Money Denial: Pretending Money Doesn’t Exist

Money DenialPiles of bank statements, credit card statements, and bills are stacked in the kitchen, on the counter next to the telephone. They’re filed archaeologically: newest on top and oldest on the bottom.

They’re the sign of a true money denier: someone who is terrified of opening statements … and who deals with her money by pretending it doesn’t exist. Rather than face reality, she’d rather stick her head in the sand.

Money Denial is one of the twelve classic money behaviors. Of the three general categories these behaviors fall under (pushing money away, pulling it towards you, and using it to mess up relationships), this is in the first category. A woman’s denial of money affects every financial decision she makes. In most cases, dredges up memories of painful incidents or negative emotions, often from as far back as her childhood.

Where Does This Money Denial Come From?

Using denial as the modus operandi for dealing with finances can result from a woman receiving mixed messages about money from her parents. Each parent may have treated it differently. In that case, that could have been the topic of heated arguments between her parents, turning it into something to be feared.

Her parents may have had an unstable relationship with money themselves, see-sawing between exorbitant spending and moments of financial panic when the bills arrived. How’s a kid to understand that? Rather than try to figure it out, it’s easier to tune it out.

She may have shown some interest in money at one point as a child, but was told that it was none of her business. In her childish perception, it became something nasty or evil, definitely taboo.

If by chance her parents actually had a healthy relationship with money, they still may never have given her any real training in how to handle finances before she left home. As a result, she was at a loss in the real world. Or she might have been shamed during some incident regarding money. In any case, one way to lower anxiety levels is to decide that money isn’t important and to disregard it completely.

What Role Does Prince Charming Play?

Many deniers had fathers who withheld emotions or mothers who promoted the Prince Charming rescue myth—or perhaps both. Financial and emotional needs will have gotten confused and they’re still waiting for the rescue that represents both money and love.

This denier’s greatest fear is that, if she takes care of herself financially, a potential rescuer will think she’s fulfilled both financially and emotionally … and she’ll never find her prince. So denial becomes a form of self-sabotage.

She could have a good income, have dreams of success, and work very hard to fulfill those dreams—but there’s rarely any money left at the end of the month. Regardless of the reason for such denial, she’ll likely be one to go on spending binges or rack up huge credit card bills. Especially if she’s one who has fallen for the Prince Charming tale, she’s sure someone will eventually come and save her. And if she were to plan for retirement, that would be the ultimate admission that she might actually end up alone. Surely she can find a rescuer before then …

Telltale Signs of a Money Denier

The most telling trait of a money ostrich is that her financial story is always told in the present tense: the future is nonexistent. She may be working and earning a good living, but she’s never been able to create a lifetime financial plan. She uses her money myopia to neutralize any fears brought on whenever she’s forced to think of her financial future.

A denier may take an occasional brash action out of necessity, but it’s unlikely she will have thought the transaction through. And in her blindness, she will not have considered all the financial consequences. Then when things go wrong, she gets angry and feels cheated. And once again she has confirmation that money is bad … and is best left ignored.

If she’s part of a couple, silence reigns when it comes to discussing money issues with her mate. In fact, silence reigns in virtually every area of her life that touches on money. For example, she’ll complain about how much she earns, yet would never enter into the discussion required to ask for a raise. In the job interviewing process, when it comes time to negotiate her salary, again she’s mute. In short, she’ll either accept what’s offered or simply not accept the position.

Where Money Denial Leads

Needless to say, none of these behaviors are conducive to accumulating savings, much less accumulating wealth. The need to avoid thinking about money is that great.

The more financial trouble a denier gets into, the more she’ll hide from reality and the better she’ll get at rationalizing her behavior. The shame of it is that she’ll tend to end up with more late fees and higher interest rates on credit cards, thereby compounding her financial problems. She’ll fall deeper and deeper into debt and—unless the brakes are somehow put on this cycle—the story rarely ends well.

Note: This is the first of a series of twelve articles, identifying each of the classic money behaviors that trip women up and keep them from controlling their money … and their life. If parts of this behavior feel familiar, be sure to stay connected with me on Facebook so you can continue on this exploration.

And let us know in the Comments section below if this information helped you understand some “inexplicable” money behaviors you might have.

  • Sharon, your articles shed brilliant light into the dark corners of rooms many of us wish we didn’t have to look into… and you remove the fear and provide simple tools that are like steps we can all climb together on to get over the top of our money phobias! I’m very grateful to you and very much looking forward to your upcoming book!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Susan. Book’s done, just going through the publishing steps now!

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  • Anonymous

    Sharon, You bring to light the “limiting beliefs” surrounding money that we receive in childhood and the impact they have on us in our adult lives. While my work focuses on inspiring and helping parents avoid passing them on to their children, you have brilliantly offered valuable advice to recognize and release these negative and crippling beliefs in adulthood. Well Done! Thank you for sharing your insights…they will help so many people.

    • Anonymous

      Denny, my upcoming book “Money after Menopause” is all about the imprinting on our brains as children: how those imprints or messages impact us throughout our lives (unless cleaned out) and make it very difficult to control our money. I go through an entire system that includes how to release them. As I go through the other 11 behaviors, you’ll see just how critical good parenting–your focus–is!

    • Anonymous

      Denny, my upcoming book “Money after Menopause” is all about the imprinting on our brains as children: how those imprints or messages impact us throughout our lives (unless cleaned out) and make it very difficult to control our money. I go through an entire system that includes how to release them. As I go through the other 11 behaviors, you’ll see just how critical good parenting–your focus–is!

    • Anonymous

      Denny, my upcoming book “Money after Menopause” is all about the imprinting on our brains as children: how those imprints or messages impact us throughout our lives (unless cleaned out) and make it very difficult to control our money. I go through an entire system that includes how to release them. As I go through the other 11 behaviors, you’ll see just how critical good parenting–your focus–is!

    • Anonymous

      Denny, my upcoming book “Money after Menopause” is all about the imprinting on our brains as children: how those imprints or messages impact us throughout our lives (unless cleaned out) and make it very difficult to control our money. I go through an entire system that includes how to release them. As I go through the other 11 behaviors, you’ll see just how critical good parenting–your focus–is!

  • If this is a sneak peek, I can’t wait to read your book!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right on, Amity. It IS a sneak peak … from the chapter on “money gremlins” … those insidious little memories that have been hanging out in our brains since childhood, affecting our behavior with money negatively … yet are SO easy to get rid of!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right on, Amity. It IS a sneak peak … from the chapter on “money gremlins” … those insidious little memories that have been hanging out in our brains since childhood, affecting our behavior with money negatively … yet are SO easy to get rid of!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right on, Amity. It IS a sneak peak … from the chapter on “money gremlins” … those insidious little memories that have been hanging out in our brains since childhood, affecting our behavior with money negatively … yet are SO easy to get rid of!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right on, Amity. It IS a sneak peak … from the chapter on “money gremlins” … those insidious little memories that have been hanging out in our brains since childhood, affecting our behavior with money negatively … yet are SO easy to get rid of!

  • This message is not limited to the U.S. soil. It will benefit women of all ages, color, nation, beliefs etc. Get ready, Sharon, for a book tour and talk round the globe.

    • Anonymous

      I realize the broad scope, Claudia, with just some cultural tweaks to make it perfectly applicable. The problem is certainly not limited to the U.S., but let’s get this launched here first! 😉

  • Carol Giambri

    Article sure hits home: He thinks he has prepared for hard times. HA. Denial. You described the “silent couple” here but he is self employed, dormant for 6 months with seasonal business and comfortable without having any work or money (other than from government because of age only. My brain is locked into “higher” so I am doing that so he too can benefit once I see the fruits of my faith and efforts.

    • Anonymous

      Focus on what your brain (and your heart) tell you, Carol. We all came into this life alone and we’ll all leave alone. That we share the bits and pieces in between is wonderful, but everything is based on individual responsibility. For example, I can’t take care of anyone else until I first take care of myself. It’s a tough lesson for women, but a critical one! And actually the most loving one there is …

  • Thanks for sharing more of your financial wisdom, Sharon. Looking forward to the rest of this series… and the book!

    • Anonymous

      It’s there for sharing, Mari Ann, and I’m anxious to share the rest. There’s so much pain caused by not understanding money and taking control of our own futures!

  • Super excited about your book, Sharon!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Rachelle, me too! I’m pedaling as fast as I can to get it published!

  • Super excited about your book, Sharon!

  • Fascinating! Money was always a bit of a taboo subject in our house growing up (except the constant reminders that there was never enough). I can’t wait to read the rest of your series!

    • Anonymous

      Victoria, that’s part of the reason we have so many “money gremlins,” as I call them … things that affect how we make decisions about money. So many could have been cleared ages ago if the topic weren’t so taboo!

  • Going to enjoy this series, never want my money to control me – but for me to control my money!

    • Yay, Elvie, you ARE over here reading! I read your blog post and was hoping I could get you to read this series to start figuring out why saying “no” is so difficult for you … although I think you have a hint!

  • Really insightful in understanding money deniers. Thanks – great post!

    • Anonymous

      Elvie, you might want to opt in on my site (here at http://sharonoday.com) so you get each of the 12 posts in your inbox, instead of having to remember to come back and look for the next one!

  • Carol Giambri

    Sharon, I grew up believing from my background Prince Charming would take care of me forever. However since Prince Charming is still here, but not seeing his concept around money to line up with my present thinking, I am now stepping up to the plate. As I “continue” to mature in age, I realize I have to make my own, stand on my own two feet and gladly share with the Prince all he desires. It’s a new shift to me but since I am finally unstuck after several decades my mind is more creative and more alive than ever before with knowing “I can” or who will? I am no longer comfortable just getting by and surviving.

    • Anonymous

      Carol, I’m thrilled that you’ve taken the reins on your own well-being. In the end we’re each responsible for ourselves, and then we can take care of others. Even if that’s not what we were told … And as for holding on to the Prince Charming myth, the message that was planted was so strong (and appealing!) … I see women every day who in their 50s finally realize that he’s still distorting their financial thinking. I look forward to watching you thrive!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this great information Sharon. I believe I am a recovering money denier. Some of this information really hits home. But now I have become more aware of my relationship and beliefs about money. I am working on improving those and setting the right example for my daughter. I look forward to the rest of the articles in this series and your book. Although I am not close to menopause, this information is very valuable for me as well.

    • Anonymous

      I’m thrilled that you’re teaching your daughter early, so she doesn’t have to “un-do” anything like the rest of us do! The reason I’ve focused on menopause is that once women are in their 50s, they realize how little they’ve done to prepare for later years, and need the most help in a hurry. But nothing I write about doesn’t pertain to women of all ages and, truth be told, to all men as well! Glad it’s being helpful to you!

  • Beauhen

    Psychology is really at the core of money issues. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

    • Anonymous

      Beau, this is just one of 12 articles, and I’m getting so much reaction to them. Hopefully just the awareness is enough to start the “healing” process for many. And the rest you and I can help by guiding through the process of understanding where the beliefs come from and how to release them!

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  • Worldwater2

    Sharon, this is my story. I don’t want to blame my parents, but how do I get out of this rut. I want to build wealth. I want to talk about money. I want to understand and be able to describe my financial picture accurately. I am full of denial. Only when back-breaking episodes occurs do I come out of my shell to immediately correct months and months of mistakes. This type of behavior is very shameful and disheartening as I compare them to successful women who don’t live in “the egg of denial”. Is there any books etc you can suggest that can help me break the chains of denial. PLEASE PLEASE.

    • Worldwater2, I hope you’ll read today’s post and take advantage of my gift of open access to my upcoming virtual workshop.  http://sharonoday.com/women-money-responsibility/  I’d love to see you there, and think it could guide you past a lot of the resistance you wrote about several months ago! And, BTW, it’s not a matter of “blaming” our parents. It’s about accepting what’s your “here and now” and fixing it!

  • Susan Kim

    Maybe too many women love the song, “Tomorrow”, from the musical Annie.  I know have several friends that would toss overdue bills (including mortgage statements) and say they would deal with them tomorrow. And of course, the next day/week/month– would say the same thing– Tomorrow.

  • Heather Cameron

    Great post. I look forward to see the other money behaviours.

  • Meryl Beck

    Great post. Money can be such a problem for so many people. It takes many a long time to come to terms with their finances and what they need to face in order to correct the problem. Such a hard topic in so many household around the globe. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Whether finances are easy or hard depends so much on how we’re introduced to them, Meryl. It drives me crazy that this dialog didn’t start generations ago!

  • Scott Glaze

    Great information! I have kids and am more aware of what I teach them in regards to finance after reading your posts. This prince charming is hoping to set a good example for his little ones.

    • Glad I can offer something now that will help your kids with their finances in the long run, Scott. It sure beats them having to work things out later!

  • Alexandra McAllister

    Oh, Sharon, I used to do that….pretend the bills didn’t exist and let them pile up! Funny thing, they’d never go away! LOL! I love your approach. Every time I read one of your articles, I learn something important that helps me with my financial planning. Thank you for telling it like it is!

    • The reason I thought I’d go through all 12 “behaviors,” Alexandra, is that we’ll all see a little of ourselves in more than one. And becoming aware certainly helps if the behavior still needs correcting. Glad you’ve already conquered that one!

  • This is a great article! And I loved the phrase “filed archeologically” – that’s great! Hehe. Yet so true sometimes. It was a turning point for me to look at money as something I have a relationship with – psyche and all. It’s not just a possession. Thanks for sharing this post!

    • I’ve used that expression when talking about my work desk, when research for projects piled up … archeologically … so I figured it made sense in this context too!

  • Maggie DeGennaro

    Love your great information Sharon.

  • Amanda James

    This is very interesting. I personally would not be able to deal with this because I like taking care of everything right away and this would stress me out. It’s important for many women to stop dreaming and start taking care of themselves and their future without depending on a fairy tale.

    • Yours is a really healthy behavior — of taking care of things right away — and you’re fortunate that it was instilled in you by parents, teachers, or whoever you modeled growing up. Unfortunately, Amanda, some women are fed far less healthy messages by their childhood authority figures. The good news is that they can still turn things around …

  • Nate Leung

    You know being a money denier is a bad thing. It’s not good to perceive money in this light. Thankfully, I’ve never been in this situation. But I can see many that do. Thanks for the great post!

    • You’re welcome, Nate. I’m glad to hear this is not a pattern for you. You must have had good role models. If that’s the case, be sure to thank them one day. 😉

  • Ashley

    Very informational, I look forward to the rest of the series!

    • Thanks, Ashley, the rest of the series is on its way!

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  • Great post once again, I think we are good at denial in one shape or another and at one point in time in our life’s especially when it come to finances… Thanks for the great pointers. Always making us think Sharon.

    • We certainly do all deny “something,” Carly. And you’re right, in many cases it is related to finances …

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  • Veronica Solomon

    Great information Sharon. Being a money denier never leads to a good place.

  • Tina Ashburn

    I can hardly wait to read the other 11 articles. This is very important information and I love the way you are presenting it.

    • The other 11 articles are on their way, Tina, week-by-week!

  • Born Unique

    I’m excited about reading about some of the other classic money behaviors. I don’t identify with the denier, but I know that I’ve got some issues to address. Following and waiting to learn more. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • We all have a little of more than one behavior, Rhonda, so do look out for the rest of the series!

  • Tania Rodgers

    Great article Sharon can’t wait to read the next one about money this really makes you understand about money

    • I’m glad this is useful for you, Tania! When I first started researching this topic about 10 years ago, I was fascinated to see little pieces of me in several of them. So, yes, we’re a little bit of a patchwork quilt when it comes to money behaviors that might be tripping us up!

  • Carele Belanger

    This is great Sharon. We were raised with a lot of limited belief about money. A good chance now a put them away.

    • It’s never too late to change ANY behavior, Carele. And when it comes to unhealthy money beliefs, I know for a fact that they can be reversed. Awareness alone is a great start!

  • Norma Doiron

    Oh my, Sharon. This is awesome information! I could totally see myself and happily some of them are in the past. Getting better at it… where were you 20 years ago? 🙂

  • Pat Moon

    I’m reading this article just as we are having to have a new pump put in our well.. so thankful we have been putting money into an emergency fund. Water is necessary so this is a true emergency.

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