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What’s Your Relationship with Money?

Money makes people funny…. Our relationship with money tends to be deep seeded and start at an early age. It doesn’t take too many trips to the store for children to figure out that in order to get something you have to pay for it. My relationship with money formed in the days of 18 percent interest rates and 10 percent unemployment when I watched my mother and father hold three jobs between the two of them in order to keep our young and growing family afloat. Economic life in Vermont has always been hard with solid opportunities few and far between; the economy always seemed to be the first into recession and one of the last out of it. These experiences instilled in me a feeling that money would always be scarce and that good times didn’t last. As I grew older I layered on a bit of greed when I figured out that work and effort could be converted into currency. Let’s just say I didn’t walk home from school, load up 45 newspapers in a bag, and walk three miles a day in Vermont winters to deliver them out of the goodness of my heart. Money was still hard to come by and it came at a cost; my left shoulder still droops from years of carrying that paper bag.  Scarcity and a bit of greed colored my view of money through the early part of my life.

Why tell this tale? In March, I will complete the nearly 400 hours of training required to achieve by Certified Professional Coach designation from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). When we’re working with coaching clients, iPEC professionals watch the energy the client displays during the conversation and translate it into seven different levels. As it happens, scarcity and conflict/greed are the lowest levels of energy on the iPEC scale. Every level on the scale has advantages and disadvantages, but your ability to have a purposeful, creative, and engaging relationship goes up as you advance upwards.

The Energy and Money Scale- Where Do You Fit?

Let me describe some of these levels for you and see if any of them ring true to you:

  • Individuals predominantly at Level 1 are nearly paralyzed by their relationship with money. They treat money as if it will always be scarce and don’t even engage in money planning. Have you ever encountered someone who just checks the default box on their 401(k) forms and then leaves the money in a money market account? That’s the modern equivalent of putting money under the mattress. For these folks, long-term goals are always out of their reach.
  • Individuals operating at Level 2 are constantly seeking more money at the expense of others. Life and business are a zero-sum game for these individuals and their wins frequently come at the expense of other people. Have you ever worked with someone who sacrificed a good deal because they had to have the perfect one? Have you ever worked with someone that had to win? Those individuals are living at Level 2.
  • At Level 3 we start to transition to a more constructive view of money, but just barely so. Level 3 is about control. What money I have, and what money I can have, has to be protected. I’m willing to accept some risk, but only in a controlled fashion. Those of us at Level 3 know that our ability to earn money is in our hands, but the approach to risk is very controlled.
  • Level 4 is about duty to others. The person has duty to grow and use their money predominantly as a service to their values, their family, and their community. Individuals with significant Level 4 energy donate significant amounts to charities and can even put their own financial health at risk for the sake of others. For example, co-signing a loan for a relative would fit this description.
  • Level 5 is where our entrepreneurs live. They are good at seeing opportunities in life and view money as a tool which can help them seize the opportunities that they sense around them. Level 5 is also where fear of missing out (FOMO) finds its home and people who have a lot of Level 5 energy can have trouble focusing on how to use their money most productively. If you know a serial entrepreneur, they spend a lot of time in this area.
  • Level 6 is about abundance and creativity. People who feel significant Level 6 energy simply believe that they have the ability to create more money and to use it creatively. At Level 6, the individuals desire to achieve their vision can decouple itself from prudent risk or the amount of money that must be spent. Elon Musk and his space orbiting roadster are a great example of Level 6 in action (https://tinyurl.com/ybmdnpdc).
  • People who operate at Level 7 simply don’t connect with money and generally need others to make sure their basic monetary needs are cared for on a daily basis. The best example are spiritual leaders who are able to delegate monetary concerns entirely to their followers and do not need money to address every day needs.

All of us are a mixture of these different levels of energy in unique combinations and where we are on the scale can shift from situation to situation. Ultimately, our feelings about money should not inhibit us from attaining our goals. If you think Level 1 and Level 2 describe you then removing external and internal obstacles that prevent you from moving higher levels can make you feel more empowered and positive about your money. This transition has been part of my personal journey from a child in a household that lived paycheck to paycheck to one that’s not afraid to dream. If Level 3 describes you then you may benefit from accepting a bit more risk to really help you achieve your dreams. If Level 4 resonates, consider clarifying the boundaries of your duty to help starts and stops lest you fail to leave room for yourself. If you spend a lot of time at Levels 5 and 6, then you might work to focus and clarify your desires so that you can make the most of the opportunities you’re gifted to see.

Jonathan’s Takeaway: Money can make people funny. Differing relationships with money and money problems are a leading cause of divorce and contribute to business partnership breakups. If you can see yourself on this scale you aren’t alone. If you don’t love where you are you don’t have to stay there.


Jonathan King is a consulting economist and performance coach. His firm, Halcyon Consulting, is dedicated to helping clients reach their goals through accountability, integrity, and personal growth. Jonathan has 21 years of social science consulting experience including 15 years in Alaska. The comments in this blog do not necessarily represent the view of employers and clients past or present and are Jonathan’s alone. Suggested blog topics, constructive feedback, and comments are desired at askjonathan@apcm.net.


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