Money Gremlins: 21 Beliefs That Could Be Messing With Your Money

Money Gremlins - © WONG SZE FEI - Fotolia.comGremlins.

We’ve all got them.

They’re the beliefs we’ve accumulated around money that mess with how we handle it. Most were absorbed unknowingly from how we heard and saw our parents (and other authority figures) react to situations involving money.

And I recently wrote a series of articles about those beliefs that fall into the general grouping of “those behaviors that push money away.” (The other two groupings are “those behaviors that pull money towards us” and “those behaviors that affect how we relate to the people around us.”)

So how do we know if we have any?

A List of Beliefs

Well, here’s a list of beliefs, or money gremlins. Maybe you could print it out. Then read through them thoughtfully and circle the ones that feel familiar. If something feels familiar, as if you might believe it, it could be one of your money gremlins.

  • Money corrupts.
  • Money is evil.
  • I don’t deserve to have money.
  • I shouldn’t make more money than my father (or mother).
  • People who have money are “bad” and people who are poor are “good.”
  • Most rich people got their money illegally or through inheritance, and didn’t do anything to deserve it.
  • Money destroys all worthwhile relationships.
  • If I mix money with my passion, it will taint that passion.
  • I shouldn’t spend money on myself; it’s selfish or extravagant, or both.
  • It’s not Christian (or another religious group) to care about money.
  • If I have lots of money, I’ll be just like those other rich people I don’t like.
  • You have to choose between love and money; you can’t have both.
  • If I have money, I won’t know if someone loves me for myself or for my money.
  • Money from an inheritance or insurance shouldn’t be enjoyed because it’s like blood money.
  • If I live life by the rules, I don’t have to worry about money.
  • It’s virtuous to live on very little.
  • I shouldn’t have any more money than what I really need.
  • I can’t trust anyone with my money.
  • My net worth is a reflection of my self worth.
  • All forms of investment today are somehow a scam.
  • Any money I didn’t earn isn’t really mine.

If any of those statements resonate with you, you could be dealing with one of the many forms of money avoidance, as defined by Brad Klontz, Psy.D., and Ted Klontz, Ph.D., in their book Mind Over Money. This is where dealing with money is avoided on a regular basis by ignoring it, pushing it away, not spending it and assigning an unhealthy fear of risk to it.

More Information on Those Beliefs

To understand those beliefs better, you might want to read one or more of my recent articles on avoiding money:

It’s easy to identify behaviors for your friends and enemies, or loves and ex-loves, because you’re using your conscious mind—free of emotion—to make your evaluations.

Finding your own behaviors will be a bit more challenging because they’ve operated automatically and unconsciously for so long. What will really help is if you can turn off the little critical voice in your head, the one that tends to blame you for absolutely anything that isn’t perfect. Pretend you’re able to step outside of yourself, as if you’re looking in matter-of-factly. Without judgment or criticism.

Other Possible Money Gremlins

And in case you find very few of those beliefs that resonate with you, don’t worry. You might find some in the other two general groupings of behaviors I’ll be presenting soon. These include:

o Worshiping Money, or Praying at the Altar of the Almighty Dollar, where materialism feeds an obsession over spending or accumulating money—or possessions—and, in turn, can result in hoarding, becoming a workaholic, taking too much risk, and spending excessively.

o Mixing Money and Relationships, or Who Used Money to Do What to Whom?, where relationships are affected by the use of money as a tool that builds distrust, results in unhealthy boundaries, and fosters the two sides of the same coin: the enabler and the enabled.

Let us know in the Comments section below if the list of beliefs helped you identify any belief you have about money that you never gave much thought to.


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial  peace of mind.

  • Regina Bright

    Great post Sharon!

  • Very interesting read for me Sharon. I actually have several chapters in my memoir that relate to me and money. From a young age, I had a fascination with it and an early memory of a childhood friend had me at 5, sitting on my bed counting my pennies the first time her and I met. I have worked with and through many of the issues and of all of the points in your article, it might be this real desire from an early age to have lots of money and to be able to share it with others I saw who needed help…like my parents. Thanks for this one, I imagine for all of us there are different trigger points around money. As adults we have an opportunity to transform them.

    • Absolutely, Beverley. My ultimate goal is to increase awareness so we are able to look at where our behaviors come from, especially if they are a hindrance instead of a help. That “opportunity to transform them” you mention is one of the great joys of adulthood!

  • Diane Bester

    Sharon, I can relate to this article of yours, because I was raised to believe that money was bad, yet we never seemed to have enough of it. I became obsessed about being poor, and I let that carry through my life, always having a plan B and making sure that money wasn’t the most important thing in my life. As I became more spiritual in my life, that all fell away. I focus on the hereafter and the temporary life we have here and money is just what it is, or isn’t.

    • Thanks, Diane, for sharing that with us. I find that sharing is easy when we remove all judgment from how we handle (or handled) money. And there’s no reason for judgment of what we learned from our authority figures as children. We had no choice at the time. But we do have a choice as adults to find healthier ways to deal with things … 😉

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  • kungphoo

    Wow, it’s amazing how many money gremlins there are out there. Great article and thank you for pointing them out to us!

    • The things we hear and see are so varied, Rob, that the impact on each of us can look very different. That’s why there seem to be so many. But the difference is important or we won’t resonate with it. And that’s the entry door back to recognizing where the related behavior comes from …

  • Nate Leung

    I believe that many people have a belief about money like you said. Some are afraid to make sales and that’s why they have a problem with accepting money into their life. It’s a shame because most of us have been told that money is evil but at the same time, not many have shared why it is. Lol.

    • It really is a conversation that has not been prevalent in our culture … and probably not in others either, Nate. And it DOES have a tremendous impact on how we behave around money. Thanks for being a steady reader!

  • Alexandra McAllister

    OMGoodness! I could relate to many of the “gremlins.” I was raised by my grandparents and money was scarce. If I wanted a treat, I’d have to go in the lane, pick up bottles and bring them to the corner store…then use the money for a drink or candy. There was no “allowance” in my day. If we wanted something, we had to work for it….baby sitting, walking dogs etc. It’s good, now that I am an adult, I can understand the relationship I have with money and why.

    • How great that you can go back and look so candidly at how you were raised, Alexandra, and how it might have affected you. I believe that is one of the skills that help us through difficult times, as we understand (and appreciate!) our real strengths and weaknesses. It’s harder to sustain–and rebuild–without that solid foundation!

  • Roz

    Interesting to explore the conversations we have about money and where they come from. I had one that almost kept me from creating a different business and it was: I don’t need to be paid for my services. I can help them for free. Now I have a product and if it is what you want, there is a price tag. Took me awhile to get to this space. Great list.

    • That conversation is one that many of us have, Roz. Especially when we’re “selling” something that we know so well and think of as easy. As for the product you mention … beautiful and worth every penny! 😉

  • Yvonne

    You gracefully tackle this difficult subject! Great list!

    • Thanks, Yvonne. Gracefully? My ability to tackle it “comfortably” is by removing all judgment. We are the product of our early experiences … and most of us don’t realize to what extent. Especially around money!

  • Pat Moon

    I can relate to several on your list as I grew up with the idea that rich people lived just for money.. basically that money was evil. Yet I wanted to have money, mainly because I wanted things and wanted to do things that cost money. When I really get to my beliefs, I probably did not go to college and further my education because of the scarcity of money. I have come to realize that rich people are really great people and now I actually have more respect for people who are wealthy than I do for poor people because now I believe that many poor people are there because that was the easy way. I also believe that often being poor breeds an entitlement mentality. That’s a whole other topic! Great article. Thanks. You always make me think and evaluate my own thinking.

    • That’s my goal, Pat! To help my readers and clients look at their money behaviors differently. Once you look at what you experienced, you’re able to be sure it’s not affecting you negatively today. It all starts with awareness, and I honor how willing you are to look at things honestly and directly!

  • Gina Stroud Binder

    This is a very helpful list, Sharon. I don’t think many of us recognize how our beliefs shape our relationsip with money.

    • It’s something rarely discussed, Gina. That’s why I was fascinated when I did my own personal work around money and understood how powerful (and disruptive!) those beliefs can be. Yet how easy they are to release …

  • fredmcmurray

    Gremlins should be eaten with light pasta and red sauce…mushrooms optional

  • rochefel

    I think mine is this… “If I mix money with my passion, it will taint that passion.” I will be waiting for your next post and see what is really my gremlins 🙂

    • If you resonate with something, Rochefel, look back and see where you think that belief came from. Which parent? Which events? Dig in and feel the emotions felt at that time. Then, where in your life could the belief be messing with your financial decisions? If you accept that money has no intrinsic power other than that which we give it, realize that only you can let it affect your passion. And as an adult, you have the ability to let that go!

  • Lynn O’Connell

    Thinking I fall into one of the other categories.

    • Not surprising, Lynn. Don’t I remember that your parents are accountants? They’re usually pretty realistic and grounded around the role of money … lucky you! 😉

  • Susan Schiller

    Well…. ah… I guess I’ve still got gremlins trolling the waters of my mind… My biggest one is you can’t mix money with passion, or what I would call “ministry”. That’s probably the strongest one, the one that feels passionately close to my heart, the one that rings truest. I’ve witnessed so much abuse in ministries when it comes to handling money. I’m going to have dig deep into this one… I mean, really deep!

    • So, Sue, I ask a question. Was it the innate fault of the money? Or of the passion itself? Or was it the fault of the people involved–and perhaps their abuse of power or access?

      • Susan Schiller

        I’ll send a private msg….

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  • Diana Foree

    We need to stop listening to all the negative thoughts on money. It’s up to you to take control of your finances and be responsible. Stop blaming your money problems on everyone else. Use it wisely and enjoy your prosperity.

    • Diana, many women aren’t even aware that they’re “listening to all the negative thoughts on money.” It’s what they were taught about money. As soon as they’re aware of that fact–and the impact on their behaviors–they can change the beliefs and behaviors. In the interim, many are simply functioning on autopilot …

  • Powerful words Sharon! Thank you for gently, but firmly calling us out to grow, reach, and believe better about money. Here’s to changing our money futures one step at a time!

    • Marvia, the misperceptions so many women carry forward–whether from messages growing up or stereotypes in advertising yet today–are needlessly disempowering. Yet there’s no mystery about money; we all have it in us to control it and flourish. Some just don’t know it … yet. 😉

  • Ashley

    It’s key to understand these money gremlins that inhabit our ideas in order to move on from them.

    • It really does come down to identifying any mistaken beliefs that might be holding us back from really thriving with money, Ashley. As you say, after that we can move on!

  • These limiting beliefs we create about money can creep in without us even knowing about it. Then they have time to attach to other things, such as ego, that can really hinder our growth. Something like my net worth is a reflection of my self worth can do so much damage. Thanks for calling these out and bringing them to the forefront!

    • Most of those beliefs were working their way in before we were six, Lynn, when our conscious mind starting being able to judge true/false, right/wrong, etc. But the authority figures around us (parents, teachers, religious figures, etc.,) continued to help us form our beliefs. It’s up to us now, as adults, to use our new awareness to ferret out what doesn’t work for us. That awareness is my primary goal … 😉

  • Limiting beliefs… I wasn’t until I started to read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, that I began to see how money worked. Then it took The Millionaire Mind to help me see past my own fears and insecurities about money.
    Today I understand abundance, tithing, and building for the future. Money is a tool.

    • Those are wonderful tools, Katrina, to look at what might be holding us back in our relationship with money. As you say, it’s but a tool … but one that needs to be understood and put to best use, however we each define that.

  • Yikes! From this post I sort of feel like a Risk Averter. I really need to stop this behavior.

    • Marielle, if you have a moment, read the article I cited about risk aversion. That might give you some clues to address the behavior quicker!