How often do you think about money and for bonus points, what are those thoughts? The truth is we all have financial anxiety.
But if you are spinning in anxious money thoughts and unsure how to get out of that loop, this episode is for you. As Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a biracial financial therapist and wellness expert and author of the book “The Financial Anxiety Solution” says, “Anxiety is a normal and healthy stress response that all humans have – if their nervous system is working appropriately and it might come along with some physical symptoms – sweaty palms, heart racing, etc..”
The goal isn’t to never feel anxiety around money because that just isn’t possible. The goal is to have a normal and healthy anxiety response – and one that you can move through. So, how do you get there? In this episode, Lindsay shares the role your childhood, particularly 0-age 8, might play in those anxious thoughts, how money anxiety impacts your daily life, some great exercises to move through those anxious thoughts, and how understanding your money personality will help you play to your money strengths.
[00:00:22] The influence of childhood on money beliefs.
[00:06:09] Zero to eight years old.
[00:07:32] Lack of conversation around money.
[00:10:59] Financial anxiety and money stories.
[00:15:00] The meaning of anxiety.
[00:22:26] Extreme financial anxiety moments.
[00:27:49] Practicing coping skills without stress.
[00:30:42] Financial privilege and shame.
[00:33:10] Money scripts and personality.
[00:36:03] Blissfully ignorant and money.
[00:39:13] Empowered use of money.
[00:45:58] Normalizing money anxiety.
[00:46:24] Financial Anxiety Solution.
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Lindsay Bryan-Podvin We are not just individuals that exist in a bubble like most personal finance advice imagines we are. We are not just our personal thoughts and feelings and behaviors. We are that, and research also shows, as I’m sure you’ve alluded to and talked about before here, that by the time we’re about eight years old, we have soaked up so much information from the people around us, from our communities, from our schools, about what we think money is, that by the time we’re eight, we have more or less decided what we think and feel about money.
Shannah Game Welcome to Everyone’s Talking Money Podcast. I’m your host, Shawna Game. There’s no judgment, no dumb questions, just smart conversations about you and your money. So come on in and grab a seat. Everyone is welcome here. Before we get into the episode, just a quick favor and reminder to rate and review the show. If you haven’t done so already, head to whatever podcast player you’re listening to this episode in right now and leave us five stars. All right, question for you. How often do you think about money? And for bonus points, what are those thoughts? It’s one of the questions I ask guests in the Your Relationship With Money segment because I think it really helps to normalize our financial anxiety. We all have it. But if you’re spinning in anxious money thoughts and really unsure how to get out of that loop, this episode is for you. As Lindsay Brian Podvin, a biracial financial therapist, wellness expert, and author of the book The Financial Anxiety Solution says, anxiety is a normal and healthy stress response that all humans have. if their nervous system is working appropriately, and, you know, it might come along with some physical symptoms. You know, sweaty palms, heart racing, that sort of stuff. So the goal isn’t to never feel anxiety around money, because that just isn’t possible. But the goal is to have a normal and healthy amount of anxiety, and have a good response, one that you can move through fairly easily. In this episode, Lindsay shares the role your childhood, particularly ages zero to eight, might play in those anxious thoughts. how money anxiety impacts your daily life, some great exercises to move through those anxious thoughts, and how understanding your money personality will help you play to your money strengths. This is an episode to bookmark and come back to often. All right, let’s start talking. You know, in the intro to your book, you say that financial anxiety is a problem. It consists of negative and avoidant thoughts and feelings about money and that this anxiety often leads to behaviors like we avoid bills, we procrastinate on things like signing up for our retirement plans or just not planning at all for a financial future. And that a person with financial anxiety can feel guilty, embarrassed, fearful, so many different words to describe how you feel about your money. And when I was reading this, I was thinking, wow, okay, I feel like the entire general population probably falls in the bucket of having financial anxiety, that this is something that exist in most of us, but we don’t, we don’t talk about it or we maybe we don’t even have the language around it. So, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to do a lot of that today in our conversation, but just off the bat, where does financial anxiety, where does it come from?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Oh, it’s such a big question and a good question. And the long and short of it is that it comes from pretty much everywhere. We are not just individuals that exist in a bubble like most personal finance advice imagines we are. We are not just our personal thoughts and feelings and behaviors. We are that. And research also shows, as I’m sure you’ve alluded to and talked about before here, that by the time we’re about eight years old, we have soaked up so much information from the people around us, from our communities, from our schools, about what we think money is, that by the time we’re eight, we have more or less decided what we think and feel about money. So in a nutshell, yes, who we are impacts our financial anxiety, but so does our caregiving and family, the way that we grew up. our neighborhoods and communities that we were raised in? What was normal or abnormal? Did you go door to door selling cookies? Or did you grow up in an area where your school didn’t have to do fundraising and that was just a given? When you go outside of that, what were the social supports that were available within your city or community and what was that like, was that talked about in any way, shape, or form? And when it comes to how all of those different factors shape what we think and feel about money, it comes down to how we interpret if what we are doing with money is right or wrong. That’s like the long and short of it, is anxiety often comes from this place of feeling uncertain. And when there is so much noise in the personal finance space, plus from our families, plus from our communities, plus from all the other places that I mentioned telling you this is the right way to do money, It can feel really overwhelming when your financial situation doesn’t fit neatly into that box. You can feel like somehow you’re doing it wrong, and that can cause a lot of this anxiety.
Shannah Game Yeah, and just a PSA to anybody who’s listening, because I’ve heard this from so many different listeners, there is not one right way to do money. I think that’s what makes it really tricky is what you’re talking about, this idea of perfection around money and that we have to be perfect. And if we don’t fit into what we think is society’s view of somebody, I don’t know, doing money right, then we feel even more financial anxiety or even more gosh, I mean, we can be depressed, we can have all, you know, lots of different things going on. But you talked about this age eight, I find this really interesting. And I’ve shared this with a lot of people. And some people really push back on that with me. And I’m like, well, there’s actually studies that prove this. But you know, what is it about, you know, zero to eight years old? What is it about that timeframe that is just so impressionable?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Great question. I’m really glad you asked that and allow me to highlight this. So just to rewind, I come from a clinical social work background with a specialty in mental health, which means I had to do a lot of studying and research and also just practicing with people of all different ages. So I have a lot of training around what is exactly going on in our brains. And there are these two kind of burst seasons in our brain where our brain is doing a lot of what we call synaptic pruning and a lot of neurological development. And so there are these two periods in our lives. Puberty is one of them. And then also between the ages of 0 and 3, we’re doing a lot of it. But that 0 and 3 goes all the way up to about the age of 7 or 8 when we are developing new neural pathways. So that’s the reason eight is often thrown out as the number of why we believe what we believe about money. And the reason I think rightly, a lot of people push back as they say, well, Lindsay or Shauna, like my parents didn’t talk to me about money. I didn’t know what money was. This was not a conversation. And my response is the lack of a conversation around money gives you and tells you what you are or aren’t allowed to think and feel about money. If you grew up in a household where it wasn’t discussed at all, that’s your lesson. Money is rude. Money is taboo. It is secret. It is silent. And we absolutely don’t talk about it. So when we’re thinking of how we learn things between the ages of zero and seven or eight, if you are around elementary school aged kids, you know how they learn. They learn through mirroring or parroting. They say what other people around them say and do. They reflect it. They mimic it. And they also learn through narration and trial and error. So think about, you know, one of the first times you’re with a niece or nephew and you’re helping them cook pancakes in the kitchen, you naturally will narrate to them. Oh, I’m cracking some eggs in the bowl. I’m mixing up some flour. We’re going to heat up the griddle. That’s the same way that we also learn about money. Oh, My parents are arguing about bills. I don’t know necessarily what that is, but I can start to associate the feeling of uncertainty or worry or anxiety when I hear the word bills and money being talked about in my family. So that’s a lesson that I get. Or I get the lesson very directly. We can’t afford to go to Disney World or we can’t afford to send you to camp when I’m seven or eight years old. That’s a very direct message that we get. And we put that in our heads as, OK, that’s a lesson that my parent or caregiver is teaching me.
Shannah Game It’s really interesting when you when you talk about this, because, you know, I’ve done a lot of work myself on my relationship with money. And I think it’s a journey. I don’t think you ever get to this place where you’re just fixed and healed. That’s that’s my perspective, at least. But I grew up in a family where I didn’t have to worry about money. We were we were middle class, but we lived in a nice house. And I never remember hearing anything directly about money. So when I got my adulthood and when I started working with people as a financial planner and thinking about this from my own perspective, I thought, well, this is bizarre. Why do I have a messed up relationship with money? Because I grew up in a family where there wasn’t very fortunate. There wasn’t what I perceive now is as you know outward financial stress but then you know I think it’s it’s interesting when you start to really like unravel it all and you realize that oh my parents you know, it was either like feast or famine in sort of a way, and not the way we traditionally think about famine. It was either like, we’re going to invest in this big, big thing, or we’re not going to go spend money on eating out. Or, you know, we’re going to have these experiences and go on these trips, but when we come home, we’re going to, you know, get mad and get angry about, you know, every different expense that was spent. And so there’s all these messages that were just being formulated in my brain. It wasn’t until I really started to think about this and dissect it that I was like, oh, wow. Even if you grow up in what you classify as a great financially stable family, there’s still these messages that are happening that are very impressionable. And I think everybody should be doing this work and figuring this out, where their relationship with money came from.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah. One thing that I think is important to point out that you’re reminding me of is that there is this false narrative in our society that if you have money, then you won’t be anxious. And that just is simply not true. And so to use a similar example, if I’m working with an adult who grew up financially stable and didn’t have to worry about money and always got an allowance and just had things paid for, their money story may be, I always get money when I need it. And where a lot of people are like, that sounds like a great money story. That sounds so abundant. The shadow side of that or the challenging side of that may be that they didn’t ever have to learn how to manage their finances because when they needed money, poof, it just appeared. And how could that potentially cause some financial anxiety with somebody? So I want to push back, like, I’m not saying you’re saying this at all, but I think it’s important to highlight for people who are saying, I grew up middle class or I grew up upper middle class. Why is it still so hard that those messages, too, can have a positive and a negative association with them?
Shannah Game Okay. So everybody listening now, we’re kind of thinking about this, like we’re thinking about how we grew up. So how do we go through the process of figuring out what those messages were from childhood? And then the second step, like doing something about it or, you know, seeing how they’re showing up in our, our relationship with money at whatever current age we’re at.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah, I think for a lot of people, it’s easier to do the second thing first, to figure out what money looks like right now and then to work backwards. So an example that I often advise people to start with that’s in the book is just to start to notice how you feel when it comes to different financial interactions. What feelings and thoughts come up when you have to pay your bill at a restaurant? What feelings or thoughts come up when it is tax time and you’re filing your taxes? What feelings or thoughts come up when you have to remind your friend to vendor you money? And what we start to see there is some sort of little pattern, right? We get to put on our data scientist hat and play play a little bit and go, oh, for example, when money goes out, I get really anxious. But when money comes in, I feel really stable or when I’m Looking at my own money, I feel really competent and comfortable. But when my partner and I talk about money or when I have to talk to my kids about money, all of a sudden I clam up. So then that starts to give us some cues around what parts of our relationship with money are safer or healthier. and what parts could use a little bit of TLC. And then from there, we can dig in. Why is it that communication about money is so uncomfortable? Or why is it that when I spend money, I get really anxious? And then we can start to lovingly and compassionately go back in time and do a little estimating around what might have contributed to it. I’m watching only murders in the building right now. And so I’m kind of imagining like that board of like, here are all the suspects. Here’s what’s going on. We kind of have to do that with ourselves, right? We put up, here’s where I feel financially anxious. And then we kind of do a brainstorm and go, well, was it because of this conversation or this interaction or this experience? In the reality, it’s probably a little bit of everything, but just to kind of get those ideas out and on the board can be really helpful.
Shannah Game I love that analogy because I often talk to people about being, putting on a hat of like being a detective. Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. Like from a different perspective. And sometimes when you do it, it sounds silly to say it, but when you do it, right, you can see the picture better than you can when you’re sitting in just your normal state or your anxious state or whatever it might be. Somehow, you know, it’s foggy, like you can’t, you can’t see what’s actually going on. I want to rewind just a minute, just in case, I feel like it’s sort of self-explanatory, but I would love to know the actual definition. What is the actual meaning of anxiety? What does that really mean?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah, so anxiety is a normal stress response that all humans have if their nervous system is working appropriately. And anxiety is a sensation of feeling nervous, worried, or on edge that may come along with some physical sensations such as stomach pain, nausea, tingling, sweatiness, lightheadedness. And in Humans, it’s a healthy stress response. The reason that anxiety shows up is it stems from fight, flight, or freeze when we needed to take care of ourselves. So parts of our body shut down that aren’t needed in that moment so that we can really focus on the quote unquote threat at hand. And it is normal for all of us to experience anxiety. We don’t want the goal to be never feel anxiety again, but we want to have what is called an appropriate anxiety response to a stressful situation. So, for example, you and I are both out here doing a lot of speaking engagements and things like that. It would be a healthy anxiety response to have some butterflies before you get up on stage, to have your palms be a little bit sweaty, to maybe stumble over a couple of those opening words. And then as you continue your presentation, you can start to feel your heart rate calm down, your stomach kind of quiets, you’re feeling more grounded and present in your body. And, you know, 30 minutes after you walk off stage, you’re feeling pretty good. And potentially abnormal anxiety response would be that you are thinking about that presentation so much so that for an entire week, you’re tossing and turning in bed, or when you get up on the stage, your eyes literally go blank and you can’t see your slides or afterwards. you’re still ruminating and still thinking about what happened on stage and you’re unable to be present. So anxiety, that anxiety response short-term is doing exactly what the body is supposed to do when we deal with stressful situations. But anxiety, the way a lot of us throw around the word in day-to-day language, what we’re talking about is an ongoing anxiety response that is the clinical language is disproportionate to the stressor at hand, which is a fancy way of saying it lasts longer than the stressful scenario.
Shannah Game What are some of the other ways that it can show up in your body?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah, so I mentioned it can show up by disrupting sleep. It can also show up, as I mentioned, with nausea, with feeling like you might be going to have to go to the bathroom or you might have to be sick. It shows up by shallow breathing. So think when you’re anxious, you’re breathing really rapidly and short and you’re kind of breathing up into your chest. It can also lead to muscle tension, dizziness. There are a lot, there are a cluster of physical symptoms that can happen. And again, it’s okay to feel these things short term, but you can imagine if you’re experiencing anxiety day in and day out, that muscle tension then becomes knots and it might turn into chronic pain. That stomach nausea may turn into avoiding foods because you’re not so sure if eating something might impact the way that your stomach feels, right? So we can see how short term we can cope with feeling uncomfortable, but over time, if we’re experiencing chronic anxiety all the time, our body is really dysregulated or in layman’s terms, out of whack. It doesn’t feel good.
Shannah Game All right, and now we’re going to play Your Relationship With Money Is. So, Lindsay, I’m going to ask you four questions and just give me whatever comes top of mind to you. Okay. So, question number one, if you had to describe your relationship with money as a cartoon character, what would it be?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Oh, my gosh. That is really hard because I feel like it changes all the time for a long time I felt like who’s at Elmer Fudd who’s always like chasing the thing and then I kind of the pendulum swung in the opposite way and I was kind of is it Elmira she was one who would like squeeze the animals because she loved them so much so those are the two that came to mind as the past but I don’t have one that’s coming to mind for right now but I’ll give you those.
Shannah Game No, those are great. I love those. I love everybody has kind of a different cartoon character. It’s fun. Yeah. All right. Question number two, how many times a day would you say that you think about money?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Point five, less than one.
Shannah Game Oh, all right. That’s awesome. I love that. Question number three, if someone was to deposit, let’s call it a billion dollars in your bank account right now, what would you be doing with your life?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin I love this question. One thing that I would be doing is a cause that’s really important to me and also hard for me to work in right now because of the way that it compensates folks is housing accessibility. So if I had that type of money, I would like to build communities of accessible housing. And when I’m talking about accessibility, I’m talking about financial accessibility, of course, but I’m also talking about making sure it’s within a 15 minute city. There is such a need for affordable housing and across the board coming from a mental health care background. When we look at how we can help people the most who are unhoused, it is not drug treatment. It is not alcohol treatment. It is not career help. It is not getting them a haircut or giving them new clothes. It is making sure that they have shelter. And time and time again, when we take a housing first approach, that tends to be more sustainable and beneficial for that person and also for the community from a financial perspective and just like from being a good person perspective. So that’s a cause that is incredibly important to me and I know I would need a lot of capital to do that and I would love to start rolling it out in cities and towns near me and then bringing it across the Midwest and then into the coast and I say the Midwest because the Midwest often gets forgotten as having issues around financial affordability and accessibility and a lot of attention rightfully gets diverted to some of the bigger, shinier cities. So that’s one thing I would do for sure. And then things I would do for myself is I would buy a house or a condo in Amsterdam. It’s one of my favorite cities. And then I could live there. you know, part of the year and bring family back and forth and bring friends back and forth. But those are the first like two things that I would do immediately.
Shannah Game All right. Last question. Number four. What would you say is your biggest money mistake? Maybe even something you haven’t told anyone.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Oh, my gosh. I have so many money mistakes, and I think This is also important to normalize. One of my biggest money mistakes that is also one of the most fun was right when I was out of college, I had the opportunity to be in New York City for a weekend for work. And one of my little sisters also happened to be there. And I did the best big sister treat yourself night that you can imagine. I took her literally everywhere. I spent $500 that evening, and this was 15, 18 years ago. So you can run the inflation numbers. I’m sure that money would have been better off even in a CD. But I tell you, that was the most baller I felt. And while my bank account didn’t love it, I really loved it in the moment.
Shannah Game So we talked about you talk about this idea of a normal financial anxiety kind of feelings that we have and then something a little bit more extreme. What can we do about it if we’re in those extreme moments? Is there a way to shift our brain, our body, our thinking, whatever it might be into a more healthy kind of, you know, normal, if you will, I’m using this word loosely, but a normal financial anxiety kind of feelings that we might have that do dissipate.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Absolutely. So that’s the key, right? Is that these feelings dissipate. It’s a healthy response to this type of financial anxiety. So let’s start with, I’m a person who I need an example to be able to have it make sense. So let’s say I’m working with a client and they get really, really anxious around payday. And so when payday comes, they’re constantly refreshing their banking app. They’re waiting to see that check hit. They want to make sure that everything is being accounted for, but they have maybe atypical or more than normal financial anxiety. So the night before payday, they’re not sleeping. The day after payday, they’re still refreshing their banking app. They really don’t trust that it’s there. We would do some of that detective work. And we go, where might that be coming from? Well, it may be because this person came from a financially insecure household. And so they really value making sure that when a paycheck is supposed to be there, it’s there. And this was compounded by one of their first jobs where they were paid under the table in late high school. And sometimes they’d get paid, and sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d be paid the rate that they said they would get, and sometimes they wouldn’t. But because it was under the table, they didn’t really feel like they had the capacity to advocate for their payday. So now, as an adult, they still feel that anxiety of, is that paycheck going to be there? Can I rely on it? So at least now, we’ve identified two things. We’ve identified that payday causes anxiety, and we’ve also identified a potential reason why or potential reasons why, right? Growing up in an insecure financial household and then having that first job experience be really irregular. Then what we do is we say, with kindness and with compassion, as weird as this might sound, Hey, brain, thank you so much for trying to keep me safe. It’s a totally normal response that if you weren’t paid in full or on time or regularly, that you’d be a little bit anxious around payday and you’d want to double, triple or quadruple check that your money will be there. So that’s step one is just acknowledging and normalizing why we might be doing what we’re doing. And then we want to bring our brain and body up to speed. Is that happening right now? And the way that we can do that with this scenario is say of The 48 paychecks I’ve gotten at this company, how many of them have been late? How many of them have been incorrect? How many of them have not shown up when I thought they were going to show up? And we can start to lovingly challenge that anxiety that says, I might not be paid in full or on time. with some objective facts. Oh, the whole time I’ve been at this company, these two years, I’ve gotten 48 paychecks. And they’ve all been, as described, I get a pay stub. I get my little, I can look at it and see where all the money is going. And the direct deposit has worked. And then what we might do with this thought is acknowledge the past while acknowledging the future. So we might say something like, while it makes sense that I get nervous that my paycheck is going to be late. In this job for the past two years, I’ve been paid in full and on time, and then we start taking a different behavior approach. What can I do with that information? Well, maybe it is Instead of checking my account 15 times within the 48 hours of payday, I say, can I check it 10 times or five times? One thing that often happens when we try to engage in behavior change is we try to do it all at once. We say, OK, well, I’m going to delete my banking account from my phone so I never look at it again. Well, that’s also not super realistic. Or we say, well, only check it once. If you go from checking it 15 times in 48 hours to once, That’s a big shift. So we just want to dial down some of the things that might be causing anxiety. And then over time, what our brain and body is able to do is to start to create a new neuropathway, a new response for our brain. So when payday comes, instead of that big anxiety and overwhelming fear, we might go, oh, payday comes. That feels so secure. I’m so thankful I’m in a job that pays me consistently and on time. And I can trust that when I log into my banking app twice a day in the morning and at night on payday, that money will be there.
Shannah Game How long does it take for that neuropathway to reach that? I mean, is this a person-by-person type thing? Yeah, great question.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin That would be a question for a neuroscientist. But yes, the therapist’s answer is it depends. And one thing that I will say is that it is much easier to practice this skill when you are not stressed, right? It’s much easier to kind of pretend or practice logging into your bank account, not on a payday, right? Maybe in the middle of the month and just get your nervous system used to seeing what’s in your bank account and not associating it with stress. So that’s why a lot of therapists, when they recommend things like deep breathing or meditation or yoga, they recommend that you practice it every day. Not because every day is stressful, but because we want to develop that skill so that when we need that coping skill in a stressful moment, we’ve got a lot of practice using that skill when we’re not dysregulated.
Shannah Game So it’s like going to a gym and lifting weights, right? We’re building muscle and time over time, it’s compounding upon itself in a good way, right? Right. Absolutely. I like that. You know, you also talk about on your website and in your book, you grew up in, I think, sort of a similar situation like I do, in sort of financial privilege. But I would imagine that if you were inspired to write a book like this on financial anxiety, that you probably have also struggled with the topic a little bit yourself. Am I guessing right?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Ding, ding, ding. Every therapist, in my opinion, becomes a therapist for a reason, right? It’s not like, oh, I have this perfectly balanced life and never experienced stressors, and I just want to tell people how great life is, right? That is not the case. Yes, this is where I think nuance is really important. And this is where the idea that we can both have areas in our lives where we experience privilege and areas of our lives where we experience challenge. So yes, absolutely. I come from a financially privileged background. The long and short of it is that my father, my adoptive father, was a physician and he got his first job as a rural health care physician. So my family and I grew up in a very low cost of living area with a person who was making good money. So we had some additional factors that really helped shape that. And as I share in the book, my mom came from a household where her father was incredibly financially insecure. And so he kind of passed the messages on to her of how important it is to save and his big value was education. So that was also drilled into us. I can remember getting, when we would talk about narrating money, I can remember getting some of these lessons from my mom going to the bank with her and she would point out to me what the CD rates were on the letter board and explaining it to me again and again and again. I remember being like, I don’t know what she’s talking about. And then, you know, the years would go by and I’d be like, okay, I can repeat that back. I can kind of parrot it. I kind of understand. And when my siblings and I got our first jobs, be it babysitting, pet sitting, or being a waitress, my mom made it really clear that some of that money had to go into savings and had to be for the future. So I had an incredibly privileged financial foundation. And fast forward to the age of 25, 26, I finished my MSW and I went to work in a nonprofit like many people with social work degrees do. And when I got my first paycheck, I was earning less than I was when I was a waitress. And the shame and embarrassment of feeling like I had squandered my financial privilege and being embarrassed that I felt like I did everything I was supposed to. And then I was in a situation where I was living paycheck to paycheck was incredibly anxiety provoking and overwhelming. And it led to a resurgence of some of my past mental health conditions that had really been well managed up until then. So I had a flare up of anxiety and a flare up of depression. I developed insomnia for the very first time in my life. And I did what a lot of perfectionists do at this point in time, podcasts weren’t a big thing. So I went to the library and I would check out armfuls of personal finance books. And they basically were telling me it was my fault. And I just felt like there was this huge disconnect where I was being told from the personal finance industry, well, this is your fault. You’re spending too much on clothes and shoes. You’re buying fancy groceries. You need to dial down your needs. You need to dial down your wants and only focus on the needs. Meanwhile, I’m looking at my rent that was probably the lowest that it ever would have been in my life. I’m looking at my groceries. I’m shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe’s. I’m not going out to eat. I’m not taking vacations. I am not shopping for clothes. I am really having just the bare necessities. And so it felt like there was this big disconnect between here’s what you’re supposed to do and here’s how you’re feeling. And the shame from the personal finance industry did not actually help. I learned a couple of new terminologies, but I didn’t actually feel better. And so it took some self work and some self learning to figure out how I could bridge the gap between my relationship with money, which also meant advocating for better pay, leaving and getting a better paying job. And then that moment of you can budget and save all you want, but one of the big factors in determining wealth, as we know, and determining financial security is to increase the gap between what you earn and what you spend. And so much of the personal finance industry focuses on pulling back spending. and not helping people empower themselves to find jobs that are better paying and are not just living wages, but thriving wages. So that’s the background of where I came from and how I ended up doing the work that I’m doing now.
Shannah Game Speaking about empowering, I want to talk a little bit about money scripts. I know in your book you talk about, I believe her name is Olivia Mellon, a psychotherapist and pioneer in the work of money psychology, and she’s got these money scripts that she sees in her work that you talk about, and there are five of them. We’ve got hoarder, spender, money monk, avoider, and amasser. It’s really interesting. I would definitely put myself in the category of the amasser. But I was wondering if you could walk us through these five different money scripts, just a little bit about each of those. So maybe we might be able to figure out which category we fall in. And then I guess the second part of the question is, why is it important? Why is it important to know what money personality or what money script we are.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin OK, so a few things. The way that the publishing industry works is that things move really quickly. So this book that you’re highlighting and talking about now was published in 2020, which meant I wrote it in 2019. And so Olivia Mellon did do some of those initial archetypes around money. And then the other person who did a lot of work around our money scripts or, quote unquote, money disorders is Dr. Brad Klontz. Since then, I have kind of shifted how I see our money archetypes show up because in so much of psychology, the field is designed in a way where we have to diagnose or we have to say this is what is wrong with you. And over time, I have learned that surprise, it’s not super helpful to be like, here’s what you are, it is bad. So I’ve actually modified them in my practice. And I’ve come up with four based on the work of the two people that I mentioned, and also the anecdotal lived experience of myself and my clients. And so now I find these four financial archetypes fall into four categories, blissfully ignorant, money worshipper, doomsday prepper, and free spirit. And rather than each of these four things being bad, I also wanted to highlight what are some of the highlights of being in this category? And I will describe them in a moment, but to the second point of your question, which is, why does this matter? For so many of us, just having a label or a name to help us make meaning of our lived experience can be incredibly validating. For anybody who’s out there who’s listening and is neurodivergent, when they probably got a label of autistic or ADHD, there was probably this sensation of, oh, there’s a name for this. This cluster of symptoms goes along with this other thing, and I’m not alone. The same thing could be said for a person who finds the identity of non-binary later in life. And they’re like, oh, there’s a term for this. I am not alone. So it helps to normalize, it helps to validate, and it helps to make meaning of our lived experiences rather than feeling like something is bad or wrong with us. So to go over these four archetypes quickly, blissfully ignorant is actually where I fall. This is the type of person who doesn’t want to think about money, who doesn’t want to dig into money. Money kind of makes them feel queasy or weird or avoidant. And these tend to be people who go into fields where the message is you do this because you don’t care about money. Think teachers, social workers, nurses, any sort of helper, healer, artist, right? Those are the messages that are kind of given to them. And so there is this subconscious association that having money will suddenly make me a bad person versus how can I find space to have both that I need to take care of myself financially and I can give back to my community. And so as you can imagine, for a person who is avoidant, they don’t want to look at things. We can imagine how that might be harmful. But the positives here are that these folks tend to be the type of people who are incredibly giving within their communities. They tend to be really good at maintaining automation. So getting set up, automating their finances can be really overwhelming. But because of their avoidant tendencies, they tend to not you know, look at the stock market all the time and then sell and then buy and then sell and then buy. They tend to be like, whatever, I’m going to ride that wave. And I probably will only look at my retirement account once a year. And actually for most of us, that’s great. So that’s blissfully ignorant. The money worshiper tends to associate having money with their self-worth. So the more money I have in my bank account or the larger my net worth gets, the better I am as a person. These tend to be more entrepreneurial folks. These tend to be the people who are always thinking about adding on new side hustles. I want to house hack, and I want to do an Airbnb, and I want to walk dogs on the side, and I want to get all this money. And we can imagine how that could potentially be helpful financially. And what these folks tend to do is get caught up on the fancy name is the hedonic treadmill. Another way to say it is the hamster wheel, where they go, oh, I think I need to earn $10,000 more this year, and then I’ll be fill in the blank, happy, calm, excited. And they get there and they go, oh, I actually don’t feel that way. I really needed 20 grand. And so they keep moving that benchmark and it can have them feeling like they are never enough. And this is really a challenging one because this is the message that the US sells us. If you have money, you will be happy. You will be liked. You will have all of this peace of mind without really pausing to consider what is enough for me? What does enough feel like financially and in my lifestyle?
Shannah Game That one would be me, by the way. I will happily chime in. That is definitely me in a nutshell, the good and the not so good.
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah. And you’re in very good company, right? And no surprise, you’re in the entrepreneurial space. The next one is the doomsday prepper. This is the person who really likes to kind of store away all their nuts for winter. They financially on paper are quote unquote good. They tend to have less debt. They tend to have higher net worth, higher savings amounts. And this is where a lot of the personal finance industry says these are the good people. They have an emergency fund and they’re saving for retirement and they are living below their means. But what they don’t catch on the underbelly is all of the rumination and anxiety that can often come along with this, where these may be the people who are too scared to spend money or to use money in a way that can have them feel empowered. Because being empowered around money is not just hoarding it, but it is also using it in a meaningful way in alignment with your values. We might laugh because we probably know a person like this who, when we go out to dinner together, they order a water, they order a side salad, they are giving you exactly $17.32, which is the amount that they paid for plus tip. And There is a lot of stress there and what I have found with my clients who fall into this category is they more likely than not are coming from a background where holding on to money equaled safety. So oftentimes people who fled from harmful places. So immigrant communities, refugees, asylees. And remember that our traumas are passed on between five and seven generations back. So I could be working with a grandchild of somebody who fled Germany in the 1940s and they might be experiencing those same things. And what we do there is say, it makes sense that holding on tightly to money feels like safety because it literally was safety for your grandparents. And where are we now? So it’s about honoring where that comes from. while moving through it. And then finally, the free spirit. And this is the one that gets, in my opinion, the most demonized by the personal finance community. This is the person who likes to spend money. They’re always showing up to parties with like a beautiful charcuterie board or a beautiful bottle of wine. Like they can’t not buy things when they walk downtown. These are the people where you’re just like randomly opening up your door and you’re like, why do I have a gift from Aunt Viv? This is so random. It’s because she’s a free spirit. She just can’t help it. And so while these people may be more likely to have credit card debt or be kind of skirting along financially, they also have a lot of excitement about them and a lot of generosity about them. So with them, it’s about figuring out how can we build in spontaneity to your relationship with money while protecting yourself financially.
Shannah Game I love it. Thanks for breaking those down. But I think it’s great to have this understanding of who you are and how you relate to money and whether you’re the type of person that likes a label or doesn’t like a label. I like your perspective of looking at the strengths too and thinking like how do I play more into my strengths because the financial industry, the world we live in, wants us to just fall into the weaknesses, wants us to believe the things that aren’t correct and then want those to be the headliner message of our relationship with money, of how we interact with people, of our fear, of our anxiety, of all of these things. And so I think it’s really important to, especially with money, to fight those scarcity beliefs that are just all around us, were inundated with us and really say, okay, I know I might be an anxious person around money or, you know, X, Y, Z, whatever it might be, but let me figure out what I do well. And let me see if I can continue to do that and build on those skills. I think that’s, that’s really important. And, you know, my hope is that by having conversations like this, we can really, we can open the door to some people who financial anxiety might be something they suffer from, but they don’t know how to talk about it. They don’t have the language around it. Or people who do know they’re in financial anxiety, because I, again, I believe this happens to all of us numerous times a day, but that hopefully they can find a place to some sort of calmness or some sort of peace, those moments that you talked about. You know, we both know that likely we’re going to find ourselves back into moments of anxiety around money because it’s just sort of the nature that we live in. I was wondering, you know, as we kind of wrap up here, if you could give us, I don’t know, like a one to two minute kind of prescription of, you know, what can we do when we’re in those moments when we find ourselves back there? How do we proactively work through those moments?
Lindsay Bryan-Podvin Yeah, I shared earlier quite a few different ways we can shift our thoughts, but I didn’t share what we can do from our body’s perspective. And one of my favorite things when you’re experiencing financial anxiety in your body, when we experience those surges of anxiety, it can be really, really hard to think clearly. And what we tend to do is, how can I turn off this anxiety as quickly as possible? And so we either shift it to perfectionism or we shift into avoidance, because that helps us to cope with those uncomfortable sensations. And there are things that we can do that don’t involve just not doing anything. And one of my favorite things to consider is when you’re experiencing financial anxiety in your body, can you think about doing the opposite? Because when we’re anxious, remember, our brains can’t think super clearly. But literally think about, if my palms are sweaty, How can I cool them down? It might be like washing my hands in cold water. It might be grabbing onto a cold glass of iced tea. If I am breathing really shallowly and it is causing some duress, can I take five deep breaths? If I am feeling just like an overall tingliness and tension in my muscles, can I take a 10 minute walk or if that’s not available to me, can I stretch a little bit? So when we just think about what are the smallest things that I can do, To help get my body out of this fight, flight, or freeze state in this moment, I think doing the opposite can be really helpful. And then going back through the episode and thinking through how might I be able to shift my thoughts can also be helpful, but they, they go together. Our thoughts impact our feelings, our feelings impact our behaviors, and we don’t have to do them in sequential order. We can kind of tackle whatever is coming up most for us. So if you’re mostly feeling it in your body, I want you to try dialing down those sensations in your body. If you’re mostly experiencing financially anxious thoughts, I want you to tackle those anxious thoughts. If you’re mostly experiencing financially anxious behaviors, I want you to try and take them down from being like a 10 out of 10 to a 5 out of 10 or a 4 out of 10.
Shannah Game You know, a big reason why I decided to talk about money differently than all the other money experts all those years ago was because I believe if we’re not normalizing money, anxiety, stress, fatigue, exhaustion, fear, you name the word, then we just aren’t telling the whole story about money. Because it’s so much more than how you spend and save your money. Like the role your childhood plays. And I love in this conversation that Lindsay talked about how important those years are in the development of your relationship with money. And this really stood out to me. Your family of origin not talking about money is as impactful as your family always talking about money stress. See how sneaky your relationship with money is? And any anxious feelings you might have, like they’re all just in there playing around. So you’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy of Lindsay’s book, The Financial Anxiety Solution. Anywhere you get books, it is great. It’s like a book and a workbook. You’re going to just love it. You can also head to her website mindmoneybalance.com to learn more about Lindsay and everything that she offers. If you enjoyed this episode, you can head to the show notes for all the links to our episode guests, as well as the sponsors who make this show possible. And again, if you haven’t done so already, just head right on over, leave a review, five stars for the show. I really appreciate it. I’ll see you back here in a few days for a brand new episode.