The Money Fog and why we live with it.

September 14, 2010

This was originally posted by my colleague and mentor, Mikelann Valterra  in her blog at:-

http://www.womenearning.com

With her permission I am reprinting it here, because it’s great, because it’s true, and simply because she says it so well!!

Three reasons we live with the Money Fog Monster

That faceless, nameless monster wrapping its numbing tentacles around you may be none other than: the Money Fog Monster. Run! Scream! Hide! But it has a hold on you….

What exactly is this Money Fog Monster? Well it doesn’t really like to be pinned down (or it would lose some power), but let’s throw out some questions to shine a quick light on it. If you answer no, the money fog has got you. I should know. I used to be in its grip!

* Do you know how much you spend eating out? On groceries? How much have you spent on clothes this year? What about your hobbies? What do you spend on gardening, books and other fun things? What have you been spending on your car?
* If you have debt, do you know all your debt balances (and what that money was used for?)
* Do you know your savings balances and do you know what your net worth is?

Those irritating questions point to the monster. And if you feel its tentacles curling up your leg, constricting your ability to see clearly (or breathe sometimes!) you are not alone.

Now, I’ll write other posts about escaping from this Money Fog Monster, but I want to look at the question: why do we stay in a fog? It likely sounds obvious that it would FEEL better to be clear. We often have a friend who doesn’t seem to live with the Money Fog Monster, whether she makes more or less then us, and we secretly envy her. So why do we live with the fog?  Three reasons:

1. We don’t realize we’re in a fog. Maybe we know we’re a little foggy, but it’s not that bad! Sometimes it takes an event to wake us up. Our debt deepens and we are seriously perplexed. It seems like we must be making enough money, so why the heck is the debt going up? Or where the heck is all the money??? It’s a big version of going to the ATM machine to take out 60 dollars and then a week later your wallet is empty and you just can’t remember where it went so fast. Often times, I find that people don’t realize just how deep the fog is until they start to come out. (By the way, because the fog can feel like it thickens when you try to get out of it, it’s one more reason why we back away, give up and stay in the fog. It can feel like the fog has a mind of its own. ) The Money Fog Monster would rather you stay foggy. Wait—is that a part of US that would rather stay foggy?

2. We don’t know how to exit. Let’s say we do know we’re in a fog. Lovely. So how the heck do we get out? I had a client once who said it felt like she had fallen down a well and couldn’t figure out how to climb out, and was terrified. When we started working together, she said she had this image of me standing at the top of the well, throwing her down a knotted rope and coaching her out. I’ve never forgotten that image. The truth is that we often simply don’t have the skills. No one taught us. Did your parents teach you how to plan where you wanted to spend your money? And then analyze what was happening? And then figure out creative ways to get your needs met so you didn’t feel completely deprived if you didn’t have enough? I hope you had those parents, but I’ve heard countless stories of people who learned nothing beyond a few financial platitudes. “Don’t go into debt. Here’s a credit card”, “You better live within your means”. “Don’t talk about money”. Seriously folks- learning about money is not something in the water supply. You won’t understand money if you were not taught about money. That is not your fault!

3. We are afraid of what we’ll see. Let’s hit this last one on the head. So often we are afraid of what we’ll see that we don’t want to escape the fog. It’s the whole “ignorance is bliss”. Or—“if I don’t know, maybe everything is okay.” Maybe. Money is a very emotional subject.  It is part of our very survival, so no wonder it is a scary subject. If we escape the money fog monster, we are often afraid of what awaits us on the other side—will we have to spend less? Is it possible we can’t have everything we want—or need?! Will we have to make hard choices? What about income? Will we see that we don’t make enough? How will this whole financial clarity thing affect our relationships? Our career direction? Gulp. No wonder we would rather live with that blasted monster!

I find that people write about money issues all time like it is not an emotional subject. “Here are the rules. Just do this.” But the truth is that there are reasons we stay in the fog, and no one seems to talk about that. So let’s talk.

Why do you stay in the fog? Which of these reasons spoke to you? For me, it really was all three. I didn’t realize how foggy I was until I started to climb out. And I really didn’t know how to climb out. But I found a great mentor. And in helping me climb out, she helped me face my fears of why I didn’t really want to climb out.  And now I coach other people out of the fog.

In the end, clarity is a far more beautiful thing. I can go on and on about how happy I am about being financially clear. But I vow never to forget all the reasons why it was so hard to face that damn money fog monster.

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