Am I right? 

I mean, really…think about the relationships that are of most significance to you. Maybe it’s your top 5 from last week (catch up here, if you don’t know the reference). I bet you’d say these relationships are multi-layered, nuanced, emotional…and complex – to some degree. 

And what is true for your relationships with other people is also true when it comes to your relationship with money. 

Including the characteristics that make a relationship a healthy one…or not. 

So, though it may seem odd to do what I’m about to do, I think it can be useful. 

Of course there are more than six, but I’m going to spend a few minutes focusing on six traits that are present in person-to-person relationships. In the process, I will draw parallels to show how these traits show up in the realm of money, too.

But before I get to those traits, let me share the biases I’m bringing to this conversation:

YOU get to define what healthy is and for you. 

Let’s face it, “healthy” is a broad term; what it means, how it looks, and how it feels is not the same for everyone. 

Many factors influence your definition – your circumstances, needs, wants, and the context of it all. Hence, the reason I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid providing a specific definition here or in the piece that kicked off this series last week.

Definitions change.

What makes a relationship healthy today may not be what made it so in the past, and it may not be what will make it so in the future. Precisely because your circumstances, needs, wants, and the context thereof change.

Everything evolves.

All relationships of significance evolve. Just give it enough time :). 

Along with the changes regarding the dynamics mentioned above, goals, roles and responsibilities shift, too. Even the rhythm of how things change and what triggers those shifts evolve over time. 

There’s always room for improvement.

Perhaps it’s because “learner” is my #1 strength in CliftonStrengths Finder. Or, maybe it’s because I am an Enneagram 3. But I wholeheartedly believe that even if you describe something as “excellent,” there is still an opportunity to make it better.

Now, to those six traits:

Six Traits…

1) Respect

When it comes to money, respect shows up in how you treat your money. 

Do you take care of it? Do you treat the $1 you have today the way you envision you would if it were $1 million dollars in the future? How do you talk about it, both in terms of what you expect it to do for you and when it comes to others having more or less than you? 

On a more practical level, respect looks like tracking it. It looks like being thoughtful when it comes to spending it or taking on additional debt? It looks like having expectations of it that are aligned with the choices you’ve made of how to invest it. To name a few…

2) Trust

When it comes to money, trust is about confidence. 

But this can often feel ambiguous. 

Can you trust yourself to make smart choices? And if the answer is no, then can you trust yourself to recognize when you need help…and subsequently ask for it? 

Can you trust yourself to recover from mistakes, which we all (and will) make? 

Can you trust yourself to honor any financial boundaries or rules you have?

It’s probably true in all relationships, but it is most certainly true with money: Confidence comes from taking action

The loop of take action, get feedback, take action again becomes the evidence that eventually proves you can, indeed, trust yourself when it comes to money. 

3) Honesty

Sure, you may not “talk” to your money, but I do believe you still “communicate” with it via the silent language of your actions and thoughts. 

When it comes to money, that silent language is embodied in your wants and needs, and through your boundaries and capacity. And whether or not you fully own these – without explanation or justification. 

4) Forgiveness

As with trust, so with forgiveness: When it comes to money, it is more about forgiving yourself for past mistakes or missed opportunities

5) Generosity

When it comes to money, generosity comes in a variety of forms. 

It can look like giving money (to family, friends, charities, etc.). It can also look like letting someone treat you. Just like with other relationships, the gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness need not be gargantuan to count. 

6) Feedback

When it comes to money, feedback shows up in the results you get…or don’t

Sometimes you like the feedback you’re getting; other times, not so much.

Not unlike when you get feedback from your family, friends, colleagues, and clients, right?! 🙂

Healthy vs. Unhealthy

Unhealthy Looks Like…

You have an unhealthy relationship with money if the above traits are either missing, are not very strong, or don’t show up consistently. And it can cause you to:

  • Abdicate your financial power – e.g., you outsource and forget it, or you never negotiate, or you never directly ask for the sale.
  • Not exercise self-control or discipline – e.g., you save inconsistently, you invest without a strategy, you spend haphazardly, you take on more debt without a plan, you don’t set earnings/revenue goals.
  • Stay in a negative emotional loop of guilt, shame, stress, blame, and worry.

In other words, not fun at all!

On the flip side…

Healthy Looks Like…

Here’s what a healthy relationship with money looks like: 

  • You are engaged with your money. You don’t just think about it when there’s a need or crisis. You understand (or are willing to learn) the ins/outs – where’s the money coming from and where it is going. You understand that being engaged doesn’t mean making perfect choices or having perfect outcomes all the time.
  • You acknowledge mistakes or missed opportunities with grace.
  • You’re comfortable having awkward conversations about money – or, you at least embrace the discomfort and do it anyway.
  • You create rules and boundaries, which you update as the need to do so arises.
  • You have a system and structure in place for making choices and managing it.
  • You have a game-plan or roadmap, and you embrace the fact that it may need to be tweaked several times before you reach THE goal.

As I often say, ‘Your relationship with money is one of the longest you’ll ever have.’ 

So, if you want to make sure it thrives through the ups and downs of life and business, do an audit every now and then and look for the presence of the above traits.

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