Don't let your emotions affect your finances

February 25, 2012

Income alone doesn't mean financial success, especially if emotional investing is clouding your judgment.

A recent book, Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health, (New York: Crown Publishing Group) addresses this question in a way that is meaningful for medical professionals. Written by the father-and-son team of Ted Klontz, PhD, and Brad Klontz, PsyD, CSAC, the book features considerable research and includes both clinical and personal insights, as well as a detailed bibliography.

The authors' premise is simple: Financial issues are clouded by psychology. They cite American Psychological Association surveys showing that Americans rate money as life's number one stressor-higher than work, health, or children. Some research suggests that money disorders may be more prevalent than anxiety or depression.

In response, the Klontzes identify 12 common disorders associated with money and wealth. The disorders fall into three broad categories: Money worship, money-avoidance, and relational disorders. Many of the specific disorders, such as hoarding, dependency, enabling, denial, and rejection, will be familiar to physicians, either in their own lives or among their patients. Here are some examples:

The symptoms are easy to spot. They include constant financial anxiety or despair, a lack of family savings or excessive debt, multiple bankruptcies or defaults on loans, and financial conflicts with family or friends. Again, it's not an occasional bout with these issues, but long-term, recurring, and unresolved problems that signal a disorder.

All of us exhibit some of these behaviors some of the time. Everyone occasionally helps family members or keeps a collection of silver spoons in the kitchen. Those behaviors don't rise to the level of genuine disorder until they sabotage other family finances.

The daunting challenge with any disorder is a pattern of continuing behavior. Without intervention-either personal or clinical-destructive patterns such as these rarely stop on their own. It's that over-and-over-again cycle that wreaks havoc.

Fortunately, exercises and other techniques are available to address problem areas. Obviously, dramatic cases might require clinical intervention, but some forms of self-treatment can be effective as well. A growing number of financial and mental health professionals train or research in this field. The Financial Therapy Association ( http://www.financialtherapyassociation.org) and the Financial Therapy Journal offer leading-edge research and knowledge.

It's important to know that a healthy emotional and psychological relationship with money is critical to doctors and their families and an important component of overall wellness.

The author is principal/chief executive officer of Family Investment Center, an investment advisery firm in St. Joseph, Missouri. The ideas expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent the views of Medical Economics. If you have a comment or a topic you would like to see covered here, please e-mail medec@advanstar.comAlso engage at http://www.twitter.com/MedEconomics and http://www.facebook.com/MedicalEconomics.

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