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Don't Follow the Script

Quote to Ponder

"Financial Planning is like navigation. If you know where you are and where you want to go, navigation isn't such a great problem. It's when you don't know the two points that it's difficult." - Venitia VanCaspel

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In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes a habit as something with a cue followed by a response, and then the response is reinforced by a reward. For example, Duhigg found that each afternoon he became a bit tired and then he would go get a cookie. Not only was he rewarded by the cookie, but he got to socialize for a little bit with his friends in the break room. Once he realized the pattern, he was able to break the habit and lose 12 pounds.

With money, habits are incredibly powerful. Financial Therapist Brad Klontz calls them “Money Scripts.” We develop our Money Scripts throughout our lives. Some Scripts are helpful to us, but others are not. Sometimes a Script serve us well for one stage of life but cause us problems in the next!

Here are a few Money Scripts we often see:

Money Script: I need to save.

Reality: In retirement, you need to withdraw from savings. Your job of saving is over. It’s time to enjoy what you have accumulated!

Money Script: I need to work hard at my job.

Reality: Once you have financial independence, maybe it's time to find something else to work hard at. Should you be volunteering? Creating relationships with your grandkids?

Money Script: I’ll give to charity when I’m wealthy. 

Reality: You will never feel wealthy, but you already are. To make it into the richest 1% globally, you need an income of only $34,000/year. 

Money Script: I need more money to be safe.

Reality: You will never feel safe because you will never be perfectly safe. Even Jeff Bezos has financial risk. He is still exposed to the performance of Amazon stock. Amazon stock might go down. If he sells it, he may be exposed to high taxes. If he puts his money in cash, his wealth will erode by inflation. 

Money Script: My cash will make me safe.

Reality: Although a cash reserve is necessary, excess cash is extremely risky. At 3% inflation, your cash will lose 56% of its value over the next 20 years. If inflation averages 4%, your cash will lose 66% of its value over the next 20 years. No one would buy an investment that promises no upside, a 50%+ downside, but that's the long-term outlook for cash and yet people still feel like it's safe.

Money Script: Sophisticated investments are better than simple ones.

Reality: Hedge funds regularly and reliably underperform stocks, while exposing their clients to illiquidity, high fees, and egregious taxes.

Money Script: Stocks are risky.

Reality: “Every country achieved equity (stock) performance that was better than that of bonds. Over the 101 years [analyzed], there were only two bond markets and just one [cash] market that provided a better return than our worst performing equity market.”- Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns

What money scripts do you have that no longer serve you?