Do you hate rich people? Come on, be honest. Rich people are greedy and shallow. They get rich by taking advantage of others. They are miserly and selfish. Money is their god. They don't really care about the poor or less fortunate. Deep down they are not really happy anyway.
Our beliefs about money drive all of our financial behaviors. The problem is that we are often unaware of our money beliefs, as we acquire them early in life. Typically, beliefs about money are developed during childhood as we try to make sense of money's role in the world, and where we stack-up compared to those around us. One of the most self-destructive conclusions about money is that it is somehow bad or evil. On a rational level, this is of course ridiculous. Money is just a tool, no more, no less. It is how it is used or not used that determines its virtue. But when our emotional brain clings to the association that money is bad, we are financially doomed.
If you carry the core belief that money is bad and rich people are evil, chances are you came by it honestly. At some point in your life you learned either through instruction from adults or through direct experience that someone wealthier than you engaged in some nefarious behavior or exhibited some undesirable trait. Therein lays the problem. The fact is that some people do take advantage of others on their way to accumulating wealth. Every now and then a Madoff comes along to drive home the point. However, when this stereotype is applied to all wealthy people, and money is seen as bad in itself, it can become self-limiting.
If you, your family or your community have come to associate wealth with evildoing, how likely are you to accumulate any money yourself? Not very. The psychological cost would be too high. You would become one of "those people." Your friends and family members would look at you differently. You would no longer belong. This explains, in part, why many people who come into sudden money, through an inheritance, insurance settlement, or lottery win, get rid of it quickly. As those close to you learn that your financial situation has changed, it can quickly become uncomfortable. It also explains, in part, why many people unconsciously sabotage their financial success, believing that wealth and integrity cannot coexist.
Given the subjective and contextual definitions of rich and poor, these descriptors are not very helpful, and anger at any "categories" of human beings usually does more harm than good. That fact that you can read and have access to the internet means that you are likely quite rich compared to most other people in the world. Many rich people got that way by hard work, taking extraordinary risks, or providing a product or service that is of great benefit to the world. Many rich people are also quite generous, donating to charities and setting up foundations to help those in need.
Take a close look at your early experiences around money and your resulting beliefs about wealth. Are they keeping you stuck? If so, challenge some of your core beliefs about money and see if a more balanced view of money can help you improve your financial health.
Dr. Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®, is a financial psychologist, an Associate Professor and Founder of the Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University Heider College of Business, a Managing Principal of Occidental Asset Management (OCCAM). and co-author of five books on financial psychology, including Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.
You can follow Dr. Klontz on Twitter at @DrBradKlontz.
Copyright © 2013 by Brad Klontz
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts
I have no pre-choir memories.
If it were not for my involvement in the choir, I would never have discovered my talent and love for singing that led me to apply to LaGuardia High School. My vocal training in school has opened up a whole new world of singing to me and has exposed me to others who are passionate and dedicated to their art.
At the age of 4, I began attending choir at St. James Church. My mother decided that joining choir would provide me with musical and religious instruction, in addition to supplying the stories and rituals that are essential to Western civilization, Christianity — whatever that means. I was initially joined by scads of my peers at St. James, making choir a fun, social task, but as I grew older, one by one, my friends began dropping out and I became entirely disenchanted with what I saw as the onerous chore of attending choir. They simply did not want to go anymore and their parents complied.
In addition to the dwindling choristers, Saint James was located on the Upper East Side, one of the fanciest ZIP codes in New York, while I was coming from my school in the pregentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. While the neighborhood is now known for its gourmet pizzerias and trendy clubs, the Bushwick of my childhood was known for shootings and public housing projects, if it was known at all. This discrepancy between my two lives made me more than a little uncomfortable. While the children at choir proudly donned the telltale signs of their elite education: tartan skirts and navy blazers encrusted with the logos of their private schools whose cost was nearly as much as my mother’s yearly wage, I maintained my own uniform of jeans and a T-shirt. They all knew me as the girl from Brooklyn, the chorister who went to public school.
I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me follow the path of my friends and retire my choir robe, but she persisted, always replying with a curt “no”. She believed that in the long run, going to choir would benefit me both educationally and socially.
As the years went on, I continued to badger my mother on the subject. Her answers began to lessen in severity. She showed compassion toward my dislike of choir and soon replied to my questions of discontinuing my involvement in chorus with answers like “Just do it for one more year” and the even more compassionate, “Are you sure?” Despite my mother’s change of heart, I did not take advantage of her limbo-ed responses, and instead, I began to withdraw my constant requests. In spite of not having many friends in choir, I began to enjoy literally finding my voice every week in church. After years in choir, I let my voice become free and discovered that it was loud and powerful. It could be used to lead others in song. When I was younger, I had always followed the older, more experienced singers. I would wait for the right pitch, or follow the pros to figure out when to come in, but little by little, letting go of my reticence, I began to trust myself: starting the pitch and coming in when I knew we were supposed to sing. Eventually, other singers began to follow my lead. Parishioners started to acknowledge me for my voice rather than my address. I began to appreciate this music that I had heard throughout my youth, yet had always dismissed as boring and religious. Soon enough, my habitual complaints about choir completely stopped.
After being in the choir for nearly a decade, I was awarded the position of head chorister, which served as an affirmation of my musical abilities, since I was now expected to lead the younger choristers. The position of head chorister motivated me into applying to the highly competitive and prestigious LaGuardia High School.
Although I initially detested choir, I have come to love it, and more than that, it has become an intrinsic part of me. Choir allowed me to not only grow as a singer, but also as a person. Through choir, I learned that if you continue with something long enough, you will receive some sort of benefit from it and maybe even grow to love it. Because of choir I found my voice in a small church. Because of choir, I am willing to go wherever life takes me with an open mind, knowing that the effects of even the smallest things can be completely life-altering. As a song that I learned in choir and auditioned with for LaGuardia says: “Oh God, my heart is ready.”