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What Is Your Money Mindset & How Does It Affect Your Dating Life?

Listen to this series via our Date Smart podcast. Episodes are released weekly!

Whether you ask the Gottmans, T. Harv Ekker, or Ramit Sethi, they all say the same thing in different ways. Money psychology is just as, if not more important than the number in your bank account. That’s why the Gottmans have an entire chapter dedicated to it in their book The Eight Dates, T Harv Ekker wrote an entire book on it called The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and Ramit Sethi has an entire podcast on it titled after his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. They all preach the same thing: Arguments about money aren’t about money itself, they’re about opposing mindsets around money. That’s why it is imperative that you understand your own relationship with money before merging it with your partner’s relationship with money. 

Just to hammer my point home, the Gottmans say the following in their book, “Our own personal history with money can affect our relationships in surprising ways. It’s important to explore what your family legacy is about money, generosity, power, and wealth. What emotional history and thoughts do you have about being poor, about being dependent and independent, about being strong and being weak, about philanthropy, civic responsibility, luxury, and pride of accomplishment? When two people with two separate histories with money get together, they must face the challenge of merging those two histories—or deal with the consequences of not addressing them. The first step is to understand your own history.”

As many of our regular listeners know, we are huge proponents of conscious relationships and “knowing yourself” before jumping into a relationship. And in this case, it’s no different. So, the first step to leading a financially exhilarating life with your partner is to become aware of your own money habits and patterns, decide if those habits are serving you or hurting you, and decide what you should do differently. As I mentioned in the first episode, there was one book in particular that completely changed my perspective on money, and that book is The Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker. In this book, Eker walks you through four different phases to discover your money mindset.

The first step is awareness. It all starts with one question, “How are you identical or opposite to either of your parent's money habits and ways of being?” Follow-up questions include, “How did your parents talk about money?” and “How did they manage it?” 

The second step is understanding. Understanding how we have been modeling money habits from our parents gives us perspective on how it has been controlling our financial lives and gives us the opportunity to decide for ourselves if our money mindset is serving us, or hurting us. Take a minute to answer the question, “How has your money blueprint affected your financial life?”

The third step is disassociation. In the book, Eker urges us to disassociate with our ways of thinking and behaving about money. We can take a step back and view our money habits from another perspective. It allows room to reevaluate if our money habits are healthy, and what needs to change. We can do this by asking the question, “Can you see that your way of being is only what you learned and isn’t you? Can you see you have a choice in the present moment to be different?”

The fourth step is declaration. Now the author urges us to re-create a new, healthier money mindset. It gives us the opportunity to take control of our financial lives and choose how we want to live. He suggests performing the following exercise. Place your hand over your heart and say, “What I modeled around money was their way. I choose my way.” 

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to fully understand my own money mindset and how it affected my life. It wasn’t just a quick 5-minute mental exercise and now I was a new person. It took months of repeatedly asking myself these questions, journaling to really understand the impact of my upbringing, and talking to friends and family. Speaking of friends, remember when I said my good friends Alan & Katie Donegan from the Rebel Finance School would be accompanying me on this podcast? Well, since they kinda dedicate their entire careers to this topic (helping people create life-changing relationships with money), I knew they were the people I needed to speak to. 

Interview with Rebel Finance School Founders Alan & Katie Donegan

Alan (00:00):

I guess my dad would've been from a very working-class background. He worked for the electricity company back in the day. He lost his parents very young, and he eventually got into entrepreneurship, grew a hugely successful business, made an absolute fortune, and then went bankrupt for $5 million, losing everything and gambling the family home. So we've had a roller coaster all the way from, yeah, very low working class, all the way to making a fortune of money and all the way back down again.

Taylor (00:38):

Wow. And how would you explain your family's mindset around money when you were growing up? For example, what were some common sayings such as money doesn't grow on trees or money is the root of all evil.

Alan (00:51):

Those are two that my mom has directly said to me, money doesn't grow on trees and money is the root of all evil. And she's had some very negative experiences of money. And I think coming from an environment where there was a lot of money at some point… so my dad would bring home these suitcases of money and we would have to count them and we'd have to put all of the Queen's heads around the right way on the notes and stack them for him so he could put it into the bank the next day. And he always kept a bunch of cash in the fridge in case he ever needed to do a deal. Who's gonna look in the fridge for the money. So that was his safe place. Yeah. So if you can find his house, look in the fridge, you never know where it is. I'm not recommending that. It's not a good thing to say on a podcast. So like on one hand it was incredibly entrepreneurial and there was money flowing. And on the other hand, money ripped our family to pieces in the end because the entrepreneurial business died because there were arguments because they completely ripped us to pieces.

Taylor (01:56):

What was the dynamic like between your parents? For example, who handled the finances?

Alan (02:03):

This sounds so eighties and it actually has formed the basis of a lot of what I say to Katie and how we work together. My dad was in charge of the money and he gave her housekeeping and she ran the house with that money and I hate that. I hate that the man deals with the money, I think it's wrong. So for us that has informed, we do everything together. We make the decisions about where we invest together. We make the decisions about finances together. It's not my money, it's not Katie's money. We do it all together. And I think like so many in the past, the woman has gone, you deal with the money and almost doesn't even want to know. They just expect it to keep flowing, which puts a lot of pressure on the man. It can all go wrong. It can end in huge arguments. And I hate that model of the world.

Taylor (02:57):

Yeah. The dynamics were the same in my family history as well. My grandma expected my grandpa to make and manage the money. And that was passed down to my mother who also gave over all of the financial responsibility to my father. She didn't even have a bank account for a good period of time. I think it was such a common family dynamic in the past. And I feel like this conversation about who makes and manages the money was almost non-existent. What else did you absorb from that whole experience or put another way, what kind of programming did you adopt from your family around money beliefs?

Alan (03:43):

A bunch of good and bad. Money creates massive problems between families. It has ripped all sorts of brothers, sisters, and parents apart, it has destroyed relationships. Money has completely wrecked my family in so many ways. And that programming was very strong because I viscerally experienced all of the damage it created. On the other side, my dad was an incredible entrepreneur and at one stage he couldn't afford to give me pocket money to be able to get the train to school. So instead he said, you can take anything from my sportswear shop, and sell it. I'll give you a base price and then any profit you make is yours. So he couldn't afford to give me money, but he gave me a way to earn money. And I made more at school between 16 to 18 than I did in my first jobs. And I learned to create money and my dad gave me that opportunity. And that was an incredible blessing. In some ways, I learned so many different things about money that were good and bad, and it took me so long to unpick these different elements.

Taylor (05:03):

When was it when you realized that you wanted to change how you perceived money?

Alan (05:10):

Well, I think my entire journey on belief started, I remember exactly the point. My parents were getting divorced. I was working in the family business. You do not want to work in the family business when they're getting divorced. So I left that. So I'd lost my job. My family was falling to pieces and I went to see my girlfriend at the time and said, “I want to get away. I've always wanted to go to Brazil, let's go traveling.” And she said, “No, thank you. I don't love you anymore.” So I lost my family, my job, and my girlfriend, and this guy gave me a book and he said, “You're in a mess. You need this.” I was like, “Thanks, I think.” He gave me this self-development book called Notes From A Friend by Tony Robbins, in which one of the foundational elements is the beliefs that create your life.

And it talks about the beliefs that you're handed by your family. It talks about the beliefs that you're handed by society. And it talks about beliefs that might be more positive that can help you. And one of the beliefs he suggests in the book is I can learn anything. And I love that belief. I firmly took that from that book and went, okay, I can learn anything. And that book blew my mind. And I was like, whoa, there's so much you can learn. That led to another book and another book, and I was devouring, self-development books. I was devouring ideas and learning and learning and learning and deciding which beliefs would help me and which beliefs would trap me. And eventually, I read The Millionaire Mind Intensive, and we went on the course and it talks about what you believe about money, and “money is the root of all evil” is a belief that was repeated in my childhood. However, that does not lead to a happy future because it's not the money that causes the problems, it's the people and the way they react to the money, and you have to differentiate the two. And the actual expression is “the love of money is the root of all evil” and I don't even think that's true. You can love money. It's just when you put it above other people that it becomes a problem and analyzing those beliefs in the way you think and deciding what was right or wrong. And it all started with a self-development book going, you can choose what you believe. So choose wisely because it affects your life.

Katie (07:51):

I had a much more stable upbringing.

Alan (07:54):

Much more stable.

Katie (07:56):

I remember a few phrases that were repeated. One was, “Live within your means.”

Alan (08:02):

This is a good one.

Katie (08:03):

Don't spend more than you earn or spend less than you earn. Because there was a very big saving mentality as well. I loved saving. I used to hoard money almost. And the other one was basically, “Don’t go into debt.” So have a credit card by all means, but pay it off in full every month, and don't borrow money.

Taylor (08:25):

It sounds like you got an actual education on how to handle money. I'm surprised by this.

Alan (08:30):

There are some good basics.

Taylor (08:33):

I mean that's more than what I got. I don't remember having any sort of tips or advice on how to handle money. We didn't even talk about money, it was a very taboo topic.

Katie (08:44):

It was a taboo in my house as well. My mum for years would not tell us how much she earned. I think her family was quite secretive about money. Don't ask how much you earn. Don't ask who you voted for in an election. “Secret ballot, secret ballot.” Yeah. If you asked my mom who she voted for in the election, she goes, “Secret ballot.” Which just shows the programming that came from her parents, which then gets passed down, and if you're not careful, then you just automatically adopt it.

Alan (09:11):

One of my favorite expressions along that line is, “You are not responsible for the programming you received as a child, but you are 100% responsible for changing it as an adult. But I don't think we often notice these things that are just passed down. They are said to us so many times and we just end up repeating them in adulthood.

Taylor (09:31):

Well, whenever we met for ceviche last week with Diego, we were talking about this, right? How things get passed down and I was trying to say, we either replicate what we had seen in our house from our parents or we see that we don't want to be that way and we do the opposite, but I loved what you said when you said, “You can take the time to actually create your own set of rules and create the way that you want to be and handle money and go forth and go forward. I love that.”

Katie (10:02):

I think often it doesn't come out until if you choose to have your own children and the things that you want to teach them. Maybe you don't notice all these things until it's time for you to be like, “Okay, I'm a parent. I'm going to impart my wisdom onto my children” and then this stuff comes out. Like I hear myself saying things to my nieces, not about money, but just random stuff that my mom used to say to me, to them so I can see how it happens. And yeah, it's interesting how maybe it only starts to come out when you are in the position of trying to teach your children something.

Taylor (10:36):

Yes. Well, I think milestones, in general, will bring up things you never realized before. I mean, that's exactly what's happening with me and Diego right now as we're preparing for the wedding, we started having these conversations about, oh gosh, everything: what we value in life, what we want our lives to look like 10 years from now, why we want to grow our money, where we want to live, do we want to have a normal wedding or do we want to elope? Would we rather put that money towards buying a house? Do we even want to buy a house or do we prefer the freedom of renting? Do we want to have kids? When do we want to retire? What kind of vacations do we want to have? How much we should save for vacations and fun. I mean, just everything. And here we are two months later still having these conversations. I mean, just this morning we had a conversation about whether or not we should get a prenup and what we should include in the prenup. I mean, I feel like these conversations are never-ending and as you said, it's amazing the things you realize during these life milestones, whether it's having kids or getting married or whatnot.

Katie (11:52):

I'm curious when you say conversations and discussions, is that code word for arguments?

Taylor (11:58):

That's a great question. Yesterday. It was on the brink of argument. I got emotional. I started crying twice. Diego was just looking at me like, “Why are you getting so emotional?” He's very cool, calm, and collect. I'm the more emotional one. But yeah, I had a lot of emotion. I was getting angry. I was getting upset. I was crying and, and it's really interesting because it's not just in the moment, but afterward, you have to think, why was I getting so emotional about that? And where did that come?

Alan (12:30):

And the other interesting question is, what do I have to believe to feel that way? Because you're feeling a certain feeling, you’re feeling defensive or you're feeling challenged or you're feeling sad, or whatever it is. What do you have to believe for that to be real?

Taylor (12:45):

Right. It challenges your whole framework for who you are. It's a great opportunity to ask yourself is that who I want to be or is that what I want to believe?

Alan (12:56):

And there's one thing I'd love to say to everyone listening to the podcast: You do not have to wait for a milestone to happen to have these conversations. You can start at any point by asking your potential partner, your friend, I don't care who it is. Start talking about it with questions like, so what did your parents teach you about money? Taylor asked some great questions on this podcast. You don't have to be on the podcast to answer them. Take them to dinner. What did your parents teach you? How did you grow up? What expressions did they teach you? And it's fascinating. Then you'll start to learn where that programming came from, and you can make a decision about whether you want to perpetuate it or not.

Taylor (13:38):

I love that so much. Okay. Katie, going back to you, what did you absorb from your childhood and how has it affected your life?

Katie (13:46):

For me, it was that I was a definite saver. So I saved money. I felt like that was a very strong part of what my parents taught me. I sometimes took it to the extreme. So I said like, I hoarded money almost. Now I need to dial it back a little bit. I'm too much wanting to save for saving's sake. And Alan and I have hit financial independence and we have an amount of money that we can spend each year. And I'm still trying to save and spend less, even though I don't need to. And I don't want to go too far the other way and be irresponsible. And I know Alan would normally think…

Alan (14:31):

You are so far from irresponsible. Buy the smoked salmon. It'll be okay. 

Taylor (14:41):

Just buy the blueberries!

Taylor (14:49):

Just for everyone listening quickly, what is financial independence? When you say you're financially independent, what does that mean?

Alan (14:58):

The simple definition is your assets, the things you've invested in produce a bigger return than your expenses. So you never have to work again if you don't want to.

Taylor (15:09):

Aka, they’re living the cush lifestyle.

Alan (15:18):

Yeah. Our savings and investments have grown over the years to a point that they produce more than we spend. So whether we work or not, there is money turning up in our world.

As you can see, money wounds begin at an early age and can become deeper and deeper if you don’t take the time to heal them. And remember, money wounds can go back generations - to your parents, grandparents, and ancestors. However, as proof in Alan’s story, once you’ve healed your relationship with money, your entire world can shift and open up. In his case, it all started with a book.

When I began asking myself these questions, I learned a lot about myself. I learned:

1. I was opposite to my dad’s money habits and ways of being but identical to my mom, that is until I created my own money views. My parents never talked about money. I rejected the idea that “money is a taboo topic” and created new habits around openly discussing and managing money with my partner.

2. I kept getting triggered every time my partner Diego would say to me, “I’m not sure if we can do that” or “We shouldn’t spend money on that.” I realized it was triggering me because those were common phrases in my household when I was a kid. Growing up without a lot of money, I remember my dad saying some version of the same thing: “We don’t have money, therefore we can't do that.” Diego’s words were striking a very sensitive chord, and that chord was, “I don’t want to have the same relationship with money as my parents.”

3. I realized that I was always looking for ways to improve our well-being. How can we live in a nicer home? How can we live in a country that offers a higher quality of living? Even though I don’t value material possessions, I do value quality of life and having a nice environment. I directly adopted this mindset from my mom - I remember she always wanted the best for us as kids and always looked for ways to improve our living situation. I decided that I liked this part about myself, however, I knew I needed to be conscious that I didn’t fall into the “grass is always greener” trap and made a point to be present and grateful for everything I do have on a daily basis. 

After going through Eker’s four phases to discover your money mindset and taking the time to really understand it, here are follow-up questions to ask yourself to dive deeper into your money psychology:

  • What invisible scripts do you have about money? 
  • How do you treat money? 
  • How does money make you feel? 
  • What does having money mean to you? 
  • Do you need a certain amount in your bank account to feel safe?
  • Are you risk-averse?
  • How do you decide what to spend money on and what’s not worth it? 
  • What are your biggest financial fears and dreams?

Again, this will take time. Go slow and explore your mind with curiosity. When you feel ready, come back for episode 3 where we’ll uncover how to understand your partner’s money mindset (if you’re in a relationship) or your date’s money mindset (if you’re still in your dating journey).

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Listen to this series via the Date Smart podcast. Episodes are released weekly!

The Date Smart podcast is hosted by Ambiance Matchmaking’s cofounder Taylor Wade. Twenty years ago, Taylor cofounded Ambiance Matchmaking, an exclusive matchmaking agency that has helped over 100,000 singles master their dating lives. In this podcast, she shares the same tactics and techniques with you. Mastering your dating life is easier than you think –– it’s just a matter of science and a little know-how.

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Taylor Wade

Taylor is one of the founders of Ambiance Matchmaking. She now dedicates her time to curating content for our community through her podcast and blog. Writing and podcasting is the art of great story-telling. As a relationship writer and editor, she has always sought to capture the reality of the dating experience, full of drama, friction, and joy. The best mind is an open mind, so she specializes in asking questions and approaching a story without preconceptions.

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