Money Shame: Our Money Problems – TED

Let’s Get Honest About Our Money Problems

Before we start with the money shaming, let’s take a look at a devastating statistic. Since 1999, the suicide rate among 40- to 64-year-olds in the United States has increased by almost 40%. Personal finance problems, such as unemployment, bankruptcy or mortgage foreclosures, played a role in some 40% of the deaths.

When financial coach Tammy Lally lost her brother to suicide, she began to explore her own complicity in the money shaming that contributed to his death. Lally’s own money shame eventually prompted her to unveil the uncomfortable cultural truths regarding financial problems and the cycle of emotional harm they produce.


“Our self-destructive and self-defeating financial behaviours are not driven by our rational, logical minds. Instead, they are a product of our subconscious belief systems rooted in our childhoods and so deeply ingrained in us [that] they shape the way we deal with money our entire adult lives.” 

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Despite their best efforts to rein in their spending, many people with financial problems conclude that they are merely lazy or careless with money. In fact, familial patterns of money shame ingrained from childhood create subconscious beliefs that dictate adult relationships and interactions with money. Individuals’ financial upbringing subverts their conscious understanding of appropriate financial behaviours, positioning them in the middle of a “money-shame cycle.” 

Money shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. But these feeling were based on our bank account balances, our debts, our homes, our cars and our job titles. When individuals allow their bank balances to define their self-worth, no amount is ever good enough, so money itself doesn’t eliminate money shame.


Symptoms of money shame

Victims of money shame always appear to be flush with cash. They always pick up the check, but they live beyond their means and are stuck on the hedonic treadmill of chronic not-enoughness. Many sufferers try to numb their money shame through shopping, overeating or substance abuse.

“Debt is the tangible manifestation of not forgiving. If you have debt, you’ve not completely forgiven your past, so it’s our work to forgive ourselves and others so that we can live freely.”

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Society needs to break the taboo surrounding money shame and start talking about this infliction. To conquer money shame, surrender yourself to the pain of your money story, finding faith in a better financial future, and forgiving yourself and others. By letting go, you can begin to recover from debt – the “tangible manifestation of not forgiving” your past.


Recovery takes work. Analyze what you spend your money on and why. This exercise will help you uncover what you truly value. Scrutinize your “money autobiography” and trace your current financial behaviours back to their root causes in your history. Recall your earliest memories of money. What did you do with it? How did others treat you during those interactions? What was your parents’ attitude toward money, and how did that affect your attitude? Then let go of your past, and break free from your own money-shame cycle.

Get started on your personal finance journey by reading the following book’s summary and reading notes:


Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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