Oct 27, 2021

Money Scripts: Understanding What They Are & How They Impact Your Financial Decisions

Money Scripts: Understanding What They Are & How They Impact Your Financial Decisions

Money Scripts

Have you ever thought about someone, “They would be so successful if they could just get out of their own way.” Maybe you even thought this about yourself. A big reason that we believe or say things like this has to do with our money scripts. Money scripts are underlying assumptions or beliefs about money that are typically only partially true. Money scripts are often developed in childhood and are unconsciously followed throughout adulthood. These scripts are often passed down from generation to generation within families and cultures and shape financial behaviors. During the process of figuring out one’s money script, they will often uncover their “financial flashpoint” that led to their money script or belief. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to money scripts and hopefully help you uncover your own biases that will help improve your financial life along with your relationship with others.

Before continuing, I highly recommend you take the Klontz Money Script Inventory (KSMI) to figure out your money script-- https://www.yourmentalwealthadvisors.com/our-process/your-money-script/form

So, what are the types of money scripts?

Money Avoidance

People with a money avoidance script avoid dealing with their money. They also reject personal responsibility for their financial health. The belief that money is taboo and one should not discuss personal financial matters with others results in the belief that money is evil and should be avoided. It is common that those who have this type of script often do not know their own net worth. According to research by Klontz, people between the ages of 18 and 30 scored 23% higher on the money avoidance subscale of the KSMI than people 61-80 years of age. Money avoiders typically associate negative feelings with money, label the wealthy as greedy, believe that money corrupts, and believe they are better off having less money. Research has also shown that money avoidance scripts forecast financial dependence, workaholism, financial enabling, and financial denial.

Money Worship

Do you ever say, “If only I had more money I would be much happier.” If this is you, you may be prone to the money worship script. While that statement may be partially true, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) found that beyond an annual household income level of $75,000, the incremental increase in happiness is minimal. If needs are being met, income is generally perceived to be adequate. For the money worshiper, a belief exists that that needs are never met. They are always striving for some dollar amount or physical item that they believe would make them happier. People with this script tend to focus on earning, saving, or spending their money and they associate it with safety, happiness, and/or power. Klontz et al. (2011) found that individuals who fit these criteria were those who are young, single, have revolving credit card balances, and have lower net worth. Klontz

and Klontz (2009) also found that money worshipers feel as if they must work extremely hard and excessive hours to make money. It was also found that this type of money script can lead to financial behaviors and disorders such as hoarding, workaholism, and an endless pursuit of money or those who have it.

Money Status

Individuals with this money script believe that money gives them status and relate money to their socioeconomic class. According to Pullen (2010), people link money and products to net worth because consumerism is much more profound in today’s culture than ever before. Klontz et al. concluded that those who exhibit money status are more likely to be young, single, less educated than their peers, and have lower levels of net worth. People also suffer from lower levels of self-actualization, vitality, and happiness when they believe their money equals their status. Unfortunately, those who grow up in a lower socioeconomic status also tend to have this money script. Those with money status scripts believe that they are only as successful as the amount of money they have, and that the world will take care of their financial needs. Money disorders associated with this script include overspending and excessive risk taking.

Money Vigilance

Individuals with this money script tend to be watchful, alert, and concerned about their finances. One would think that this is a better money script, and it typically is, but it can be just as harmful as the others. People with money vigilance scripts are discrete with their money, may suffer from excessive wariness and anxiety, and can be distrustful of others around money. Money-vigilant people feel that it is necessary to save their money. Although this is generally considered a good habit, excessive anxiety could keep one for enjoying the many benefits and security that money provides. These types of people want to work for their money and do not care for handouts. Individuals with this type of script could suffer from workaholism and generally do not trust other people not close to them and do not use credit cards. As a result, they usually have higher incomes and higher net worth.

Once a person’s money scripts are revealed, the irrational behaviors they have been exhibiting starts to make sense. The simple recognition and understanding of why someone may have certain money scripts can help them understand why they do the things they do with money.

If you believe you have a strong money script that is negatively influencing your money decisions and impacting your relationship with loved ones, please consider meeting with a financial planner or financial therapist.


Resource: Klontz, B., Britt, S. L., & Archuleta, K. L. (2015). Financial therapy: Theory, research, and Practice. Springer.

Melissa Visbal, CFP®, CSLP®

Financial Planning Associate

Melissa came to Narwhal in the summer of 2018 following the completion of her master’s degree in financial planning from the University of Georgia, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in consumer economics. Her interest in the field started with learning about consumer behavior, specifically its relation with complex moneymaking decisions. Melissa recently received her CFP® Certification in January 2021. Working with a CFP® professional can help you find the path to achieving your financial goals. Your goals may evolve over the years as a result of shifts in your lifestyle or circumstances such as an inheritance, career change, marriage, house purchase , or a growing family. Melissa is here to help you through that process. When she’s not working, Melissa enjoys cycling, cooking, and spending time with her beagle and two nieces.

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