Editorial Policy

Do You have a Dysfunctional Relationship with Money?

Kristin McGrath

March 23, 2012


NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed life coach and professional organizer Gail Blanke about financial spring cleaning this week. For the most part, the interview focused on tackling financial clutter — like those unpaid bills and the piles of unopened bank account statements you’re “keeping in a safe place” for “when you have time.”
But Blanke also zeroed in on something fascinating — the notion that women have a much more dysfunctional relationship with personal finance than men do.
“I think many of us — and I think that it’s particularly women — have a very negative relationship with money, if we have any relationship at all,” Blanke told NPR. “… In the end, it’s like we don’t really want to know about it. That’s why we keep putting it aside.”
Blanke went on to explain that, while women are generally on top of their physical health (keeping up with doctor’s appointments and staying up-to-date with necessary exams) and their children’s well-being, they’re likely to let personal finance chores fall through the cracks and build up into monumental, intimidating tasks.
When I first listened to the interview, I thought, “That’s not me.” I’ve always been the point-person in group living situations — the one who tallies up all the utility bills and posts “invoice” Post-its on roommate’s doors. My taxes have been done since late February. I successfully manage several accounts holding various amounts of money. And although there are things in my stuffed filing draws that probably could be shredded, it’s all neatly organized.
But then I thought about how my money responsibilities make me feel. My financial life is an ongoing cycle of anxiety, from the anticipation of an unpleasant task (paying a bill or moving money into my Roth IRA), to the nagging suspicion that I’m doing it wrong, to the temporary relief of checking it off my to-do list, to the dread that comes with knowing these tasks will need to be performed again next month.
In other words, managing money, however successfully, doesn’t make me feel confident and capable. It makes me feel anxious. And, while my anxiety doesn’t cause me to ignore my bills, it causes me to freeze up and falter when it comes to some of the higher-level stuff I should be doing — like optimizing my 401(k) investments (and not just funneling them to my company’s default settings) and getting more strategic with my mostly neglected Roth IRA.
To build my courage, I’ll definitely be following some of Blanke’s advice about easing into big financial tasks by building momentum — cleaning out a single desk draw, for example, and tackling the smallest, least intimidating tasks first.
With overcoming your money fears in mind, here are some of the best blog posts of the week:
College Investor tells you what to do if you can’t pay your taxes.
Squawkfox walks you through 22 ways to get a discount on anything.
My Journey to Millions breaks down single premium immediate annuities for young investors.
Once Cent at a Time features a guest blog about the tax nuances for IRAs.
Good Financial Cents shares the tax law changes you should know about.