Why We Can't Talk About Money Without Talking About Culture
Rianka's new, monthly Forbes column where she'll be covering everything you need to know about money, culture, and where the two intersect.
Viewing money through the lens of culture is a relatively new concept. Historically, the financial service world has focused on money as a fairly one-size-fits-all conversation. While intentions have always been good, financial advisors (and the personal finance community as a whole) are now becoming more intentional in acknowledging the way that culture impacts finances.
Your money story is the narrative you tell yourself about your finances. To make empowered financial decisions, you have to understand your money story. To do that, you have to know how different cultural influences have impacted your view of money, and how you use it in your life.
Why Money And Culture?
The truth is every aspect of your finances is directly impacted by your identity and culture. If cultural background is ignored, you’re less likely to step into making positive and impactful financial decisions for your life. Every culture has different ways of viewing personal finances. Even within one culture, you might find that there are different ways that money is discussed or used.
Not Sure What Elements Of Culture Impact Your Identity?
You’re not alone. Many people don’t spend much time thinking about their cultural background, or its influence on their day-to-day decisions. Dyalekt, an MC, playwright, and educator, has spoken extensively on the importance of understanding identity when it comes to your money. In a recent interview with 2050 TrailBlazers, he named three key elements of identity to consider:
Historical. When looking at your personal history, you’re able to uncover a large piece of your identity. This is especially true when it comes to your financial life. For example, if, as a child, your parents and other adult influences didn’t view money as a learning experience - you may currently feel a sense of overwhelm or shame around your finances. If you watched adults hide financial mistakes, or worry about money-related decisions, you may feel anxious about money in your adult life.
Community. Your existing community impacts your identity, as well. Think about how your family and friends talk about money. Are they open about their decisions? Do they overspend, or express concern over covering the bills each month? Community impacts every aspect of your identity because, as people, we tend to emulate those who we interact with regularly. What sort of money-mindsets are you surrounding yourself with?
Activity. This is, arguably, the most important piece of your identity. The things you do in daily life is a big piece of who you are, and it’s one of the few elements that you can control. This component of identity directly impacts your finances because it encompasses the actions you take with your money. You’re able to make empowered decisions about your finances, even if you have a bumpy financial history, or are part of a community making less-than-ideal money moves.
Identifying Your Money Story
Once you embrace the influence that culture has on your finances, and understand the different elements of your identity, you can dig deeper to uncover your money story. Start by thinking about the emotions you tie to your finances. You might feel:
All of these money-feelings are directly connected to your money story that’s been informed by your culture.
Rewriting Your Money Story
When thinking about your money story, and what parts of your identity inform your views on personal finances, you might find that you don’t love the money story running your financial life. Every person has a money story that isn’t serving them. The key is to remember that you aren’t defined by your money story. You have control over the “activity” component of your identity and can start working to make empowered decisions about your money - even if you haven’t had fantastic historical or community role models.
Ready to get started rewriting your money story? Here are three actionable steps you can take now:
1. Unpack the historical and community elements of your identity to understand the “money baggage you may be bringing to the table.
2. Get clear on any unhelpful or negative money stories you’ve been telling yourself.
3. Decide what money story you want to manifest in your life and take steps to:
Surround yourself with a community that supports those financial goals.
Focus on how this new, positive money story will impact your life in the long run.
Start making financial decisions based on your NEW money story.
Rewriting your money story cannot begin until you understand the negative narrative controlling your financial life. As uncomfortable as it may be, take the time to dig deeper and uncover your unique money story, and how it’s been impacted by your cultural identity. From there, you can decide what elements of your existing money story are positively impacting your life - and what you’d like to change as you build a brighter, money-positive future. Don’t forget to check back in for future articles on demystifying the barriers you’re facing when connecting money with culture.