You focus a lot on how attitudes about money are formed in childhood. Why?

As a rule, I don’t go into childhood with my clients although many people I’ve trained do. It’s useful to know how our belief system got formed. If we know that, we know much more about the intensity of the belief system and emotion behind it and how to inspire people to be free of beliefs that are hurting them.

A client I have is very skittish around money and stepping out. She just got an inheritance from her dad, who as a child laid her with a lack of confidence by being negative or verbally abusive whenever she tried to do something positive and to express herself. This breaks my heart and my ability to then convey that to her lets her know she is not alone and maybe there’s a way out of a habit formed around money. I view one of my jobs as seeing that the money helps her as long as it can. But because of her childhood, she is prone to blowing the money. She’s shared with me these things because the money is complex, because it came from her dad and one way to almost spit on her dad is to go out and spend it. Since she was young, when she would step out and try to succeed, she felt her dad would cut her down or tell her that she would get married one day and her husband would care for her. Any time she tried to be independent, he would belittle her. I always assume that there is a belief system underlying any situation that is problematic. Then I look at how functional is this construct in relation to where the client wants to go with his or her life. I’ve got a financial plan that will get the client there if only they execute it, but they might not because they have this belief system about life and money. In the case of this woman, she might not execute her financial plan and say, “I’m really angry because whenever I tried to do something good for my future my father squashed it.”

If I see people with dreams and they’re not moving for them, I look at why. What is preventing them from doing it. Listening skills and counseling skills become more helpful. You’re not trying to psychoanalyze someone but to show empathy and compassion. By my being able to empathize, this woman can listen more to me and is more likely to change her belief system. Otherwise, I might just sound like a projection of her dad telling her she is not good. If we had more listening in financial planning, it would make an enormous difference in the success of plans.