If the holiday season fills you with dread as financial conversations emerge with well-meaning family, there is a way to make those moments more interesting, and less challenging. It comes back to understanding what someone’s money beliefs are.

I caught a taxi recently and as we started driving we encountered a traffic jam. “I hate this time of the year”, the driver said. “Christmas fever – everyone goes mad. It’s terrible!”

“What’s the likelihood of you enjoying the next four weeks?“ I asked.

“I doubt it,” he replied.

As I got out of the taxi, I felt sorry for him. Although understanding what he means, he has set himself up for an unnecessarily difficult time. He has convinced himself that the next few weeks are going to be crazy, that he’s going to have passengers arguing with him, and he’s not going to enjoy it – all because of his beliefs. It’s also likely that if anything happens he will use it to confirm his beliefs and exaggerate the impact.

Many people have the opposite beliefs about this time of the year. They love the holiday period. Often these people can be heard saying something like, “it reminds me of my childhood.”

The correlation between beliefs and outcomes is very high, and confirmation bias reinforces and conflates the outcomes.

Beliefs are formed in early years, usually from emotional experiences (particularly those where joy and fear are present). At the time, the emotion almost  ‘glues’ the belief to the subconscious. And it becomes very difficult to move.

Money beliefs are also correlated to outcomes, and many are likely to be reinforced during the holiday period, and it is at these times that family elders pass on their money beliefs to the next generations. The elders will never know the impact they’re having – their beliefs are ‘the truth’, so they’re doing the young a favour, right?

Whether a money belief will be supporting or limiting should be left to the believer themselves to determine. It’s not for the listener to decide. They have their own beliefs.

Limiting Beliefs
Overall, though, there are a number of beliefs that I’ve found are generally accepted as being limiting or destructive:

– “Good people don’t care about money, and aren’t materialistic.”
– “It just has to be done, regardless of the expense.”
– “The cost of the gift shows the value of the relationship.”
– “Money will solve all my problems.”
– “It’s only money.”
– “Your self worth equals your net worth.”
– “Somehow, it always works out.”
– “People judge you by how much money you have.”

More valuable and fun conversations
Unfortunately, research shows that the holiday period is a time of increased stress for many people. As family members get together, often having not seen much of each other in some time, conflict in conversations may arise. It’s often a clash of beliefs that each person in the conversation is convinced is the truth.

An interesting and fun change to these conversations is to raise the topic of money in the form of experiences.

“What’s your first memory of money?” is a question that elicits very interesting responses. Critical, however, is to let it flow without interruption. Be the inquisitive listener, nothing more. It’s not about telling them their memories are wrong or their beliefs irrational. It’s not about proving anything. It is simply about enhancing understanding and being interested.

After the story about their first memory, ask what impact it had. Then ask whether that impact has served or limited their relationship with money.
Even between spouses – there are insights to be gained and relationships will be enhanced. These are the conversations that can make family gatherings more enjoyable, and enhance relationships.

One of the most powerful and valuable learnings to pass on, is awareness.

When I think back to my taxi driver, I still feel sorry for him. He has chosen a job that puts him in the middle of the movement of people and as he wakes up every day, he sees the world through a negative prism. I wonder what the knock-on effects of his daily beliefs are on aspects of his life that are more important.

But maybe, that’s just what I believe.