Your relationship with money (chances are, it’s complicated)


Tune in to find out how the money messages we get early on can have a huge impact on our financial habits—both good and bad.

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Bright Dickson (00:10):

Welcome to Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian, where we balance financial advice with positive psychology to help create more happiness around your mind and money. Each episode we give practical advice on managing not just your finances, but your outlook as well. I'm Bright Dickson, your resident student and practitioner of positive psychology, and I'm here with Brian Ford, my favorite expert on financial wellness. Today we're going to dig into our individual relationships with money. We'll look back at our family history with finances, pick apart how that shaped our beliefs about money, and then we'll talk tips on how to steer your own relationship with money to create a more positive mindset that leads to a healthier, happier life. Brian, we're ready for this?

Brian Ford (00:52):

Heck yeah, let's go.

Bright Dickson (01:00):

Brian, we're talking about money mindsets today, and we know that mindsets about money and many other aspects of life really begin to form early on. I'm curious, growing up, what was your relationship with money and how did that experience shape your habits?

Brian Ford (01:15):

Yeah, I remember when I was young, maybe seven or eight years old, back in the day, growing up in the '80s, I just remember being at a donut shop one time. Donuts were like 80 cents, and I asked my dad for some money to buy one. He ended up giving me like 20 bucks and he's like, "Keep the change." And this wasn't an isolated occurrence, this was pretty common for me and my four siblings. It went on for a while, and Bright, you might be thinking right now, "What's he talking about?" Like, "Why is this a problem? Isn't this awesome, heck, his dad's just, like, hooking him up?" But I grew up thinking we were rich, and unfortunately there's a few problems that began to arise. Besides creating a sense of entitlement in me, and not fully understanding the true value of hard-earned money, I realized when I became a teenager, they might have been stressed about money a lot, and he didn't have much in the way of savings.

Brian Ford (02:10):

I started to see that over time, the stress caused relationship issues with my mom and my dad, in addition to money problems with my siblings. And so, I was frustrated that for years, in my mind, we kind of wasted our money on things that weren't important to our family, to the detriment of our relationships. I tell you Bright, as I was thinking about this podcast today, I hesitated sharing some of this information, some of this personal side of my background, mainly because of how much I love and respect my dad. I mean, to my dad's credit, he was raised in a trailer home in Idaho. He was the first to go to college in our family and he did well for himself, and I think he simply wanted to spoil us a little bit. He's one of the most generous people I know, and looking back, I've got fond memories of my childhood; however, I'm not sure that this behavior started my relationship with money on the right foot.

Bright Dickson (03:01):

It's so interesting that there's so much talk about relationships, and we can talk about a lot of parts of relationships really easily, but it's hard for people to talk about money. And I totally sense where you're coming from on that hesitancy. I have that too honestly, coming into this, because this stuff is so personal and so complicated.

Brian Ford (03:22):

Yep. I completely agree. I mean, we don't really speak openly about it very often. Not only is it personal, but there’s some stuff there that, we don't want to hurt feelings, so to speak.

Bright Dickson (03:34):

Yeah. Sometimes there's some unpleasant stuff in there, but it's important, because if we're not talking about it and processing it with other people, we know that these beliefs and messages we get really early on have a huge impact on money and what we do with our money, and how we think about our money and all of that. As we get into it, Brian, one thing I do want to say is that, when we're asking our listeners to dig deep into their own beliefs, stuff's going to come up that feels a little like we're asking you to bash your parents, and that kind of thing. And that is not what's going on. Our assumption walking into this is that parents are always doing the best they can. Parenting is an extremely difficult thing to do, and very complicated, and resonates throughout the life of a child and the parent.

Bright Dickson (04:29):

We just want you guys to know as you're listening that we're not here to sort of pick apart your parents. What we're really trying to do is help you understand, how did the messages that you got around money show up and turn into beliefs that you have around money? Then, how do those beliefs then guide the relationship you have with money now? For me, as I was thinking about this, what I was really thinking was, man, we never talked about money. It just wasn't a thing. I never heard my parents talking about finances. And the message I got from that, my parents never sat me down and said, "Bright, we don't talk about money," I just got that message from not hearing them talk about money. It was my child's mind trying to make sense of it, and that's what I got.

Brian Ford (05:24):

Yeah. That's not uncommon, I hear that when I'm out and about and teaching folks. And sometimes I even hear, “Well, we didn't talk about money, but if we did, that conversation always ended in an argument.” And that almost is like, double bad. It is, it's pretty crazy when you start to dig, and think about where we get our thoughts and our mindset around money. Bright, I would love to know, how did the messages we get growing up, how do they translate into adulthood?

Bright Dickson (06:01):

It's pretty complicated, but we're going to try to break it down. As kids, we all got messages from our environments, from our circumstances, and whoever was present in our circumstances that over time develop into beliefs. These are messages about all sorts of things. We're specifically talking about money today, but we get messages about relationships, we get messages about certain people, we get messages about all kinds of things. Those beliefs, consciously or unconsciously, guide our behavior. So it goes: message, and then it gets solidified into a belief. Then, what we know is that what we believe, we act on, so those beliefs turn into behavior.

Bright Dickson (06:46):

For me—and Brian, you may be like this too—some of these beliefs just occur like chatter in my mind. They're kind of always around and talking, but they're not necessarily voices that I should obey, because those messages that I got in childhood, while they may have been adaptive then, they're not adaptive and healthy for me as a grown adult. They change and they become like scripts that we follow over and over until they're just the way we are, or they're just the way we behave. Since they're guiding our behavior, it really pays off to consciously understand what they're saying now that we're adults who are responsible for our own lives. It's about bringing these beliefs into our consciousness and knowing what they are, and then testing them to see if, is that really accurate? And does that really apply to me? Brian, you're very familiar with this kind of script idea. So how do these scripts affect our relationship with money? What do they do?

Brian Ford (07:59):

Yeah. I get to hear people's money scripts all the time, just because I'm out and about speaking to large groups. People will come up to me afterwards and chat, and I hear these scripts quite often. So, I’ll start with a money script I hear quite a bit, and that is this: sometimes I hear, “Well, money is like the root of all that's bad.” Or sometimes I hear, “People with a lot of money are bad people.” This is dangerous because now you're already starting off in a space that's uncomfortable around the subject of money, this kind of negative space.

Bright Dickson (08:30):

Yeah. The vibes are bad.

Brian Ford (08:32):

Yeah, exactly. I think it's helpful for all of us to remember that money is simply an object, it's subject to our management. And the reality is, money is just a tool at our disposal to do good or bad with. If I've got a hammer, I can break a window or hurt someone, or I can use that same hammer and I can build a toy that makes a child happy, and maybe build a home that provides shelter for a family. Money is much the same way, simply a tool, which I think is helpful for me to think about, neither bad nor good.

Bright Dickson (09:04):

Right. There's this idea that we need to get into some neutrality around our beliefs and get them a little broader, I think, rather than these rules that we have to follow.

Brian Ford (09:18):

Yep. Totally. Another observation that I've made over the years is that money can unmask us as humans. It amplifies who we are. I've seen bad people who are able to express their bad behavior on an elevated stage with more money, but I've seen far more good people amplify their goodness with money, which is cool. But I've just found that as an observation, as I’ve gone through and dealt with a lot of folks who have done well with money or maybe have money.

Bright Dickson (09:48):

That rings true for me, I can see that in people in my own life.

Brian Ford (09:52):

Yep. Another money script that I often hear people say is, “I'm not good with money.” This comes out more specifically, I hear things like, “I'm not a good saver, that's just not who I am.” I may have even heard this script from you a couple of times in past episodes [crosstalk 00:10:13].

Bright Dickson (10:13):

... Are we referring to my status as a financial ding-dong, is that what we're talking about?

Brian Ford (10:18):

I'm just saying, I heard you say something like that in the past.

Bright Dickson (10:21):

I decided, Brian, thanks to your help, that I'm going to promote myself from financial ding-dong to financially curious.

Brian Ford (10:30):


Bright Dickson (10:30):

That's what I'm going for, I'm curious.

Brian Ford (10:33):

I'm digging it, I like it. Look, I like Ding Dongs, so I never thought that was a negative thing to begin with. But with this script, this script may have simply come from hearing others say similar things. As humans, we love to talk about drama, we're sometimes attracted to drama. It might just, we've heard this before, but I find this so interesting because what in the world does that have to do with you and me? Very little. But more often, I will say this script comes from a more legitimate source, which is our past money mistakes. We need to remember, though, that we all make mistakes with money, and saving doesn't come natural for a lot of people. So we don't need to be too hard on ourselves there.

Bright Dickson (11:18):

Brian, is there such a thing as a positive or a healthy money script?

Brian Ford (11:22):

Yeah, for sure. I think it's important to realize that we can develop these healthy money scripts as well. I'll share a more personal money script that I'm grateful that I learned at an early age. Growing up I had close family members make good money, but they just never seemed to have much of it. Despite their high income, money was a pretty significant source of stress in their lives. But on the flip side, I was around other family members with much lower incomes, but with a greater amount of financial confidence and peace of mind. So a very simple money script that I developed out of observation and just my life experience is, income is not everything when it comes to being happy with money. And I'm grateful for that one, it's something that I've kept with me. Since I've learned more about finance, I've realized that research actually substantiates my small little life experience there.

Bright Dickson (12:18):

You sound like you were an extremely observant child around these kinds of things.

Brian Ford (12:24):

Yeah. That's exactly what my mom would say growing up, they're like, "Oh my gosh, Brian, you notice these things." I was the youngest of five children, so I grew up in a household of adults. My two oldest brothers had already left the home by the time I was eight, nine years old. Then I had two sisters ahead of me in high school. My mom was an English major and very well-spoken, and spoke to me like as if I was an adult from a very young age, so observing my siblings grow up and the way they acted I think had a pretty big impact on me growing up.

Bright Dickson (12:55):

I bet.

Brian Ford (12:55):

Bright, I wanted to know, is there a script around money that you've recognized and that you deal with?

Bright Dickson (13:03):

One that I've recently been able to pinpoint, I'm sure there are more out there, but there's one that says, “It's always impolite to talk about money.” And therefore, what happens to me when the topic of money comes up is—not always, but this is definitely a pattern—is that I almost go into like fight or flight, because for me what that script says is like, if I engage and talk about money, I am a bad person. Which is a very childlike, very black-and-white way to think about it, but it's just hanging around there from that silence my parents had around money. And now I have a podcast called Money and Mindset, so that's challenging.

Brian Ford (13:50):

I hadn't thought about that. Oh my goodness.

Bright Dickson (13:53):

We've all got our stuff.

Brian Ford (13:55):

Yeah. What's nice is, you're kind of rewriting that script almost as we speak.

Bright Dickson (14:00):

Right. Literally as we speak.

Brian Ford (14:02):

I think it's interesting that people think it's impolite to talk about money. It's a part of all of our lives. Now, I will say there's a nuance and a fine line between talking about one's income around other folks. But when we drag in all of [the] subjects around money and so forth into a reticence to talk about income, I think that's not healthy at all. We all have this in our lives, it's not something we can say, “Well, that's not going to bother me, and I'm going to put that over there.” Money seems to weave its way into just about every portion of our life, including our relationships.

Bright Dickson (14:34):

Yeah. One of the ways that this came up for me early on in my adulthood was that I lived in New York, and in New York, because real estate is so crazy there, everyone is always asking other people what their rent is, then you get into calculating it by square foot, and then you're like, "Do you have a washing machine?" All of this. It's just a very common conversation. And that was one sort of gateway for me to get a little more comfortable. We all need to get to know our money scripts, but also get comfortable being able to challenge them and change them. We've been talking about where all this comes from, those messages you got, the beliefs you created.

Bright Dickson (15:25):

But if you're listening to this podcast, it's likely that you're not a kid anymore, and if you are, good for you, welcome. But most of us listening here, we're grown-ups. And as adults, we're responsible for not only our behavior, but also the beliefs that guide that behavior. If you're finding that you have some scripts that for whatever reason are not working for you anymore, they're not benefiting you, it's time to look at shifting those beliefs. This is a very grown-up thing to do, to shift a belief, but we can do it, you've got what you need. Brian, what are some of the beliefs that we can cultivate that will really help how we behave around money? I think yours about, income doesn't always mean a positive relationship with money, that's a really healthy belief. How do we cultivate some of those?

Brian Ford (16:19):

We're more likely to change our behavior, first of all, when we feel good about the future, when we believe in our chances for success. Too often we just give a lot of attention to what's wrong or what even might go wrong. I find that always interesting. But instead we can shift our focus on doing the right things so that we can expect things to go right. We can think and speak about the future optimistically and talk about what we can and will accomplish. And when I say speak and talk about the future, I'm not just talking about talking out loud to others, I'm also referring to our self-talk, the conversations we have with ourselves in our minds.

Brian Ford (17:01):

Let's see if we can keep our outlook and our thoughts positive regarding our financial situation. For example, here are a few things that we can say to ourselves about our financial future. Something like, “I'm optimistic that I can improve my financial life.” Or something as simple as, “I'm grateful for my job, I have control over my money, saving and investing feel good because I look forward to living my dreams.” Or something like, “My financial life is on track.” These are just a few simple examples, but I'm curious, Bright, do you have any beliefs around money that you've cultivated that have been useful in your adult life? Like something that's actually, it's something that you've done and worked on, that served you well.

Bright Dickson (17:47):

I do. I've been working in this space on my own for a while, really challenging those beliefs. And it's not for the faint of heart, but it really pays off. There are three things that I repeat to myself over and over, particularly when I'm in those situations where my fight or flight response is triggered, so they are, “I am responsible, I have choice, and I can change.”

Brian Ford (18:14):

Hot dang. I like that.

Bright Dickson (18:17):

Thank you.

Brian Ford (18:18):

Am I getting the notes to this podcast? This is good.

Bright Dickson (18:24):

And the last one—all three of them, they're challenging to me. Even though they're very simple, they're challenging to me, but that last one, “I can change,” is really precious to me, because it's essentially the way that I talk to myself about growth mindset. Just this simple idea, I can change. And it's simultaneously the scariest to me, but also the belief that gives me the most hope for the future.

Brian Ford (18:53):

Yeah. That's interesting. Why is it scary? And also on the flip side, what is it about that, that gives you hope?

Bright Dickson (18:59):

It’s scary to me because the “I can change,” then opens the door to like, "OK. Well, what? Change what, and how?" And even though I think of myself as a person who likes change, when it comes up and it's very clear that I need to do something, just that situation can be scary because it's almost like I'm going to change a part of my identity. Even if it's like change my identity from financial ding-dong to like, I'm financially curious, it's shifting the way I see myself. But it gives me hope because it means that I'm pretty much investing myself and creating a better future for the future Bright, whoever she is, whatever she's up to. I'm really able to use that belief, I can change, to push myself into changing. Because I, like most people, can be a little change averse.

Brian Ford (19:57):

Yeah. That makes sense. Now that you're talking about it, as you were chatting too, I was like, "Yeah, change is kind of scary, because change implies that something's wrong." But again, that's me being in my fixed mindset. If I break out of that, and I'm like, "Look, I'm always changing. And yes, I've got to change. I need to improve. I've got to continue to learn." And I see the hopeful side of that as well, that’s good stuff, I like it.

Bright Dickson (20:21):

Yep. So, once we start to shift our beliefs, the behavior that goes along with that updated, new, fresh belief, that behavior will likely follow, which brings up the question of, “How do we act on these more helpful new beliefs?” Brian, as our financial expert, what are some behaviors and habits that people should cultivate in order to create that more conscientious relationship with money? What do we do?

Brian Ford (20:52):

You're right. Shifting our beliefs, creating new money scripts, it's a good first step, but now we need to back these beliefs up with our choices. Just like you were talking about, Bright, earlier in the podcast, we have a choice, we can change. Here's what I suggest: start by picking one of your new money scripts. For example, “I'm a good saver.” Because by the way, most people are not great savers. So if you're listening to this, you're in good company, but there's a lot of good savers out there that it started out by saying, "Look, I am not very good at it. I've never really done it," and so forth. But it just starts by shifting again. Start with that new money script, “I'm a good saver,” and take action to support that new belief: set up a new savings account, something fun you want to save for, for a major purchase, maybe nickname it, “Vacation 2022,” whatever, or the specific place you're going to go is even better.

Brian Ford (21:51):

But set that account up and save first, and then set up an automatic payment, and you'll be automatically saving towards that goal. And by taking that action, this will reinforce the belief, and it will build financial momentum. Really, you can do that with any money script—you can change it, take action, and then, again, as you do that more often, you'll just continue to build momentum, you'll be going faster and faster, and before you know it, you are not a financial ding-dong, you're not even curious, you're more like kicking some tail. And that's how it works, just one by one.

Bright Dickson (22:26):

Yeah. It's so interesting how like, when you take the behavior, it reinforces the belief just over and over again. As I think about myself, and given my historical beliefs about it being impolite to talk about money, I think that one place that I can grow is to talk to more people about my money. It's not just talking about money in general, but talking about my situation—but I want to make sure those are people I really trust and respect in general, but also particularly about finances. I think that can probably give me some more freedom around this topic, a little more wiggle room. And I would be willing to bet that it will strengthen some of my relationships too.

Brian Ford (23:15):

I think that's an interesting point, Bright, how money affects our relationships. If only we had a little bit more time to talk about that.

Bright Dickson (23:21):

And that leads us right into our next episode. Next time we'll talk more about money and relationships, specifically love and money. Are you financially compatible with your significant other? How do you find out if you're compatible if you're dating someone, and if you're not compatible, if things aren't going well, how do you get on the same page? It is sure to get pretty interesting.

Brian Ford (23:44):

Spicy. Hey, thanks for joining us for this episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian. If you enjoyed our chat today, we'd love for you to subscribe, or drop a rating or a review in your podcast channel of choice, or share it with your friends and family. We are Bright and Brian, and we'll see you next time.

Bright Dickson (24:16):

Hey, don't forget, we have an entire website dedicated to demystifying your financial life. Go to and pick a topic you need help with. There's a little nugget of wisdom for everyone, no matter where you are in life. It might just change the way you think about money.


In this episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian, our hosts get personal. Join them as they share how early experiences influenced their beliefs and behaviors around money and get tips for changing any thoughts or habits that aren’t serving you. 

Bright and Brian also discuss:

  • How our individual relationships with money affect us
  • “Money scripts”—often subconscious beliefs about money that can affect our habits and feelings
  • The importance of acknowledging and talking about money
  • Tips for adjusting your money mindset for the better


If you enjoyed this podcast, subscribe or drop a rating or review in your podcast app of choice! Share it with your friends and family, too. 

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial,or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial,or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.