It’s Valentine’s Day! It’s a day when some are blinded by Cupid’s arrow and professions of love and ignore red flags. Red flags like finding out a fiancé’s credit is in the toilet because he signed for a car for someone which was later repossessed, and this impacts the couple’s ability to buy a home. Then there’s the mate whose debt ratio is so high because of back child support that they will only marry with the condition of keeping their name, so they aren’t financially liable, or the gambler who falls for pyramid schemes and other get rich ventures who marries someone to give them financial stability, and their partner thinks they will instill financial discipline in them. Sometimes there is not a big red bull with a matador waving a flag for someone to catch these bad behaviors because the other person hides them well. At 20 or 21, both might be walking red flags, fumbling through financial darkness; however, when one is over 30, both sides of the brain are developed, and falling into financial quagmires becomes a habitual way to look good, to feel good, and to say they are enough to be loved and not in a healthy way.
One of SOAR’s first workshop modules asked participants to excavate their earliest memories which are emotional triggers that impact their behavior. This same strategy can be used to find out how others respond to money. To see if this strategy worked, I called my cousin, Terrence. Terrence recalled how Granddaddy would load us up every Sunday with papers to deliver. Afterward, Grandaddy asked us if we wanted to go out to breakfast. We always answered yes, expecting him to treat us instead of making us use the money we earned delivering papers for him. Do you remember how Lucy held the football for Charlie Brown to kick only to pull it away leaving poor Charlie Brown on the ground? Well, we were Charlie Brown, and Grandaddy was Lucy because we fell for it. After breakfast, our stomachs were full, but our hard-earned funds were depleted.
If one is told “money doesn’t grow on trees” but is never shown how money is manifested and managed, then that line means nothing. Growing up, I was in a fantasy land thinking my family was rich, and we only lived in the ghetto, so I would remain grounded. Unlike most of the kids in the neighborhood, my cousin and I both went to private schools, summer camps, and family vacations out of the city. We had no way to know how our mothers sacrificed or denied themselves. Looking back, my cousin realizes he didn’t know money was a resource until he overheard his parents’ discussions about tuition. They talked about how it was being wasted because of his poor grades, which his childhood mind interpreted as him not being good enough—not that there were money issues. No one explained the sacrifices made. We shook the money tree every Sunday and the change left over from Sunday breakfast was more than what most kids had. To this day, both of us hate to ask for money because it makes us feel less than. Grandaddy taught us there are always conditions to the ask. I had to get over this for SOAR and the participants who need our financial assistance.
Money became a tool to look good and to give us freedom; however, to not be taught about money and not financial management is not freedom. When asked about their relationship to money, some folks respond: “I ain’t got none, it’s fleeting, or I’m a broke ass look good.” The need to “look good” to others is what has some people uptight about their $70,000 car; their $600 car note, and $600 car insurance payment because they can’t pay their $700 rent. They use money to validate their hard work, sense of being, and ability to look good. It’s okay to look the part but at what cost to financial freedom? They are hustling backward without knowing it.
Understanding finance which includes management, creation and study of money means self-worth is gained from a source other than money. Terrence thinks, “if the dinosaurs have a reset, then maybe we’ll catch up with the wealth masters who deal in future markets and stocks. Think about the one percent who purchased in the fuel industry at a locked price years ago for .50 cents a gallon and are still getting it at that same price while we pay $5.00 a gallon.” He is correct about a reset. It is possible to change behaviors that are disruptive even for those of us who fear the window to fix financial errors is closing. At this juncture, it is more important to understand how I am relating to money and not being used by it than it is to be hit by cupid’s bent arrow. If I look at the basics, my God has always provided for me. This provision is not always in the form of financial favor but also by way of a SOAR-hosted two-part online financial workshop facilitated by financial coach Tony Jackson who is ordained with a talent to heal the financial health of others. Like any good coach, he will ask how long have I had the pain and where does it hurt? It’s up to me to do the work to root out the answers.
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