How Childhood Trauma Affects Our Relationship With Money And What To Do About It

relationship with money

Money Thought Leader: Karen McAllister

A well-dressed, articulate, confident lady called Leticia, South-East Asian by heritage, sat down in my office and began.

Relationship With Money:

“Growing up feeling plagued by financial woes, I learned to feel like I never had enough or never knew enough about money. On the exterior, I am in a fairly well-off position. I’m working a decent-paying job, contributing to a retirement fund, and renting out a property. And yet, I go about my daily life with dread that one day, something will happen that will cause my delicate balance of working and paying the bills to collapse like a fragile house of cards.” 

money and women

She paused before continuing, “for as long as I could remember, I have struggled with budgeting and financial planning. I have taken courses, talked to financial planners, and used countless budgeting apps.

“Budgeting wasn’t so hard, so why couldn’t I maintain one?”

But I always found myself in the same position – never feeling like I had enough money and dreading the day that I could lose everything due to unforeseen circumstances. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that my insecurities were all due to my own actions. Budgeting wasn’t so hard, so why couldn’t I maintain one? And so, after countless failed budgets and lack of savings, a core belief of helplessness settled in about my relationship with money.” 

Leticia’s Financial Struggles:

Leticia was not the first client I’ve met who feels this way, many of my past clients have these beliefs. “Perhaps we could explore your feelings of not having enough and fear of loss before getting more financial education and using other budgeting apps?”, I said. Leticia looked relieved, suspicious, and hesitant. She wanted to surrender to the process with me but didn’t believe that our work together would amount to much. I felt like I was the door at the end of the corridor.

women over 50 money

After a few months of working together, Leticia understood that her financial struggles stemmed from a number of factors that influenced her beliefs and actions around money. Challenges around money weighed heavy on her and travelled deep to her emotional core wounds. One challenging aspect of our work together was her coming to understand the importance of taking responsibility for her finances and not her brothers or other family members. 

“It was not focused on following their desire and purpose and having resources support this.”

A lot of Leticia’s issues about her relationship with money came from her Mum and Dad being forced to leave their home country, due to war. The struggle for survival was still very present for her and her family. Her family’s focus was on making as much money as possible. To stay safe at all costs. It was not focused on following their desire and purpose and having resources support this. 

The Unprocessed Pain:

They were behaving as if they were still on the run in their adopted land. And the belief was money is the thing that will save you. The pain came out in different ways in different family members, and Leticia took on the role of being the connector and mother of the family. Holding the space for everyone and protecting her younger siblings. They were still psychologically and emotionally fleeing. 

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Her unprocessed pain turned into a constant fear and obsession with not having enough money. And the fear that it would be taken from her at any moment. The immune system was always in a state of fight and flight. The unprocessed pain got stuck in her body and turned into perceived and relentless fears projected onto money and not feeling she will be supported. 

“Life is full of curveballs that we can’t prepare for.”

All of these insecurities lay hidden in her life, shaping her thoughts and behaviours in the present day. She struggled with this for years, not acknowledging the pain she experienced and projected onto her relationship with money, and subsequently avoided dealing with it. It was all so overwhelming. Her need to predict and control everything in her life was incompatible with the uncertainty around her finances. Life is full of curveballs that we can’t prepare for.

women over 50 money

Take Baby Steps:

She slowly learned that financial difficulties can happen to anyone. It wasn’t a reflection of her. She learned to understand that her pain and fear have nothing to do with money. She was willing to start taking baby steps towards looking at her inherited fear and calling it what it really was.

“Getting support to tackle these challenges projected onto money head-on was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.”

Leticia stumbled and worked her way through addressing the core wounds of her family inheritance. And I held space for her when the struggles were overwhelming and jumped for joy when she made big strides in managing her fears around money.  

Today Leticia is a woman transformed, still stylish and well-spoken but now her confidence extends to her relationship with money. “Getting support to tackle these challenges projected onto money head-on was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Light has been shed on my ability to help myself and has given me the confidence to finally address this long-standing core hurt. I continue to improve my money habits, but for the first time, I understand it is not about the money.”

Money Is A Reflection:

I leave you with a thought. Money is a reflection. It is not a judgment. It is a friend that holds your wounds until you are ready to start healing. And that readiness is a beautiful gift that one receives with all the little baby steps taken and people who have helped you on the way. 

You are more than welcome to take a baby step with me by taking the complimentary money quiz and complimentary 30-minute consultation anytime. 

relationship with money

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About the Author:

Karen has worked with over 100 clients, helping them untangle their money issues and to become more effective in their work because of it. To do this, Karen has studied financial issues extensively from both the practical, behavioral, and the emotional perspectives.

She has been certified by Deborah Price of the Money Coaching Institute as a Certified Money Coach, a Couples Money Coach, and a Business Archetype Coach. She has studied with Lynne Twist from the Soul of Money Institute for two years on Mastering your Money and Transforming your Life, including studies in Lynne’s Fundraising from the Heart program. Checkout Karen’s site TheMindfulMoneyCoach. Or, you can email Karen directly at the[email protected]. You are more than welcome to join the Money and Spirituality online course, starting Feb 19th at Noon EST for four Saturdays.