How Financial Trauma Affects Your Relationship With Money

Rakim Sabry owns, invests and saves a home in Hartford, Connecticut. But that alone isn’t always enough to make him feel secure. Unexpected expenses make him feel uncomfortable, regardless of the expense.

“I get very anxious when I have to spend money,” says 33-year-old Sabry. financial coach said the consultant. So sometimes we put off paying for necessities like new shoes or home repairs.

As a teenager, Sabry, who is black, lived in subsidized housing with her family and paid for groceries with food stamps. “He had no electricity or running water when things got really bad,” he said. They were nearly kicked out many times. Sabry recalls being embarrassed to see the eviction notice on the door.

Those experiences shaped the way he spends and saves money. Sabry said that feeling in control of his money brings him peace. But when that control slips, anxiety creeps in. “He feels like something is happening to him instead of him making something happen,” he said.

Experiences like Sabley’s are what financial psychologists call “economic trauma– said to be an intense and enduring emotional response to current or past economic hardship Alex Melkmianis a psychologist and founder of the Center for Financial Psychology in Los Angeles.

Financial trauma can trigger negative thoughts, flashbacks, and anxiety. symptoms that reflect this. post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Unlike everyday stress, trauma does not increase or decrease.It will end up hurting your relationship with money. Thomas FawpleSan Francisco-based financial therapist.

Common causes of financial trauma include medical debt, financial instability, and economic crises. for example, great depression They were less likely to invest in the stock market for fear of another crash that would erode their retirement savings.

Trauma can also be passed down through generations in many ways, such as carrying on parents’ debts. Dr Merkmian added that systemic issues such as racism and discrimination may also play a role.

Unlike PTSD, financial trauma is not a mental health diagnosis, so financial advisors and therapists often overlook it. Many people are unaware that scary financial experiences can harm their financial and psychological health, Fauple said. Nevertheless, 2016 investigation It found that 25 percent of Americans, including 36 percent of millennials, reported symptoms of PTSD caused by financial hardship.

Dr. Merkmian said one of the telltale signs of financial trauma is financial avoidance. In other words, some traumatized people may refuse to create budgets, open bills, or discuss finances.

Avoidance can also mean failing to spend when you should. For example, Mr. Sabry attributed his actions to frugality. However, he realized that, unlike saving for a rainy day, his own choices may be driven by his desire to avoid falling into poverty again.

Painful experiences related to money can cause anxiety Aja Evans, a financial therapist in New York City. She explained that this often leads to negative thoughts such as “I’m running out of money” and “I’m not good at spending money.”

Spending can also be evidence of financial trauma. As an adult, you may try to make up for feelings that you felt were stolen from you by overindulging. For example, you may deplete your savings while on vacation, eat out too much, or spend all your money shopping online.

Chantelle Chapman, a 40-year-old entrepreneur from Richmond, British Columbia, was once such a spendthrift. For nearly a decade, she said, she’s been buying gifts, costumes, and dinners she couldn’t afford. This left her with nearly $10,000 in credit card debt and nearly $10,000 in tax debt, hampering her savings.

Like Sabry, Chapman grew up without financial security. But while Sabry became frugal due to financial trauma, Chapman fell into spending.

“I had a biased relationship with money,” she said. Chapman said she was afraid of debt, but she was spending more than she could afford because of her desire to belong to wealthier people. Her trauma has made her a people pleaser, she said, adding that she “felt I had to look a certain way to be accepted.” rice field.

Sabotaging your financial future is also a red flag. You might think that taking a high-paying job would be selfish or not right for you, says Fauple. As a result, saboteurs may give up applying for high-paying jobs or never ask for a raise.

Once you can recognize the signs of financial trauma, you can work towards a solution. For starters, Fauple advises exploring the problem “through the window of money.” From this vantage point, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to cope with my financial situation?”

Thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with the trauma can cause distress. For example, if you lost money during the 2008 financial crisis, seeing a stock market crash can cause anxiety. Alternatively, someone with student loan debt may feel anxious when the moratorium on payments ends.

“It can feel like watching a scary movie all over again,” said Michelle Griffiths, senior wealth adviser at Citi Personal Wealth Management.

Griffiths has seen a surge in financial trauma among some clients. In 2009, some lost up to 40 percent of their retirement savings. Currently, there is a possibility of further economic stagnation, and we are concerned about its recurrence. This can lead people to quickly cash out investments and retirement accounts out of fear of the risks associated with investing, Griffiths said.

Griffiths recommends making decisions based on facts when emotions are running high. “Even bear markets bounce back,” she says. And over the past 70 years, the stock market has fallen by 5% several times each year. Griffiths says that knowing that the depression is temporary can help ease the pain.

No one can predict the future, but if you can find your own triggers, Evans says you can manage yourself better. Even taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, or talking to a friend can calm her down and make her less likely to act impulsively, she says.

Boundaries help us feel safe in our relationships and can also curb our financial behavior.

For example, Evans advises spendthrifts to remove credit cards from apps and online stores. The thrill of shopping can boost dopamine levels and interfere with self-control, she says. However, it becomes difficult to splurge when you don’t have a credit card handy.

Money avoiders sometimes take small risks, like spending $10 or $20 on a fun experience. Dr Melkmian called it a “forced splurge” and said it was a way out of the comfort zone. It does the opposite of what your negative emotions are telling you, he said.

Actions that interfere with evasion are also beneficial. Griffith suggested setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account each month. You can also automate monthly bill payments and allocate funds from each paycheck to your retirement account.

There are two approaches to recovery from financial trauma. Fauple said the financial aspects need to be addressed, as well as the trauma that caused them.

talk to financial therapist A person who specializes in financial trauma is the first step. A financial therapist with a background in psychology and money can help you understand the connection between your painful experiences and financial problems. For example, if your family fought about money when you were a kid, you might avoid difficult conversations about money in adulthood, says Fauple. Alternatively, if you grew up without financial security, you may hoard money later in life.

In addition to therapy, attending financial literacy classes and consulting with a financial advisor will set you up for success.

As part of her recovery, Chapman turned to psychotherapy and financial education. But none of her therapists linked her trauma to money troubles. She was told to use her willpower, which she confessed added to her shame. Ms. Chapman hopes to educate others, money traumaan educational site that teaches classes in financial trauma literacy.

Sabry also strives to help others, especially those in the black community, develop healthier financial habits. In his personal and professional experience, financial trauma never completely disappears.

“It’s not like turning off a light switch,” he says. It cannot be erased, but it can be dealt with.

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