We all have a money story.
You carry your money story with you, everywhere you go. You even bring it into your intimate relationship.
Ask yourself this question: is my money story healthy? Or unhealthy? Is it moving me forward or keeping me stuck?
What many of us don’t realize is that your money story started long before you were born. Your parents, grandparents also have a money story. And families pass on money stories to subsequent generations.
This brings us to question 2: What is my birth family’s money story? Is it one of pain? Or is it one of abundance and good times for the most part?
All this applies to your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend too.
Which brings us to question 3: what’s my spouse’s money story? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Is it moving her/him forward or keeping her/him stuck?
And finally - what are each of our money stories doing for our relationship? Moving it forward in a healthy way? Or keeping us stuck?
My money story begins with money being mysterious to me. My parents didn’t sit me down and educate me about money.
They were both busy working hard and earning money. I’m grateful.
What this meant though is that I grew up knowing 3 things: (1) money is important and (2) the only way to get it is to work your a** off. And if you didn’t, you were screwed. Because Kenya is not like Denmark. Therefore (3) you always had to worry about money
You may be reading this article from a country other than Kenya. So allow me to digress and say: as beautiful as Kenya is, as much as there are exciting things happening in business, innovation, creativity here….one thing we DON'T have is a generous welfare system - like they do in Denmark.
It’s one reason most Kenyans are STRESSED about money. Acquiring it, keeping it, saving it, spending it. Even Kenyans living in leafy green neighbourhoods, don’t fully relax about money.
We are in a constant state of fear and stress about it. Because the 100% guaranteed safety net just doesn’t exist.
This forms part of the dramatic money story that many Kenyans carry around with us. And I was no exception.
My husband, on the other hand, is Australian. A country with plenty of benefits - even for the unemployed. From my time living in Melbourne, I can say that Australians are far less stressed about money.
My husband and I therefore brought very different money mindsets to our relationship (“mindset” by the way, is a big word that just means your thoughts and beliefs). We were both taught to work hard, to not take things for granted - but I had a tension around money, that he did not.
I was so lacking in faith that I’d be okay financially in life, that I couldn’t even relax into my intimate relationship.
I didn’t realize this about myself (a classic “blind spot”) until my very first coach pointed it out.
During one session, she interrupted me mid-sentence and asked why I talked like I was all alone in life and had to do everything myself.
I remember being confused by the question. She prodded me about my relationship - was everything okay? Was he a nice guy? Yes, yes I said (and that was the truth).
Now my coach was confused. If I was in a healthy committed relationship with a nice guy, why did I feel I had to do everything myself? Why was I always so worried for myself? Why wasn’t I speaking like I was in a partnership where the two people involved (he and I) could support one another?
And thus began the journey of delving into my money story (and a lot of other stories too - those are posts for another day)
You see, your money story influences how supported you feel by life. And how supported you feel by life, feeds back into your money story (if you’re religious you can replace the word “life” with the word “God”)
I’ve never gone a day without a meal. I have been supported by life. But absorbing the stress-filled Kenyan money story, stopped me from feeling supported. I HAD to remain worried about money.
On further delving into my money story, I learned about how, even long ago events like colonialism, feed into your money story.
My Kenyan ancestors didn’t deal with money the way we do today. Today’s money was an introduced concept. One day we had land. The next day we didn’t. And we were informed that if we wanted to stay on the land, we had to among other things, work for the colonial master, in order to earn money, with which to pay for our right to live on the land.
The colonial master and his friends had big houses, lots of money. They were wealthy. They were feared, respected and loathed all at the same time.
Everyone else fought for the remaining scraps (of money, of dignity, of respect….) Everyone else also felt they had to do whatever it takes to become a “somebody with a lot of money” - the “mkubwa”, the important person.
This persists till today. Kenyans are treated differently depending on the type of car we are driving. Big smiles and welcomes when you’re in a Mercedes. Suspicious glares when you’re in a small nondescript vehicle.
I remember in 2019, walking past a hotel I regularly went to for meetings. The security guard barked at me to walk on the other side of the road. I stopped, turned and told him I was the lady who he always let in for meetings. He shamelessly changed his tune upon recognizing me. Big smiles: “Madam, it’s you? How are you? Where’s the car today?”
It’s funny and sad - all at the same time, isn’t it?
Your country’s history influences your collective money story. That in turn influences your family’s money story and thus your own money story.
I’ve spoken to many people, from places like China, Cyprus, Eastern Europe... who come from families that have a fear-filled money story. Why? Because at some point in the family history, they had a lot and then suddenly lost everything. And subsequent generations aren’t allowed to forget that.
So what should you do once you’re done with these kinds of ponderings?
First things first, assess your money story. Does it move you forward or keep you stuck? If it’s the former - lucky you. Make sure you pass this onto your children.
If it’s the latter. You’ve got some work to do.
I’m not a fan of the word “healing”, but in the case of money it may be the most apt word to use. There may be a need for you to heal any money wounds you are carrying.
What happened (to your family, to you), happened. If you have a negative script running in your mind about it, flip it.
Use your personal and collective stories to fuel you to develop a healthy mindset - about yourself, your family’s story, your own story.
Kenya’s history just makes me very proud of my ancestors. Proud of my parents. Proud of my friends, my clients. I see Kenyans as some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. Our history has made us resilient and creative. Despite it all - we still live, love and laugh. Even if this isn’t Denmark (with its generous welfare system)
From there, commit to developing a healthy mindset about money. And don’t make it a chore. Make it fun for yourself. This is an essential part of your personal growth.
Enlist the help of professionals like coaches, financial advisors, accountants. Ask, ask, ask. Demystify money. Ask that friend that knows a lot about money.
Discover the sorts of investments that will interest YOU personally. Ask, ask, ask. Discover, discover, discover.
When it comes to your salary, if you’re employed, much of the same applies. Before an interview for example, ask ask ask around for what a professional like you should be earning.
Record all your achievements over the year, articulate them during appraisals, ask for that raise.
Sharpen your Linkedin profile so that recruiters who could offer you a higher level job (with better pay) can find you.
If you’re a business owner, enlist the help of a business coach. When clients come to me wanting help to set up a business, one of the things we do is discuss money. How much will they charge? What’s the most effective way to do sales and BD? How can you pitch to a funder in a compelling way?
And guess what, you and your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend do need to talk about ALL these things.
Developing a healthy money mindset will be great for you, not just financially, but mentally and emotionally as well.
And let me assure you, you can do this. Whether or not you live in a country with a generous welfare system, like Denmark.