How to improve Your Relationship with Money

Here are 7 questions to ask yourself to help you improve your money habits.

It’s one of the longest relationships you’ll ever have — sometimes things will be rosy, other times you’ll fall out. We can’t live without it but sometimes living in harmony with the money we have is just as challenging.

Our finances can make us stressed or elated, crushed or empowered. Experts say the key to taking better control of your finances is understanding what drives your choices and behaviours, and to find ways to reset the dial. So, where do you start?


You and your money
Are you the kind of person who keeps a close eye on the bottom line, checking your banking, money management or investment apps regularly? Or do you breathe a sigh of relief when your salary arrives in your account at the start of the month and only check your statements if there seems to be a problem? Perhaps you worry about money constantly and hate that you can’t seem to stop overspending. Sound familiar?


According to a new survey* by Comparethemarket, 38% of people rarely think about their approach towards money and 18% would like to nurture a healthier relationship with their finances this year to mitigate stress.


Psychologist Hope Bastine says, “Like any relationship in life, your relationship with money is never going to be easy or perfect. However, with commitment, understanding and a true desire to work hard, you will be able to strengthen your bond with your finances.”

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In order to help you negotiate a better relationship with your money, we asked financial coach and money psychologist Phillip Holdsworth, MD of Aurum Gold, and relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam for their advice. They’ve come up with some questions to help you identify the kind of relationship you have with yours and how to recalibrate it.


“We need to be in a position where we can make informed choices,” says Phillip Holdsworth. “These choices are influenced not by just the figures on a spreadsheet but by what we believe about money and ourselves.”


“Usually if people know what their purpose is in life, they tend to be the people who earn more money not because they are pursing it, but because they are pursuing what their purpose is and other things tend to follow,” adds Phillip.

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Have a think about the questions below and jot down your thoughts, if you’d like.

1. Who’s your financial role model?
Our relationship with money is usually set in childhood – primarily influenced by our parents and guardians but not always in the way you might imagine, says Susan Quilliam. “You might copy your family’s attitude or you might rebel against it. Then, in your late teens and early 20s, you start identifying with your peer group and social media influences. If you are hanging out with people who have money and spend it, you are more likely to do that too. When you get into partnerships, the dynamic may shift stuff again, and there is a general tendency for behaviours to money to become more aligned.”


It might be that a family member, a friend, someone off the tv or who you follow on social media is influencing your financial habits now… but choose your role models wisely, says Phillip Holdsworth. “The people we tend to see in the public domain are those who have made their money and been very successful. But because they are not talking about their money on personal level, it’s very hard to find someone you might be able to relate to.”


2. Money or happiness – which are you focused on?
“The significance of money is huge and deep. It’s a bargaining tool, it’s a status thing, it’s power, control of your own life, it marks out the successful, and whether you are considered a valid person in society,” says Susan, “But while money contributes to our happiness, more money doesn’t equal more happiness.”

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There’s been a lot of research about how much money is ‘enough’. It’s easier to define the minimum income we need for an acceptable living standard (currently around £25,000 as a single person, £43,000 for a family of four, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). But at the other end of the scale, after you reach a certain amount of money, more of it doesn’t make you happier. The answer to how much is ‘enough’ at the upper limit is always going to be personal but your answer could provide you with useful insight.


“If our focus is on money, ‘enough’ always going to elude us,” says Phillip Holdsworth, “because whatever we set in our minds as the amount that would give us happiness when we arrive at it, it’s likely to evade us.”


Instead, set the money issue aside, and ask yourself what fulfils your sense of purpose. “What are your values, and what in life are you doing that actually fulfils those values? Money may contribute to that but it won’t provide it. It’s redefining within yourself what are the things that really make you happy,” says Phillip.


3. Are you being honest with yourself about your finances?
Are you spending what you can’t afford or living beyond your means… or at the other end of the scale, are you endlessly squirrelling away money, convinced you will never have enough to feel secure? If you are finding it hard to be honest with yourself about your money, take a look at the ‘reality evidence’, says Susan. “If you never pay your credit card off… you’re always in overdraft… if for the last four days before payday you always feel the pinch… then you need to look at why.”

Perhaps you reward yourself by spending or soothe your stress about money worries by spending even more? It’s not uncommon. Or perhaps you log every expenditure in minute detail or deprive yourself of things you want or need?

Ask yourself what it is you are getting from acting this way – is it a feeling of control or raised self-esteem?, says Susan. “Identify what you are getting from your behaviour and replace it with something else – in the same way that a smoker would replace the hit of a cigarette. You are doing what you are doing around money because that works for you, and you won’t change it until you find a way that works better.”


4. What role do you believe money plays in your well-being?
At the end of of the day, we all need money to pay bills and to put a roof over our heads – that’s important across board – however money isn’t the end game when it comes to well-being, says Phillip.

“If we are pursuing wealth and material things as if they are going to fulfil the deepest needs in our lives, then we are going to be disappointed,” says Phillip.

“One simple way of thinking about purpose is to picture this scene: if you had a grandchild sat before you looking to you for words of wisdom, what would be your best advice? This is the advice you need to give yourself,” says Phillip.


5. When do you find money triggering?
Negative feelings around money can be triggered by all manner of things: not having enough to cover the basics, having more than others around you (and feeling guilty about that), wanting to help family out financially but not having the resources, or very commonly, arguing with someone close to you about money because you don’t have the same viewpoint.

Think about yourself in the context we live in – community, work and wider society — and the subtle messaging around money. For instance, we are often told we Brits are a ‘nation of savers’ but if you are at the start of your career with student debt and rent to pay, or a family struggling with poverty, this might induce further feelings of anxiety. With the cost-of-living crisis, the message is that we must all cut back on everything, which can make it hard not to feel guilty about taking a holiday or having fun. “It’s no wonder that if we think we are not doing what we should be doing. That is in itself stressful and as result we feel guilty and ashamed,” says Phillip.


6. Are you a parent, adult or child when it comes to money?
This is about taking responsibility for your own finances and the appropriate level of involvement in the money management of your loved ones, whether it’s a partner, adult children, or your parents. The parent/child dynamic, in particular, is one that often plays out in relationships.

“Don’t give yourself a hard time for occasionally being childlike – or parental. It’s okay to go there sometimes but the more you can step into adult around money, the better you will do,” says Susan.

This isn’t always easy to achieve if one partner has all the financial clout, but, says Susan, if one person changes their ‘role’, the other person does too. “Very often in a couple one person takes ‘punishing parent’ and the other automatically flips to ‘irresponsible child’. If the ‘parent’ can get down off their high horse and be more supportive or the child/adolescent can go, ‘I don’t want to be controlled, I am going to step up’, then it can shift the dynamic,” says Susan.

If you are single, you may have no option but to be the adult, but you could also be parent when it comes to overseeing the finances of your grown-up children — which might be counterproductive for their financial independence.

Think about what role you fall into and whether an adjustment is needed.


7. How can I kickstart the change I want to make?
*Diarize some time to look at your finances regularly. “Make sure you know what is coming in and going out of your bank account, don’t drift along. Look at what you are spending. Ask yourself: do I really need this? Could I postpone it? Could I get rid of or do it less or get it cheaper elsewhere?” says Phillip.


*Shifting to ‘adult’ Start small to grow your confidence. This can just be checking into the current accounts each day to check what has gone in and out. “Perhaps be the one that opens all the mail and checks that the monthly bills are all under control and renegotiated every so often. As your confidence grows you can then switch to focusing on the bigger picture. What do you owe? What do you have in savings, investments, and pensions as a couple?” says Lisa Conway-Hughes, financial advisor, author & co-founder of Ladies Finance Club.

“My biggest piece of advice is don’t assume that your partner will be good at money. Just because they are the one that does it, doesn’t mean that they are financially switched on!” says Lisa.


*Check what interest your savings are getting. Chances are with interest rates now on the up, your money is not pulling its weight where it is. Check out comparison tables for ISAs, bonds, savings and bank accounts. If you have money that you could put away for 5-10 years or a regular amount a month, check out stocks and shares ISAs.


*Look at your pension pot and how many your National Insurance years you have accrued towards your State Pension. “Use retirement calculators to see if you are on track and set time regularly with your partner to talk through these things,” says Lisa.



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