We need to talk.
In the last year, most of my private coaching clients – yes, most – came to me with two dominant feelings: overwhelm and shame.
So many, in fact, that after finishing a recent coaching engagement, I thought, “We have got to talk about money shame.“
The stories I heard varied from woman to woman, but the underlying narrative goes something like this.
I’m X years old (where X is an age at which they feel they should be farther ahead).
I did this thing with my money:
👉🏻 didn’t make a decision
👉🏽 made the wrong decision
👉🏿 had someone else do something with my money…
and it turned out badly.
Now, at my age, I’m not even close to where I want to be financially.
And I have this money story hanging over me.
It’s so embarrassing and frustrating.
I feel so dumb, inadequate.
I’m overwhelmed and stuck.
I think it may be too late for me.
It would be humiliating if people knew my story.
And with all that recrimination, guess what happens?
A form of paralysis and avoidance sets in.
Fear hops into the driver’s seat, which is never good news.
Can you relate?
The real problem
This issue is so pervasive that I want to share three insights I’ve gained after years of working with women who are hampered by feelings of financial shame.
If parts of this ring true for you, by the way, then you definitely want to keep reading, because I’m going to share some good news.
(Spoiler alert: You can move past money shame and replace those feelings with confidence and empowerment. Totally doable – and in this lifetime, too.)
In no particular order, here’s what I see as the real problem behind money shame.
Because talking about money openly is still cursedly taboo in so many circles, women end up dealing with all their financial experiences alone.
When something doesn’t go as planned with their money, or they get a nasty surprise, or when they find that they didn’t do something that would have been in their best financial interest, many women immediately head over to the land of Shame and Embarrassment.
Because they think that they are the only ones who have made those mistakes or found themselves in that type of situation.
They think, “I’m the only woman of my age who…
- still doesn’t earn a decent amount. [Oh no no no. This is a big issue for a lot of women.]
- racked up credit card balances and am now struggling with debt. [Have you seen the stats? You are in good company on this one.]
- got taken to the cleaners by an ex and now I’m left to pick up the pieces. [Divorce has created a global community of women picking up the pieces!]
- still doesn’t have my financial sh*t together – at my age! [Nope. Dead common for every age category.]
The advantage I have is that I’ve talked to thousands of women about the state of their finances – and their financial past.
I’ve seen their books and heard their stories.
Here’s the reality: making money mistakes isn’t an exception; it’s the rule.
If I were to publish the details of every single case of money shame I’ve encountered in my professional life, you would quickly learn that you are in good company.
Whatever you did, didn’t do, forgot to do, overlooked, avoided, ignored, or got caught by, you can rest assured that there are a heap of women in exactly the same boat.
You are definitely not alone.
2. Lack of education
Which brings me to my second point.
The reason so many women don’t make financial choices in their highest, best interest is because they don’t know better.
We are taught all kinds of things at school – history, calculus, and why Hamlet had a habit of talking to himself – but not how to use one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal: money.
Even my local high school made a good stab at teaching financial literacy by walking the kids through a budgeting module.
It’s a start, but learning how to put together a rudimentary budget doesn’t even begin to cut it for dealing with real life.
And who’s teaching the few courses that do exist?
People who have excelled financially, have a track record of success, and have duplicatable, proven systems?
Not that I’ve seen.
They’re well-intentioned teachers who have strengths in one discipline – math, accounting, business – but no experience with creating a financial system, as a whole.
My experience in school
A few years ago, a high school business teacher brought me in for a day of financial literacy education for his top students.
I walked them through my A to Z system of how to rock their finances.
We talked about
🧠 money mindset
🌟 using their core values as their North Star (part of my proprietary methodology)
⚙️ money management
💸 understanding debt and credit
💰 making money
📈 and how to invest.
Afterwards, the feedback was amazing.
One of the business teachers followed up with me to say that I should teach this in every school, and she mapped out a way to do that.
When I spoke with the principal at the school, he told me it would never work. It was great that I had done a bang up job for the business group, but that’s as far as it would go.
Because I don’t have a teaching degree. 🤦♀️
(The irony is that I have 3/4 of a degree in education. I did three years of that degree. Then, after a year of teaching in France thanks to a scholarship, I transferred to a different program at another university – so no education degree.)
Never mind that I’m a financial expert who has helped thousands of women transform their finances and go from stuck to confident and secure.
Or that I’ve got an evidence-based system.
Or that I have nearly twenty years of experience and have my own story of transformation in which I paid off $400,000 of inherited debt in two years.
Not relevant apparently. All I need is an education degree and I’d be good to go.
And we wonder why our kids, as a whole, head into adulthood totally unprepared to thrive financially?
In this environment, is it any wonder that so many women end up financially stuck?
No it isn’t.
We are not set up to succeed.
3. We tend to blame ourselves
One of the things that struck me when I worked with couples was the way that each partner framed their financial issues.
Men had a tendency to blame external factors: the economy, their boss, bad luck, and so on.
Women had a tendency to blame themselves – as though the problem is that they are deficient in some way: they’re bad at math, never been good with money, made stupid choices, just can’t wrap their head around money management, they’re undisciplined.
It’s hard not to feel shame and embarrassment if you believe in your bones that you are the problem.
That somehow if you had just been better in some way, you wouldn’t be stuck.
See the problem here?
Blaming yourself when what is really the issue is a lack of education, skills (from practice), and confidence (from repeated action), is the equivalent of berating a toddler for sucking at walking.
Of course toddlers suck at walking – they’re just figuring it out! We don’t hold that process of learning against them.
And they certainly don’t think less of themselves because they keep falling. They’re just so darned excited about taking steps on their own that they usually smile the whole time!
What if we were to take that approach to learning how to deal with money and financial challenges?
The good news
It is possible to get out from the nasty clutches of money shame to move into acceptance of the past and financial confidence in the future.
All those clients I talked about?
Lisa was able to let go of debilitating beliefs about herself + shame from the past to wipe out five figures of corrosive debt, more than triple her income, start investing, and show up like a Money Boss in discussions with her spouse. She even got him excited about tackling their finances!
Angela was able to get past a traumatic issue around financial betrayal to finally face her finances, implement a money management system, and free up money to start travelling again.
Samantha finally got past twenty years of generational money trauma to, as she put it, “finally take control of her money”. She’s paid off tens of thousands of dollars of debt and is growing her wealth through increased savings and investments.
Meghan stepped past fear to tackle her finances, something she had avoided for more than twenty years. After setting healthier boundaries, implementing my simple money system, and learning to invest, she and her husband are excited about their future for the first time in decades.
What did it take?
- Looking at their situation without judgement or emotion (think like a researcher gathering information, here).
- Understanding that their past does not define their future.
- Letting go of judgement and blame.
- Filling in their knowledge and skills gaps.
- Doing the work, with support.
- Creating an accountability system to stay on track.
It’s spring – time for a fresh start. 🌼☀️
Let’s haul any money shame you’re carrying around to the curb, along with that broken chair you’ve been meaning to get rid of, OK?
Need help? Reach out. I’ll be your guide.
Don’t for a moment accept money shame. You deserve better than that. ❤️