What If Scrooge Was Right?
The character Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t get much love. Charles Dickens described him so meanly in A Christmas Carol that his name has become synonymous with miserliness. But does Scrooge get a bad rap? If you had to pick a character in the story to swap net worths with, Scrooge would win. Sure, he lacked interpersonal skills, but wasn’t he good with his money?
No, Scrooge was not good with money. In fact, his finances were just as dysfunctional as his other relationships. As financial planners, we’re trained to listen for people’s unstated “money scripts” — in other words, the underlying beliefs that shape the way we interact with money. These beliefs are typically strong, but they’re rarely examined.
Scrooge’s money scripts run deep. His relationships with others are prickly precisely because these money scripts took over his entire life. Which of these scripts have you found yourself thinking or acting on?
1. “You can never have enough money.”
The billionaire John D. Rockefeller was once asked, “How much money is enough?” His answer was, “Just a little bit more.” Scrooge isn’t the last workaholic to sacrifice family or physical health to achieve the next financial milestone.
2. “Money would solve all my problems.”
The young Scrooge’s sweetheart warns him, “I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off, one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you.” Many still believe in their hearts that lack of money is what’s wrong in their life. A wise man once told me, “There are problems money can solve, and then there are real problems.” The richest people I know not only have problems; their problems are more complicated.
3. “Poor people do not deserve to have money.”
This script is not often stated explicitly in the same way Scrooge does, but it’s still very common. Some people believe others are poor because they are lazy. Get out there and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, right?! Of course, the corollary of this belief that rich people deserve their money.
4. “Money should be saved, not spent.”
Scrooge famously wouldn’t allow his employees enough coal to keep themselves warm. I’m all about living within your means, but that is different than not being able to spend the money you have. Scrooge’s financial insecurities spoiled all of his closest relationships.
It’s easy to pick on ol’ Ebenezer, but there is also the danger of swinging too far in the opposite direction as well. A number of dangerous money scripts can arise as a reaction to having someone like Scrooge in your life:
- “All rich people are greedy.”
- “Rich people are only that way because they take advantage of others.”
- “Money corrupts everything.”
- “Good people shouldn’t care about money.”
Taking any of these scripts to heart and acting on them can be just as ruinous to relationships as Scrooge!
Understanding your money scripts is the most important step to improving your own relationship with money. Pay attention to strong emotions you have surrounding financial decisions or people you perceive as rich or poor. Are the things you believe about money always true?
If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge: 5 Principles to Transform Your Relationship with Money. Better yet, partner with a financial expert who can help you work through your own personal money scripts.< Back to Updates