Chapter 5. Social Messages

  • A bond trader/mother leaves home at 5 a.m. and returns at 7 p.m., five days a week. She doesn't like her job or her hours, but her income is necessary to live in the "right" neighborhood, and send her children to the "right" schools.

  • A widow is falling into financial chaos because she had no idea how the family finances worked after her husband died. She freely admits that she always viewed managing money as the man's job.

  • An African-American woman has racked up thousands of dollars' worth of credit card debt, and justifies it by saying, "We do what we have to." She's referring to her belief that social and economic disadvantages force African-Americans to take on debt in order to maintain a "normal" standard of living.

I interviewed these three women and many people like them, and they all have two things in common:

  1. Their financial situations are making them miserable.

  2. They are unconsciously doing exactly what societal messages tell them they should.

Whether it's the pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" or the messages society and the media send us about the ways certain gender and ethnic groups should behave, when it comes to money, societal scripts are one of the biggest influences on all of our financial behavior.

Life Planners make clients take a long, hard look at the impact social pressures have on their choices, acknowledging that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to align spending with priorities, without looking at the ways in which societal ...

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