Now That You've Done Your Taxes, How Do You Feel?

Eight ways to improve your relationship with money

Posted Apr 12, 2018

Money is the last frontier of self-disclosure, maybe because it’s surrounded by so many complex emotions, from pride to shame to frustration. Research demonstrates a small but significant positive association between overall income and wellbeing, but the emotional consequences of everyday spending habits is a relatively new area of study. Recent investigation indicates that seemingly inconsequential spending choices may provide an underappreciated and underutilized route to greater well-being as anyone who’s ever dropped five dollars for a triple mocha latte with extra whipped cream at Starbucks in the middle of a harried day can tell you. But for many people, the getting, having, saving and spending of money — more than the cost of a fancy cup of coffee — occasionally complicates feelings. Money is a symbol of status, power, security, self-esteem and accomplishment. The more or less of it you have, the more or less of it you likely feel you deserve. And tallying up your net worth around income tax time is likely to energize that kind of personal assessment. As Dr. Edward Hallowell pointed out, “We all have agreements with money — and some of them are agreements money can’t keep.” If it’s time to review yours, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Make realistic agreements with money about what it can do and what it can’t.

2. Understand that money is no substitute for love, status, self-esteem, or feelings of aliveness.

3. Create an actual balance sheet to determine whether your problems with money are real or perceived.

4. Have an imaginary conversation with money and focus on who’s listening — your mother, your father, your current or ex-spouse, or other powerful persons in your life.

5. Be aware of how underlying conflicts in interpersonal relationships about power, love and equity in are acted out in financial roles — overspender vs. hoarder, avoider vs. worrier, for instance.

6. If you’ve just gotten a windfall, inherited money or collected in a divorce settlement, do nothing with it for at least six months.

7. Never go shopping when you’re bored, depressed or lonely.

8. Know the difference between financial poverty and poverty thinking — thoughts and attitudes that hold you back from dealing successfully with money.


Lara Aknin, Dylan Wiwad, Katherine Hannibal, "Buying wellbeing: Spending Behavior and Happiness,"  4/6/2018. Wiley On-Line Library

Edward M. Hallowell and Nicholas Grace, What Are You Worth, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1989.