Quick. Answer this:
“To be happy and content, my annual income would need to be $___________.”
David Krueger M.D. and John David Mann, authors of The Secret Language of Money: How to Make Smarter Financial Decisions and Live a Richer Life, say that in “nine out of ten cases, people’s answers indicate that their annual income would need to be twice its current level for them to feel happy and free from money worries.”
Was that true for you?
It was for me. Actually, it was the first of many surprises in a book that started off about money and ended up being about psychology. It’s about the story we create about money (money as power, love, etc.), the twists and turns that lead us away from our true path (debt, emotional and compulsive spending), and how to create a new story to live conscious financially healthy lives.
If you’re in debt, are in denial about your spending habits, feel like you’ve reached a financial brick wall or are curious about money and how your perception of it can affect your life, then you’ll want to pick up this book. It’s sprinkled with practical tips on everything from communicating effectively with your partner on money issues to creating a financially sound goal for you or your business. They key here is to be conscious and The Secret of Language of Money does that by revealing the brain science and emotional ties behind our confusion with money.
David Krueger is a former psychiatrist, having practiced and taught psychiatry and psychoanalysis for more than 25 years. He’s also currently a business coach. So while you can expect him to use his specific experience with clients to give real-life examples of those struggling with money issues, you won’t find any magic “make money now” formulas here. What makes this book unique is that it touches on a touchy subject and brings a comprehensive viewpoint to it. There are a lot of books on how to make money, on emotional spending or on money scams, for example, but this one is able to provide quality information on all of the above by tying it to a common theme — our relationship with money. This means you don’t have to be a financial whiz or a psychology expert to appreciate any of it. What you do need is the time to take the many quizzes in the book and the ability to be open and honest about your money issues.
What’s the secret about money? It’s the fact that we keep our views of money a secret. We deny, avoid and rationalize the money we have and the money we spend. It is an intricate web we weave when taking a seemingly benign object (money) and using it to the detriment of our financial health. This is why even financial whizzes and intelligent and wealthy people make costly decisions every day, spending money they don’t have and getting scammed. We fall for the lure of money and what we think it represents. And we fall hard!
“We make money mistakes because we use money to accomplish nonfinancial goals. We seek to use money, the thing, to do what no “thing” can: regulate our moods, increase our self-esteem, and control others…We give money meaning.”
It is this meaning — whether we perceive money as power, love, security, or happiness — that we unconsciously use to fulfill a purpose. And that’s where Krueger believes money becomes a problem.
To analyze our thoughts on money, he has us answer several questions such as:
- What in your life right now are you compromising for money?
- What have been the three most significant experiences with money in your life?
- How fully and honestly do you speak with your spouse or partner about money, finances, spending, goals, savings, and debt?
- Are you unable to fully enjoy what you purchase because you feel bad, guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed about your purchase?
I have to say I tried all of the exercises and quizzes in the books and I was astounded. Every fear, childhood experience and denial I ever had about money came bubbling to the surface.
It was particularly hard to talk with my spouse about it while answering questions from the Money Exercise for Couples section, for example. It was an eye-opening experience and I was grateful for the section, “Seven Guidelines for Effective Money Conversations” on things like communicating with empathy. Why? Because I have to admit it was a tough conversation.
The only quibble I have with it was that the questions began to sound repetitive after awhile. Given that the rest of the book was so filled to the brim with fresh information, it would have been great if he spent more time thinking up creative ways to ask questions on money. This would have made the experience a lot easier for my spouse who after awhile looked at me with tired eyes and asked, “Didn’t we answer this already?”
The rest of the book is spot-on in giving advice on everything from dealing with debt to investing. Because Krueger dealt with so many topics, you won’t find any one subject covered in-depth here. What you can expect is to awake from the money stupor you might be in. Instead of reacting out of our own childhood stories of money or out of our fear of it, it will snap you out of your old beliefs and perhaps stop you from compulsive spending or from avoiding debt. One thing’s for sure, it will definitely force you to look at the way you really perceive money and how it’s affecting your financial wealth and ultimately your life.
The Secret Language of Money: How To Make Smarter Financial Decisions and Live a Richer Life
By David Krueger MD and John David Mann
McGraw-Hill: July 2009
Hardcover, 288 pages