This seminar will take you through a series of questionnaires that will help you better understand why you are struggling financially. Many, but by no means all of the ideas come from the book Secrets of The Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv Ekker, a man who struggled financially for many years until he dealt with his own personal weaknesses and went on to make a fortune in business. I strongly recommend you buy this book. He now teaches people about the mindset changes he had to make to go from struggler to financial success at harvekker.com . However, before you begin to take the questionnaires below, we will begin by briefly exploring the power of your early life experiences in shaping how you look at financial matters.
Most of us would have heard about the power of mental imprinting in the animal kingdom. For example, when young birds emerge from the egg, who they see first becomes their psychological mother because that initial image is deeply imprinted into their minds. Most times the face they see really will be their biological mother. But sometimes it will be a human and they will follow that human until they are mature, thinking it is their mother. I’m sure you have seen the funny pictures of a gaggle of little geese all lined up in a row following an old farmer around his or her yard.
Humans imprint as well. From the moment you are born, and even before, you are being stamped psychologically by your parent’s habits and lives. The evidence of this imprinting is in you today; how you think, your level of confidence, particular habits, personality traits, your beliefs, interpersonal relationships, levels of trust, your emotional baggage, political and religious opinions, moods and more. It’s amazing how so many of these habits can be traced back to childhood input from your parents. Have you ever been told you are so much like your parents? Annoying isn’t it.
From these powerful childhood experiences, each of us carries into adulthood very deeply engrained ideas about the place of money in our lives. These values are the blueprint we refer back to in all our financial dealings through life. To act differently you must consciously rewrite the blueprint. Your income is largely a product of that blueprint. Your asset base is a product of what you believe you deserve. If you come across a large amount of money when you do not have the imprint to handle it, the money eventually evaporates, as in the case of so many lottery winners. Such is the power of imprinting.
The vast majority of people simply do not have the internal financial imprinting or capacity to grow and hold onto a large asset base and the large amounts of money that are associated with them. Alternatively, when a business person with a blueprint for wealth suddenly loses all their assets, within a few short years they have recouped their losses and often become even richer. Their imprint is set for wealth and they can use their mind to recreate what they lost. Most of us have an imprint set for mediocrity or the middle class. We simply cannot imagine a life different to this.
This financial comfort zone is a lot like the automatic pilot on a jet. If external circumstances like turbulence throw the plane about, the autopilot adjusts the trim to bring the plane back to its preset altitude. Most people have their financial autopilot set on thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. They will ascend into the financial sky in their youth and when they reach the financial altitude they were taught and believe is morally appropriate, good, correct or acceptable, the autopilot switches on and they stop climbing. This belief system comes from childhood circumstances and it is very hard to shake!
As we go through life it becomes increasingly obvious that our material circumstances are simply a product of this conditioning. We spend our whole lives making our external environment conform to our internal beliefs. Our bank account and our asset base simply becomes a print-out of what we believe is right. We are like a computer, with our body being our hardware and our mind, emotions, spirit as our software. Our material circumstances are the printer. The physical world is simply a printout of your three internal dimensions, as shown below. You cannot change your printout unless you change one of the other three dimensions, preferably the first. Our beliefs come from our childhood, or to a lesser extent, the philosophy of life we have adopted as an adult. Thoughts are how we attack a situation using the values deeply ingrained. Thoughts generate ideas, which lead to our emotional preparation for a situation, our emotions then internally motivates us to behave in certain ways.
|2. The mind (thoughts)
|3. The emotions (feelings)
|1. The spirit (values)
|4. The physical (consequences)
The incredible part about this process is that it is so deeply embedded within us that we do it without even noticing. We are unaware of the process going on inside us. It happens automatically, hence the analogy of the autopilot and cruising altitude.
Because of the deeply ingrained nature of this values/thoughts/emotions/actions process, most people consequently never reach the financial altitude necessary for financial freedom. They receive such a multitude of financial messages, examples and values from their parents and peers later in life that they are then stuck with deeply held beliefs about the danger of climbing too high or falling too low on the financial ladder. Our desire to please our parents when we were young subconsciously continues with us into adulthood. What they once expected of themselves and you in the arena of finance is what you will usually produce as an adult. For example, if your parents worked with their hands all their lives, you probably will too. If they were a paid-up member of the mortgage belt then that is probably where you will end up. Studies show that very few of us rise above the social class of our parents. We wouldn’t dare! It just wouldn’t feel right.
Alternatively, if we grow up in a home where we are disgusted by the values of our parents then there is a tendency to rebel against those values. The rebellious, selfish teenager is simply saying “mum and dad, I find fault in your value system and I substitute my own, which will be the opposite of yours!”. If you come from a poor family you can become very bitter toward your parents and your lot in life, especially if you see wealth and comfort around you but you are not participating. If a father invests borrowed money then loses the family home, it can cause great anger to linger in a child’s heart. Financially comfortable parents may divorce and a child is then brought up in poverty by a single mum. A father could be a drinker and gambler, so robbing his kids of opportunities to live a normal childhood. In all these circumstances and many more, finance and money can become emotionally linked to anger, despair or rebellion.
Because of these circumstances, you may take on the opposite financial belief system just to prove to your parents that you are independent, or to to take away the pain of your past. You may try to create wealth to prove your manliness to your poor father, or to prove to your poor and emotionally defeated single mum that you are not going to repeat her failures. Or you may just want to create a wall of financial security to replace the abject poverty of your youth. However, because the creation of this wealth is linked to a negative belief system, it will never make you happy. It will never satisfy your subconscious need to release the anger, rebellion, fear or despair. In such examples money will not last, marriages will not last, happiness will not last.
The “I’ll show you” or “I’ve got to build wealth” or I’ll not grow old poor like my parents” or “I will get a career and not be a loser like mum” attitude is associated with negative emotion. Negative emotion and the need to get wealth and security are now directly linked in the minds of these people. Money equals anger. Success equals rebellion. Security equals fear. This is a very dangerous platform on which to create a future. If the roots are stunted, the tree will never produce much fruit. You will never have the level of success you crave. If it does arrive, it will be fleeting. It will evaporate under the scorching influence of those around you who perceive your weakness as a driven spirit. You will be ripped off again and again in business, in marriage, in relationships because you live in a mindset that says you were ripped off as a child. You will create what you believe about yourself because you treat the world in a similar fashion to how you fell inside. If you suffer from this condition you must release those who caused it. You must truly forgive them. This alone will set you free to become who you want to be.
THE FIVE QUESTIONAIRES
In order for you to clearly identify your financial blueprint I have devoted the rest of this chapter to a series of financial questionnaires that I have designed with the purpose of highlighting your values and thinking patterns. Consider them carefully. You may be a little upset with your answers compared to what you should be thinking. You may not know why you answer questions the way you do. These questions will go close to pinpointing your core philosophy on life as well as finance. When core beliefs are challenged in people there is usually a strong reaction based around self-justification. The questionnaires are designed to flush out such a reaction. If this is you then spend a few days mulling over your reactions. Ponder the cause and think about where they may have come from. The following essay will concentrate on how to change these negative or self-limiting mindsets. This essay will just concentrate on exposing them. None of these questionnaires are particularly scientific in design. They are simply here to get you to start thinking deeply about your past, your childhood, your beliefs and your future. If you can do that then I have achieved my goal.
Firstly we are going to look at financial beliefs. What you believe is the foundation of what you create with your life. Consider the following list of financial beliefs that parents typically hand down to their children. Tick each one if you believe it to be true, or if it was a part of your childhood experience:
- Money is the root of all evil
- The wealthy are greedy and stingy
- Successful people have squashed others to get to the top
- Money leads to parental fights and divorce
- Money is never discussed in this house, it is a “dirty” topic
- Hard work is the only noble way to make a living
- Money is scarce and hard to get. It doesn’t grow on trees!
- Poor people are more humble than rich people
- Financial risk is foolishness but paying off a mortgage is admirable
- Wealthy people are crass show-off’s with flashy cars and big houses
- Most wealthy people are takers, not givers. How else did they become rich?
- Working for money is good, putting money to work is scary
- Save your money for a rainy day because they always turn up eventually
- You can’t be rich and spiritual at the same time
- If I had more money I would be happy
- The rich get richer and the poor get poorer
- There is a lack of money in the world, it is limited and must be shared sparingly
- The rich are taking money from the poor
- Money is for spending and I spend most of mine
- Making money from the work of others is somehow cheating the system, you should be working for your money
There was a possibility of 20 agreements. The higher number of agreements you have, the higher the probability you will never become financially successful in life. Your values and thinking patterns are already financially negative, so even if you earn a large wage and have the cash-flow to spend in the here and now, you will be a spendthrift. Even if you entertain just a few of these beliefs, you will still seriously lower your financial cruising altitude. It is time for a major overhaul of your beliefs. Do a mental inventory of where these self-limiting beliefs came from and begin to cut yourself free from them. Then deliberately rewrite this list is the positive. Read it every day for a month so that it sinks in. Neural plasticity demonstrates that we can all re-wire our brains. It only takes a few months of deliberate training every day. But it will happen.
2. CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
This questionnaire is also designed to flush out the core financial values you adopted in childhood. However, this time I have structured the questions in a way so that you specifically concentrate on what was happening in your home in your childhood instead of what you now believe. Spend a few minutes thinking about each one to try to remember what actually happened in your home in the areas of financial language, modelling, experiences, emotions and values.
1. What was the language of money in your home?
2. Analyse the language used to describe money when you were growing up.
3. Was the language positive or negative.
4. Was money not talked about at all?
1. What example did your parents set with their finances in your home?
2. What were the spending patterns of your parents?
3. How did your parents handle financial decisions? Were they managed well or not?
4. Were your parent’s savers, spendthrifts, self-indulgent, or sacrificial.
5. Did they have difficulty in the area of banking and budgeting?
6. How did your parents handle financial stress?
1. What were some of the specific childhood financial experiences that have become part of your thinking?
2. Were there significant events in childhood that deeply affected your financial value system?
3. Was there a financial disaster that swept through your family in your formative years, for example, divorce or bankruptcy.
4. Did your parents get a financial windfall when you were young? What did they do with it?
1. What were the emotions surrounding the topic of money in your home while growing up?
2. Did the topic of money generate conflict, praise, admiration, scorn, fear, or ambition?
3. Did a fear of future lack invoke strong emotional reactions in your parents?
1. What were the values placed on poverty/wealth/property/investments/work in your home?
2. What did your parents really believe about where they belonged on the social ladder?
3. Did you parents subtly persuade you that working hard, not smart was your purpose?
4. Were your parent’s depression kids, baby boomers, or Gen x’ers? Each has a different blueprint.
5. What ideas can you see in yourself that are a repeat of your parent’s financial and economic values?
6.How did your parents judge the wealth or poverty of others
Once you have thought through your answers to these questions you will be in better a position to begin analysing your current life for the bottlenecks that could be holding you back right now from becoming financially successful. Go through this questionnaire with your best friend and have a good discussion about your younger years. Talking it through will help flush out many more memories from your childhood.
3: WINNERS AND LOSERS
This is another set of statements that will help you understand the values systems of those who will become financially successful and those who will not. Which side of the table do you find yourself?
|Values of those who financially struggle
|Values of those who financially succeed
|1. Life happens to me
|1. I create my own destiny
|2.I play the game in defensive mode
|2. I play the financial game in offensive mode
|3. Getting ahead in life can start tomorrow
|3. Getting ahead in life starts here and now
|4. I think small and dream small
|4. I think big and dream big
|5. I focus on obstacles
|5. I focus on opportunities
|6. I resent financially successful people
|6. I respect financially successful people
|7. I hang out with negative people
|7. I hang out with positive people
|8. I have little of value to offer the market
|8. I have much of value to offer the market
|9. My problems are bigger than me
|9. I am bigger than my problems
|10. I am uncomfortable receiving a lot
|10. I am comfortable receiving a lot
|11. I like to get paid based on time
|11. I like to get paid for results
|12. I have a win/lose attitude to situations
|12. I have a win/win attitude to situations
|13. I measure my finances using income
|13. I measure my finances by their net worth
|14. I spend my money and I borrow a lot
|14. I save my money well and borrow little
|15. I work hard for my money
|15. My money works hard for me
|16. My fear of failure stops me
|16. I usually act in spite of my fear
|17. I don’t need to learn about finances
|17. I am constantly learning more
|18. I don’t have a lot to give to others
|18. Generosity is one of my chief motivations
As you can clearly see now that you have read it, I have set this one up so that it will flush out any hint of a mediocre financial autopilot. How many answers fell on the right side of the list? This is where your answers should be if you are to move forward financially. If your answers fell mainly on the left side then you must do some serious re-arranging of your financial blueprint. Through whatever childhood experience you have come through, your internal world is one of lack. But don’t despair. The chapters that follow are designed to help you re-wire your mind into one that believes in a better future. Destiny follows belief.
4. SPENDING PATTERNS
This next questionnaire finally asks you some positive questions so you can start to see the types of thinking patterns you need to adopt if you are going to become a wealth accumulator instead of a wealth consumer.
1. Do you often visualise yourself achieving bigger dreams?
2. Do you save money most of the time?
3. Have you made any investments in the past, even if they were very small?
4. Do you shop around for bargains, especially for the big items?
5. Do you regularly maintain the things you own?
6. Do you try to stay away from credit as much as possible?
7. Do you look for near new rather than brand new for big -ticket items like cars?
8. Have you ever started your own business, regardless of the size?
9. Have you ever sat down to calculate how much you will need in your retirement years?
10. Do you add any of your own money to your retirement account?
11. Are your mortgage payments less than 20 per cent of your gross income?
12. Do you spend less than you earn?
13. Have you ever read a book on investment?
14. Do you resist the urge to buy brand-label retail goods?
The more yes answers means the more likely you are to be a wealth builder. The “no” answers need to be examined carefully. They tell you where you are being financially self-destructive. There is also an obvious hint to the structure of these questions isn’t there? If you found yourself making lots of “no” answers then the key to changing your future may just lay in re-reading the questions and changing your behaviour. Start immediately.
5: CHARACTER, ETHICS AND MONEY
This last questionnaire is very dark in its theme. It was originally created for use with my students. It is designed to look deep within your character and core value system and expose hidden weaknesses in those areas of your life that would indicate a high degree of selfishness. Only you know what goes on behind closed doors so answer these questions honestly.
1. Do you have a habit of taking things that don’t belong to you?
2. Have you ever taken things from work without permission?
3. Have you ever taken money from your boss without them knowing?
4. Have you spent money consistently on self-indulgence?
5. Do you constantly blow your money on junk food or eating out?
6. How often do you cheat on your taxes?
7. Have you ever been blatantly disloyal to your family in the area of finance?
8. Do you regularly criticise people behind their back who are doing well financially?
9. Do you consistently waste most of your free time?
11. Are you deliberately lazy around your home or with your money?
12. Have you ever let a team down through selfish behaviour?
13. Do you like to own lots of symbols of status?
14. Have you been sucked in by an advertising image and tried to copy it?
15. Are you stingy? How often do you give to charity?
16. Do you have a secret bank account?
So how did you go on this one? It is amazing what people will try to do if they know they can get away with it. Are you one of those people, or are you a person of good character and ethics? You see, we are all basically selfish and must be trained in childhood, or train ourselves later on with much greater effort, to rise above these animal instincts. If your head sagged at a number of these questions, then you have work to do. Begin the process today of making the significant changes needed to the values department of your life so that a better material printout will follow.
People seldom remember your toys and material status after you are gone, but everyone remembers your character and ethics. It is one of the great truths of life that people of good character usually do much better financially than those who are of poor character. People learn to trust them more and are consequently more willing to employ them, do business with them and work with them.
These questionnaires were not exhaustive or overly clever, but they do cover the three areas of values, thinking patterns and emotions that were in the grid mentioned above. They are simply designed to get you thinking about why you make the financial decisions you do, and to pinpoint your weaknesses that have held you back. Consider the following two ancient Jewish proverbs and their application to the five questionnaires you have just completed. After all, the Jews know a thing or two about money.
Wealth not earned, but won in haste or unjustly or from the production of things for vain or detrimental use will dwindle away. But he who gathers little by little will increase his riches.
He who loves pleasure will be a poor man. He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
These words were written 3,000 years ago and are as relevant today as ever. Do you have a poor mind? People with poor minds have been around for a long time. If you have a poor mind then you need to trade it in for a rich mind and this is what the next essay is all about. Motivation comes before all change. So the next essay, called “Getting Motivated” will go into a lot of detail on how to motivate yourself to make the major changes in your life needed to switch financial direction.
Now, please spend some quality time pondering your life up until this point. Delve into those corners of your heart that have created your destiny till today. Make some quality decisions. Promise yourself the future will be different. Record your thoughts and feelings, externalise them. You might not know how to get to there just yet, but if the will to make changes in your life kicks in, then circumstances will absolutely follow.