he was out some collectibles.

I had natural entrepreneurship.

Through the rest of my childhood, entrepreneurship became a distant thought. Stamped out of me.

Enter money blocks.

Why did I lose my entrepreneurial spirit?

It comes down to my development of money blocks.

Before we explore money blocks and how they develop, I want to discuss “Fixed vs. Growth” Mindset uncovered by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. in Psychology and Professor at Stanford University.

Watch this video of Dr. Carol Dweck explaining Mindset.

Also, see this infographic that explains “Fixed” versus “Growth” Mindset illustrated by Nigel Holmes.

Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset
Brilliant Infographic by Nigel Holmes.

The reason I introduce “Fixed” versus “Growth” mindset is that it impacts our daily lives and weaves into our beliefs about ourselves. However, in a fixed mindset, we have the power to change to a growth mindset.

These beliefs in the fixed mindset permeate our beliefs about money, which contributes to creating our money blocks.

Change our mindset, overcome our money blocks. More on that later.

Growth “Money” Mindset

This video of Jim Carrey exhibits his growth money mindset – the opposite of a money block. Watch the whole thing because what Oprah has to say at the end is essential.

Carrey visualized becoming successful. He made it happen through extraordinary effort because he knew he could.

What is a Money Block?

A money block is a destructive limiting belief about money deep in your subconscious that prevents you from achieving your money goals.

Money Blocks are also referred to as Money Scripts. A term coined by Brad Klontz, Psy.D and Ted Klontz, Ph.D., the authors of Mind Over Money. I often refer to them as money blocks, but they are the same.

I will be referring to Mind Over Mind throughout the rest of this article.

Klontz and Klontz state that we develop our money blocks or scripts when we are children. Sometimes we develop them from traumatic experiences where money is involved, hurtful comments, or comments we overhear.

Our child-brains try to determine why things are the way they are. Therefore, we develop money scripts to help us cope temporarily, particularly when our child-brain feels stress or discomfort associated with money. 

These coping mechanisms become deep-rooted money habits burned into the neuropathways of our brains.

Why do we Develop Money Blocks?

Money is the one thing that affects pretty much every major aspect of our lives. We need to pay for clothing, food, shelter, candy, etc.

In their book, Mind Over Money, Ted and Brad Klontz identify why we develop money blocks. Through their research, they determined it starts early in life.

They call these financial flashpoints.

“Our financial flashpoints, or intense emotional experiences relating to money, shape the money scripts – or patterns of thinking and acting – that we write for ourselves.” Klontz & Klontz.

The more traumatic the financial experience is, the deeper rooted the money blocks become.

These money blocks become entrenched and become our fixed money mindset.

The financial flashpoints we experience as children have the power to shape how we handle money for the rest of our lives.

As children and young adults, our money scripts form from:

  • Family Financial Trauma – a parent losing their job, parents fighting about money, parents using money to manipulate.
  • Societal Financial Trauma – depressions, recessions.
    • I.e. Enron. The high-priced greedy executives were splashed all over the news. What about Bill Gates giving up a massive chunk of his wealth? Unfortunately, the Enron stories are what sell, and people hear the sound bite.
  • Socioeconomic Issues
    • The cycle of poverty class-system society.
    • Unable to afford higher education.
  • Cultural Norms
    • Discrimination in hiring practices
    • Discrimination, particularly the case for African American people.
  • Gender Norms
    • Princess Charming will take care of the finances.

Gender Norms Further Explored.

In Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset,” according to her research, when females have to indicate their gender on a test form, their test scores go down automatically.

  • The societal cues that women are less intelligent abound. This spills over into money blocks.
  • If women are steered away from pursuing high paying professions because of a perceived lack of intelligence, this manifests into they are not able to earn great money.

All of these things create our Money Story.

This is the story that plays out in front of us throughout life, forming our beliefs about money. Many of these beliefs transform into money blocks.

You tell yourself you want to make great money, but for some reason, you can’t make it happen.

Why is that?

Let’s explore the most common money blocks researched by Klontz and Klontz.

1. Money Avoidance.

This money block of Money Avoidance is broken down into four categories:

  • Financial denial
  • Financial rejection
  • Excessive risk aversion
  • Underspending

People with this money block intensely focus on devaluing their perceived need for money but also feel they would be better off with more money. This creates a push-pull effect. They push money away simultaneously, hoping they will come into money.

Further, they tend to blame their financial situation on someone or something outside of themselves, such as the company they work for, government, parents, etc.

Here is a handy dandy chart the breaks it down further for you.

Let’s explore each Money Avoidance Block:

Financial Denial:

Definition: Minimize our money issues or completely avoid them. You don’t want to think about money. You don’t want to face reality. It can occur when the partner handles all the money.

Common Flashpoints: Confusion and lack of education about money. Your parents probably didn’t discuss money or sent you mixed messages about money when you were a child.

Common Behaviors: You don’t open bills, don’t look at credit card statements. You don’t negotiate your salary or raises. You refuse to discuss money with your partner.

Common Money Scripts: I’m not smart enough to understand money. Budgeting and managing money is too hard. If I focus on my work, the rest will take care of itself.

Financial Rejection:

Definition: Wealth repeller. You have feelings of guilt over having money. You feel like you don’t deserve it. The classic example is the professional athlete that goes bankrupt when retires.

Common Flashpoints: Money is often connected to emotional trauma from childhood or early adulthood. You may have been told as a child that working hard is what’s important, not making money. You may have difficulties adjusting to new socioeconomics.

Common Behaviors: You might squander or unwilling to spend your money. It feels wrong to enjoy your money. You’re overly giving. You turn down opportunities to make money. You don’t save. You are unable to adjust to having more money than you grew up with. You take a “Vow of Poverty.” You have a fear of making the same money mistakes as your parents.

Common Money Scripts: Money is evil. Money is not important. If I accumulate money, people won’t like me. Money ruins relationships. I’m destined to be poor. I don’t deserve this money.

Underspending:

Definition: You tend to have plenty of savings but refuse to enjoy your money. Underspending is often rooted in an irrational subconscious fear or anxiety of guilt, feeling undeserving, or compulsively self-sacrificing. The paranoia of the Wealthy. The classic example is Ebenezer Scrooge.

Common Flashpoints: Children who grow up wealthy notice how their family is treated differently and feel resented by their community. “Silver Spoon.”

Common Behaviors: You live excessively below your means. You don’t spend what you can easily afford out of fear of being judged.

Common Money Scripts: People will pretend to be my friend to get to my money. People will think I’m a show-off.

Excessive Risk Aversion:

Definition: You have an extreme unwillingness to take any risks, even the smallest, with your money. As a result, you miss out on legitimate opportunities. Money paralysis.

Common Flashpoints: Children who grew up with parents talking about huge financial losses they have faced or legal liabilities they are facing with their business. As a result, they develop anxiety about money. Living through recessions.

Common Behaviors: You overthink the negative “what-ifs” when faced with a money decision.

Common Money Scripts: To not face financial loss, I will just not do anything. I don’t trust anyone to manage my money.

2. Money Worshippers.

This money block of Money Worshipping is broken down into six categories:

  • Hoarding
  • Unreasonable Risk Taking
  • Pathological Gambling
  • Workaholism
  • Overspender
  • Compulsive Buying

If you are a money worshipper, you put excessive emphasis on making, saving, and spending money.

You are money-obsessed.

You see money as magical like when Cinderella’s fairy godmother comes along and makes her fancy with a wave of a wand. That would have cost thousands in today’s standards. Money becomes linked in your mind to happiness.

My Story:

In my mid-twenties to mid-thirties, I was an “overspender.”

I think my flashpoint was that when I was a kid, I rarely had money. I was careful with my money.

Money blocks, woman with lots of money

Then, I went to University where I had NO money because it all went to pay for school.

Immediately after graduating, I got a job. It didn’t pay great, but it was more than I had ever made in my life.

It was such a liberating feeling.

I would tell myself, “I work hard so I can just go buy whatever I want when I want.” Pffft.

Once we had kids, reality came crashing down, and we eventually adjusted. It was hard.

Let’s explore each Money Worshipper Block:

Hoarding:

Definition: You hoard money or things. Hoarding is a replacement for what is missing in your life. Often seen by those how have gone through periods of extreme scarcity. Even when you are out of scarcity, you feel an intense compulsion to hold on to your money or things for fear you will lose them.

Common Flashpoints: Often seen in children who were adopted or in the foster system. Also, seen in people who witnessed their parents hoarding behaviors which could have been caused by a period of extreme scarcity.

Common Behaviors: Hide money. Hoard money and things.

Common Money Scripts: I don’t trust anyone with my money.

Unreasonable Risk Taking:

Definition: You seek large yet unlikely gains. “Sensation Seekers.” Addicted to the high you get from the thrill of the chase. Overconfident.

Common Flashpoints: Often seen in adults whose parents came into good fortune and were given money freely. Kids who are told they are smarter than the rest so as an adult they think they are so smart they can beat the system.

Common Behaviors: Common examples are stock market timing, making high-risk investments, spending anticipated but not yet received money.

Common Money Scripts: Money is easy to get if you are more intelligent than the average person.

Pathological Gambling.

Definition: Excessive gambling is an addiction like drugs are an addiction. You become addicted to the feeling of winning which equates to feelings of success. This leads to thinking you can replicate your early wins.

Common Flashpoints: A traumatic history is a leading indicator of this disorder. You experienced the flukey thrill of winning at a young age; often begins with a lucky streak.

Common Behaviors: Excessive gambling. You hide it from your family. May lead to illegal activity.

Common Money Scripts: I’m just lucky. I know what I’m doing. If I did it once, I can do it again.

Workaholism.

Definition: It’s often a matter of pride. You proudly proclaim your workaholism. You sacrifice everything else in your life – family, friendships, sleep – for work. This often leads to marriage problems, anxiety, depression, etc. Workaholics feel more money will make them and their family happier making them feel valued. However, this is not the case provided their family is above the poverty line. Money is often not the main motivator to become a workaholic – self-worth is.

Common Flashpoints: Parents were workaholics or shamed for not meeting their high standards for school. Or they see a parent as lazy and vow to never be like them.

Common Behaviors: Work harder, not smarter. Put work above all else. Don’t be a lazy sack of potatoes.

Common Money Scripts: I need to stay busy all the time. I need to work all the time to give my family everything they desire.

Overspending.

Definition: Overspenders do so because they are chasing feelings of comfort and affection when spending on themselves and others. Creates a cycle of earning – spending – saving nothing/going into debt.

Common Flashpoints: Given or received a gift that improved a relationship. Or not having a particular item as a child that emotionally impacted you (ie, brand name clothes). Witnessing parents going back and forth between ignoring and obsessing over money.

Common Behaviors: Earn money, need to spend that money. Often create or are involved in a community that connects over shopping (ie, shopping buddies, online shopping groups, etc)

Common Money Scripts: I want my kids to have everything they want in life. Money is not important.

Compulsive Buying.

Definition: Next-level spending. Buying becomes an escape from their problems. The drug dopamine is released which leads to a high feeling to only come crashing down. 3/4 of compulsive buyers are women.

Common Flashpoints: Girls are often told at a very young age that they are supposed to like shopping.

Common Behaviors: You spend an inordinate amount of time shopping at the expense of other important activities.

Common Money Scripts: Shopping is my hobby. It’s okay because I’m always finding good deals. I like to buy people gifts.

3. Relational Money Blocks.

This money block of Relational Money blocks is broken down into four categories:

  • Financial infidelity
  • Financial Incest
  • Financial Enabling
  • Financial Dependency

If you have a relational money block, you have emotions intermingled with how you manage your money. You often lie about your spending or are secretive out of shame. You have a difficult time talking about money with your partner or other loved ones who you impact with your blocks.

Relational money blocks are also often learned in childhood when parents don’t talk about money and send the message that doing so is wrong. Another way relational money blocks form is from parents using money to control their children. 

Since money is the biggest issue couples and families fight over, it’s no wonder people become secretive and deceptive regarding money.

Let’s explore Money Relational Blocks.

Financial Infidelity.

Definition: Secrecy and dishonesty about spending or overall financial health. Trust is often the underlying issue. You believe you are not capable of being financially responsible.

Common Flashpoints: Trust issues from childhood. Being betrayed over money. Wanting to avoid conflict with your partner.

Common Behaviors: You rip the tags off of new purchases so your spouse doesn’t notice them. Understate the cost of something to partner. Take out secret credit cards or bank accounts.

Common Money Scripts: I don’t need to know how to manage money. My partner does all of that. My partner doesn’t need to know about what I buy. I can buy what I want.

Financial Incest.

Definition: Using money to control or manipulate a child. Forcing a child into taking on adult responsibilities in handling money. This often leads these children to grow up with a duty to take care of the family financial forever.

Common Flashpoints: Children whose parents use them as shields against creditors. Children who are used as a messenger to deal with financial situations between parents, particularly divorced parents.

Common Behaviors: Parent sends their child to the door when a creditor comes to collect. Divorced parents – one parent complains the other doesn’t give enough child support to afford extras.

Common Money Scripts: I need to take care of my family financially or they will be out on the streets. My family is not capable of managing money.

Financial Enabling.

Definition: You have an irrational need to support others financially even if you can’t afford to. You can’t turn down requests for money even if you are putting your own future at stake. Because of this, you often give money with strings attached which creates resentment on the receiver. Money = Love or control. This creates dependence on both parties. The giver often knows they are doing the wrong thing but they can’t stop.

Common Flashpoints: Children who were once spoiled or were controlled by money. Giving money makes them feel special and loved.

Common Behaviors: Bank of Mom and Dad is abused. You think you have a deep need to provide money for reasons of love, control, or duty.

Common Money Scripts: Giving money gives my life meaning. I will keep my children close by financially supporting them. If I don’t, they won’t love me anymore.

Financial Dependency.

Definition: Hoping “Prince Charming” will come and get me out of this godforsaken situation. The financially dependent stay so to avoid taking the responsibility on themselves. You are often never told you have to. More prevalent in women even though almost all women will end up on their own at some time in their life.

Common Flashpoints: Children of parents who believe women shouldn’t work. Children who are spoiled often equate gift-giving with love.

Common Behaviors: Oblivious to how money works and how it should be managed. Become dependent on another person to keep them afloat. Often go into debt.

Common Money Scripts: There will always be someone who will give me money. I don’t understand money so I don’t try to manage it.

Identify your Money Blocks

There’s a good chance that by now, you have a good idea of what your money blocks are. However, to know for sure that the assessment developed by Brad and Ted Klontz.

I took it and was somewhat surprised. I know I’m an overspender, but I didn’t realize that my biggest problem is that I’m a workaholic.

DO IT NOW:

  1. Take the assessment.
  2. Write down your money blocks.

How to Overcome Your Money Blocks.

As Klontz and Klontz explain, our money blocks are a result of emotional baggage from the past that we haven’t dealt with yet.

This emotional baggage is getting in our way from living a financially healthy life. The goal is to reduce our negative feelings around the trauma that caused our money blocks.

Here are some options to help you overcome your unfinished business:

  • Introspection
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Support groups
  • Therapy
Against all odds, overcoming your money blocks
Natural forces and fantastic achievements.

By confronting our feelings safely, we allow these emotions to run their course and reduce their impact on us.

Do you feel shame about your money blocks? To overcome shame, try the following:

  1. Be accountable to yourself. Own your mess.
  2. Try to understand what lead you down this path. No excuses.
  3. Confide in someone you trust. Express your thoughts and feelings around your shame.
  4. Make a plan to overcome.
  5. Execute your plan.

How to Identify your Money Block Triggers.

We all have ingrained money blocks; therefore, we might not know what they are.

You have them, nonetheless.

To ensure we can prepare for our triggers when they show up or try to avoid them altogether, we need to know what they are.

Here is an excellent exercise that Klontz and Klontz recommend for identifying your triggers:

  1. Get a piece of paper.
  2. Draw what looks like a target by drawing a 2-inch circle in the middle.
  3. Draw a 4-inch circle around the 2-inch circle.
  4. Draw a 6-inch circle around the 4-inch circle.
  5. In the 2-inch circle, write your most destructive financial behaviors (i.e., I make too many purchases on impulse, I hide purchases from my partner, etc.).
  6. In the 4-inch circle, list all of the behaviors, feelings, people, things, etc. that you experience just before you find yourself committing these destructive financial behaviors (i.e., when I feel isolated, when I feel unappreciated, stressed or angry, when I think of my son, etc.).
  7. In the 6-inch circle, write all the places, beliefs, attitudes, situations, and thoughts that can help you avoid your triggers. For example, ask your shopping buddy to go for a coffee instead, go for a brisk walk or delay for 24 hours before making a financial decision).

Understanding your Money Story Exercise

from Klontz and Klontz.

  1. Get a piece of paper.
  2. Draw a line all the way across.
  3. The left side represents your birth; the far right represents your current age.
  4. Start at the left side of the line and think of your first memory with money – good, bad, or otherwise.
    • Think about how you first realized the purest meaning of money.
    • Think of the context of how the money was used.
    • Think about what it meant to you at the time.
  5. Indicate if this first instance was positive or negative. Use a symbol like a smiley or frowny face. The greater the positive or negative, the higher or lower the symbol. Neutral goes on the line.
  6. Continue to work through your life and write down your money experiences with the steps above. They don’t have to be significant. Don’t dismiss things that you think would be irrelevant to someone else.
  7. Once you are done identifying all the money events, go back and write down how you felt at that time.
  8. Review what you have written and write a couple of sentences that summarize it all.
  9. This exercise will give you a clearer picture of your money mindset and will shed light on your current money blocks.

Remember, at the beginning of this article, I talked about the Fixed Versus Growth mindset?

Can you see now that money blocks are in the “fixed” mindset?

The next section requires you to put your mind into the Growth mindset.

How to Rewrite your Money Blocks.

You developed your money blocks because they served a purpose at the time.

As you grew up, they didn’t make sense anymore.

But because they were so ingrained in you, they turned into destructive behaviors. Since money scripts or blocks are such a part of us, it makes more sense in understanding them and then rewriting them into something positive.

  1. Get a piece of paper and write down all your money blocks.
  2. Determine if any of them are worth keeping.
  3. Ask yourself when your money blocks serve you well. Be specific. For example, if your money block is, “I don’t trust anyone with my money,”  you can ensure your money is protected through a trustworthy Will or a diversified portfolio.
  4. Ask yourself when your money block is destructive or wrong. Be specific. When I hide purchases from my spouse, it gives me anxiety and leads to tension.
  5. With the growth mindset in mind, ask yourself: How can I take my money scripts or blocks and make them productive?
    • Example: “Money isn’t important.” Rewrite: “Money is less important than focusing on my family’s overall happiness. I strive to make enough money to fulfill this belief.” 
    • Example: “I don’t tell my spouse about some of my purchases because I don’t want him to lecture me.” Rewrite: “I will talk with my spouse about a realistic budget that we are both comfortable with, so I don’t feel obligated to tell him about my purchases.”
    • Example: “I’m not smart enough to handle the family finances.” Rewrite: “I feel undereducated on the topic of money, so I am going to take small steps to ensure I understand our financial situation even if it takes me a long time. I owe it to myself.”
  6. Do this exercise for all your money blocks.

Write your Money Mantra.

Mantras are nothing new. They have been around a long time but they are often not applied to money. However, it makes complete sense that they should be:

  1. Think of a situation that is causing issues for you financially. Identify your feelings.
    • Sally and I are shopping buddies, but she is wealthier than I am. I can’t continue to shop with her if I want to get out of debt. She texts me about twice a month to go shopping. I don’t know how to tell her I can’t go shopping without feeling embarrassed about my financial situation. I value our friendship.
  2. Identify the relevant money block and rewrite it with your situation in mind.
    • I don’t need to compare myself to Sally’s financial situation. My focus is getting out of debt, reduce stress, and living comfortably on my salary. If she is a true friend, she will understand. I will suggest we do something less expensive instead.
  3. Identify the values within your re-written money block.
    • Healthy financial goals, a healthier life, true friendship.

Call to Action:

My goal with this article is to help you identify and overcome your money blocks so you can improve your mindset about money.

See your history for what it is, accept it, learn ways to cope or get over it, move on. It’s a new day. Believe you can overcome with a growth mindset.

You need to do the work that is involved above.

Work through the exercises above and let yourself grapple with them and then take action.

This little bookseller is getting back to her roots!

Awareness is half the battle, my friend.

I will leave you with one very powerful quote by Tony Robbins…

“Remember: We all get what we tolerate. So stop tolerating excuses within yourself, limiting beliefs of the past, or half-assed or fearful states.” ―Tony Robbins

I suddenly feel like a root beer.