SALT LAKE CITY -- Human intellect exists alongside the powerful emotional mind -- and guess which one makes most of the decisions?

That was the question that Rick Kahler, president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., posed to attendees at the 2014 NAPFA conference here, in a presentation focused on the emotions that often surround financial behavior.

Everyone, he said, has "money scripts": ingrained, often unconscious beliefs about money that can quietly dictate financial behavior.

"Scripts include beliefs about wealth, poverty, saving, budgeting, giving, sharing spending, insuring, investing, debt, money, happiness, God, love, women, men," Kahler said. "We often inherit our parents' money scripts, though that isn't true every time."

He cited 10 money scripts he said were most common:

  1. More money will make things better.
  2. Money is bad.
  3. I don’t deserve money.
  4. I do (or don't) deserve to spend money.
  5. There will never be enough money.
  6. There will always be enough money.
  7. Money is unimportant.
  8. Money will give my life meaning.
  9. It's not nice or necessary to talk about my money.
  10. If you are good, the universe will supply all your needs.


"A money script is always false and always true," Kahler said. "It just depends on the circumstances."
When scripts fit circumstances, there's typically no problem. But when circumstances change in a way that stresses the script, the shift can push clients out of their comfort zones.

"If you have a script that says that the poor are lazy, and now you are poor -- or that the rich are pretentious, and now you are rich -- how do you deal with that?" Kahler asked.
He recalled clients who lived modestly, earning $40,000 a year and renting a house. Then they inherited $5 million. Were they thrilled? No -- they felt ashamed.

"Their top money script was 'Money that isn't earned is not worth having,'" Kahler said.
Once Kahler and the clients realized this, their feelings and behavior seemed much less peculiar.

"All financial behaviors, no matter how illogical, make perfect sense when we understand the underlying beliefs about money," he said. That recognition, he added, can fuel real change in financial behavior -- and often improve it.

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