When people ask me about money, I always preface the conversation with two points:
Firstly, I can not give you personalised financial advice under NZ laws and regulations. That's the boring bit. While I have over 15 years of experience as a personal finance writer and commentator, I am not an authorised financial adviser. I never wanted to be. Too many other interests you see.
The second bit is more thought-provoking naturally, and it comes in the form of a question.
I'll ask: "What is your story then?"
By that, I don't mean how much you owe, where did you go wrong or please tell me your life story.
The question cuts to the heart of all things money, and it has to do with the story that people tell themselves about money.
Here are some examples, some of which may resonate:
"I've never been good with money."
"I'm uncomfortable with money."
"Money is the root of evil."
"I just can't seem to get ahead with money."
Or my all-time favourite:"
Anyway, money doesn't make you happy."
No, it sure won't do that, but the things you can do with money sure will help. i.e.
Buying a home so you don't have to pay rent for the rest of your life.
Having enough money to go on a holiday when you want.
Not having to work at a job you hate for the rest of your life. Being able to buy the odd nicety for yourself or someone you like or love. So yep, money in and of itself won't buy your happiness. Still, money will afford you some nice pleasures that make life more enjoyable and comfortable.
So the starting point in this conversation is really: "What is your money story?"
You can then table your conscious and later your unconscious tendencies and habits about money, which will undoubtedly reveal a lot about your current position.
You can gain some insight and understanding and start to build a new story and actionable plan with money.
Let's get one thing straight here. While you may be born with blue eyes, you aren't born "bad at" or "naturally good with" money.
This is definitely taught, learned, socialised or conditioned, and it all starts with the story.
So, if your money story is nasty, dull, boring or a nightmare, you will need to rewrite the programme.
I'm not promising that's going to be easy, especially if you've been selling/telling yourself a bad story for a long time, and entrenching a tonne of bad habits on the back of that.
But as long as you keep telling yourself a negative story about money and your relationship with it, things aren't likely to change.
So: "What is Your Story?"
Why not make it a fabulous one.
Amanda Morrall is a New Zealand based personal finance expert. Her first book Money Matters was published in 2013 by Penguin Random House in NZ.