I am sure this isn’t a new concept to you. But it was for me. Writing a letter to “money.”
I grew up in a small paper mill town in northern New Hampshire with less than 1700 residents. If I had to guess, 80% of those employed received their paycheck every Thursday from this one company just as my family did.
Even as small children we were very aware when Thursday was approaching as the groceries were a bit scarce, and our parent’s responses were on repeat for any of our requests. ”Mom, can I have fifty cents for dessert at lunch?” And the cookie-cutter response was, “You will have to wait until PayDay.” Pay Day. Maybe we continue to use that term because of the PayDay candy bar which was released on PAYDAY back in 1932.
For us, there were no extra expenses such as buying a candy bar until dad got “paid.”
We were middle class or at least I would consider us so looking back. However, there were always conversations about money and a sense of lack. My mother was a money hoarder if there is such a labeling. We had the necessities. We had a few special treats here and there, but there was a clear sense everyone worked hard to save money with their pennies tucked away in Chiffon margarine tubs. Oh boy, remember the day of rolling all those stinking things into paper wrappers? Coin rolls WERE the savings account.
Other subliminal messages were, “Work hard, get paid, work hard, get paid.” I never heard any conversations about big dreams. It never felt like there were goals beyond getting first place in line at the bank on Thursday to cash your hubby’s weekly check. I never overheard conversations where my elders dreamt of moving on up. We only purchased items if something broke. If a car rolled in the driveway, it was because the other one blew a fuel line. If I wanted a prom dress, mom made it.
At age 16, I became a lifeguard at our local pool and started earning my own paycheck. I began buying all my own school clothes. This was my first taste of extras. My first experience with saving money for a purpose. Yet, I had learned the family skill, habit, trait, strategy – I don’t know how to label it because it was a bit of every one of those. I worked hard all summer to save money, then spend it all, and then start over the next summer. Maybe this approach should be called the “Thursday-to-Thursday” strategy. Save-spend-save – the “do not save beyond the spend theory.” Ugh.
The lessons we learn follow us. We are what we eat from our head down to our feet so they say, but we also – do what we do because we learn what we learn. I guess I learned to come from a sense of lack and to work desperately chasing a solution to solve the void; meet the necessary financial requirement, and start over…work hard, struggle, save, spend and never have extra. Fight or Flight – year after year; decade after decade.
But I was different. I had dreams and visions. I looked ahead. I wanted to level up. I am not ashamed of where I come from. I loved my life, my town, and my friends, and appreciated all my lessons, but I wanted to move away. I wanted to go to college. I wanted a sense of financial independence, comfort, and to help others.
I simply wanted to see more and do more than I had been exposed to. I also never wanted to scrape. I didn’t want to live a life of lack, yet I believe in hindsight I have mimicked what I witnessed.
In December 2020, I finally conceded to an exercise I had been asked to do for about a decade which was to write a letter to money; Dear Money. What? No. Weird. Why?
I listened to the reasoning. “You seem like you come from a sense of ‘lack thinking’ in the financial arena.” I have never been told I come from a sense of lack of thinking in any area of my life and though I am always open to critical thinking and constructive criticism. When a coach suggested I had thoughts and behaviors in regards to financial lack, it sort of ticked me off which as a coach, I know means it was hitting close to home for a reason. I knew this person was probably right.
I grabbed my pen and off I went. I told myself I would not overthink the assignment. Go with the flow. Do not judge my feelings. Just Do It as Nike says. And I did it. And it did flow. And fast! In less than 15 minutes I was putting my pen down. It was as if someone else took over my hand. My penmanship at times was a bit out of control and illegible. When I read it back, I thought OMG I could put someone’s name at the top, and it would sound like a love/hate letter. It was full of the peaks and valleys of passion and fury. There were sparks of excitement followed by sheer disappointment in the very next sentence. At times I was in control and other times, I was flailing like a Grouper being tossed in a Seattle fish market.
Someday, I will create my Dear Money video and post it on my YouTube channel; verbatim. You can go grab the X-rated version there. For now, I will share bits and pieces as parts of the real letter are not appropriate for this platform.
Writing letters isn’t a new concept…write to your five-year-old self, your assailant, or your ex, jot down a manifestation chant, etc. Some people rip their letters up and float them down the river or burn them to shreds. I chose to keep mine as a gentle reminder of how far I have come and how far I have yet to travel.
Here we go.
I hate you. I love you. I need you. Screw You. You are a jerk. A tease. You come close, and you run away. I hate chasing you. You show up unexpectedly. No call. You tease over and over. Yup, I said it again. You tease me.
When you come over, I relax. Yet I know you will only stay a short while. Run you scaredy cat. What am I too much for you? [removed section] Please stay. I forgive you. I mean I’m sorry I mistreated you. How did we get here? “She works hard for the money. So hard for it, honey.” Now that tune sounds familiar. [removed section] It wasn’t my fault we grew up wanting more of you. You never let me get to know you because you never stayed long.
I worked hard for you, and you never told them I was worthy of more of you. I worked as hard as the men and yet you wouldn’t give me more of yourself. [removed section] How dare you underestimate me? I will show you. You owe me! You are the coward. I am worthy. I mean, I guess you are, too. Isn’t it about mutual respect? Shouldn’t our relationship be about respect and honor?
Do you ever miss me when I am not around? I can’t give you away because you don’t leave enough of you to share. I hate you. Sometimes I need to. I know others need you more. I need you so I can help them. Help me – help them. You make me cry and scream. On repeat. [section removed]
Why do I have to work harder and longer in all my relationships? Can’t you be one of the easier ones? Help me out, you jerk. Please. You run to me – you run away. No more. I value myself, my knowledge, and my experience. I value you.
I have a right, and I am deserving of you. I am not ashamed of our relationship. I am proud we are together, and we work together. Aren’t you? Tell everyone you are proud of us. I dare you!
I know you are a tool. And you know you are necessary. Gives you power, doesn’t it? You are life. However, I am not going to be desperate any longer. I will not feel a sense of fear or greed when I think of you. I will make wise decisions with you and without you. You have been with me my whole life. You are a beautiful token to be used for good not hoarded. I promise to treat you with care. To thank you more often. To share you. To be thoughtful and wise in asking you to show up. I am so grateful you have given me an 80th chance to work on our relationship.
I agree we should never worship money. However, it is required here on Earth to survive. Money is the method by which we obtain the items we need in life: the roof over our heads, food in our mouths, and clothes on our backs. I am not here to judge what anyone has determined as their personal marker for financial sustainability or survival.
I am simply asking you to have a conversation with your true self regarding the feelings and beliefs that bubble up when you think of your past, present, and future in regard to money.
Perhaps you will write a Dear Money letter as I did or a journal entry. Maybe, for you, recording a message may work. Others a counseling session or even a conversation with family or friends might uncover a few gems. Regardless of the modality you choose, I guarantee you will uncover a few diamonds in the rough.
Arigato (Japanese for thank you) to all the mentors who recommended I do this over the years. Cha-ching, baby.