Money is many things to many people. For some, it beckons and entices; others find it dour and forbidding. Whatever the relationship, that rapport directly affects our ability to attract, spend, and hang on to what we have.
"Whether there's $10,000 in our account or $10 million, we follow the same behavioral patterns," says New York Times personal finance columnist MP Dunleavey, author of "Money Can Buy Happiness." Changing our approach to money, she says, comes when we're able to take an honest look at the inner workings of our personal financial connections.
Read these valuable tips and tricks from experts and you'll be well on your way to taking that partnership from shaky or tense terrain back onto solid ground.
Plus: How to Manage Financial Stress
Look at Your Money Biography
What does your financial profile say about you? Susan McCarthy uses this exercise to help people get a clearer picture. Imagine that the only way people could know you is through your money: your bank and credit card statements, checkbook, and trails of receipts, as well as the messages you put out into the world about money.
What do you spend, and how? Are you always complaining about money, or acting ashamed of it? What kinds of lessons do you teach your children about money and how to use it? Ask yourself if the person reflected back at you through your dealings with money aligns with how you see yourself and how you want to be seen.
Make Friends with Your Finances
Building a healthier relationship with your money starts with how you treat it. "Every relationship has its own specific needs," says Dunleavey. "You have to figure out what your money needs from you before you can get what you need from it."
Think of one of your dearest relationships and quickly jot down five statements that describe the way you treat that person -- for example, "I worry about her," "I make him laugh," or "I'm there when she needs me." Now write down five statements that describe the way you treat your money. Do you worry about it? Guard it possessively? Enjoy it? This exercise can give you some insight into how to make money your ally, instead of your enemy.
Examine Your Instincts
Can you name your knee-jerk tendencies when it comes to money? If you're not sure, says McCarthy, take the windfall test. If some money were to come into your hands somehow, whether by way of an inheritance, a tax rebate, or a big bonus check, what would you be tempted to do with it? Bury it in a hole in your backyard? Go on a splurge at Barneys?
Is "free" money an excuse to spend more than you have, an opportunity to invest in something that actually matters, or a chance to pay off debt? Look closely at your initial response and ask yourself what it tells you about your own financial instincts.
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