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The color of money

Spendthrift or miser, our relationships with money are usually determined early on

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michelle Singletary
December 25, 2007

As any therapist will tell you, conflicts about money are usually not about money. They're about you - or rather "your issues."

So for my final Color of Money Book Club selection this year, I'm offering a pick that isn't just about money. Why not take a break from the commercial hustle of the season and sit down with a book that may make you face why you're a spendthrift or why "budget" is a cuss word for you? Or maybe you need to let go of the fears that make you a miser.

Befitting the holiday season, the book club selection is "The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge: 5 Principles to Transform Your Relationship With Money" (Health Communications Inc., $14.95), by Ted Klontz, Rick Kahler, and Brad Klontz.

Ted Klontz is a certified therapist in Nashville and president of Onsite Workshops, an organization that helps people heal from painful behaviors and relationships. Brad Klontz, Ted's son, is a licensed clinical psychologist and president of Coastal Clinics in Kapaa, Hawaii.

Rick Kahler is a certified financial planner and president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D. Kahler works with certified counselors and therapists through his private practice, offering financial coaching and counseling.

Now don't do what I did when I first picked up this book. I dismissed it simply because of the title. I thought the concept was contrived. But I was prompted to take another look because of my own frustrations with people who repeatedly make the same bad financial choices.

Soon, I found myself underlining and dog-earing page after page.

I double-starred this quote: "You will soon come to understand that the amount of money you have or make is irrelevant."

The authors effectively use the transformation of Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to make their point that "it's your relationship with money that is key." Scrooge makes a good case study, as does Bob Cratchit.

Do you recall that Cratchit spent a handsome sum for Christmas pudding and a goose? How many people overspend at this season even while they are ducking calls from creditors?

"The truth is, people from all socioeconomic levels are trapped in self-destructive behaviors that feel right to them," the authors write.

I'm telling you, this book provides several weeks of therapy in 151 pages. Our money complexes are deeply rooted.

Scrooge's transformation provides an engaging illustration of how your experiences can dictate your handling or mishandling of money.

The authors use their financial planning and counseling backgrounds to get you to figure out your "money script," which they call self-limiting beliefs about money that drive our financial behaviors. For example, do any of the following sound like your personal money mantra?

You can never have enough money.

More money will make things better.

Net worth equals your self-worth.

Money is the root of all evil.

I deserve to spend money on myself, no matter what.

"Very early in life, people begin to internalize messages about money's purpose - how it works, what it promises, its overall significance - and develop their relationships to it," the authors note.

So what are the five transforming principles?

Denial inhibits change. You have to recognize a problem to begin solving it.

To heal, you must feel. If you've got a self-destructive financial behavior, it's probably tied to some trauma or neglect in your past, says Ted Klontz.

It pays to be present. By this, the authors mean you have to get rid of the distorted views of money from your past and live in the present reality of your financial situation.

Awareness of consequences creates motivation. Scrooge changed when he realized what his future would be if he continued his miserly ways.

Transformation requires action.

Want to change your money script? Get this book. You won't be able to do better with your money if you don't recognize the issues that block you from implementing a good financial plan.

Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post. She can be reached at singletarym@washpost.com.

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