Several years ago, I sat in my fancy condominium, with its cathedral ceilings and skylights, and watched my frozen breath. It'd been months since my heat pump had broken—for the third time. Months during which I couldn't find the thousands of dollars I needed to replace it, months of space heaters and warm sweaters that kept the bitter cold at bay, but not the shame.
Today, on paper, my finances look better. I sold the condo and I'm slowly paying off my debts. But the truth is, I've had to work through my love-hate relationship with money. And I know I'm not alone. My friend Robert recently had to take out a second mortgage on his house because he'd "forgotten" to pay estimated taxes on a new home business. Claire runs up huge credit-card charges every month, then struggles to pay the minimum. Betty consistently spends $500 more a month than she brings in, but recently managed to get a loan to buy a new car with a sunroof. "It'll be all right," she tells me. "I'll figure something out."
It's All in Your Head
What's going on here? Popular mainstream author and financial advisor Suze Orman would say money problems are literally in our head. "The road to financial freedom begins not in a bank or even in a financial planner's office," she writes in The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom. "It begins with our thoughts. And those thoughts, more often than not, stem from our seemingly forgotten past with money."1