Everyone has a distinct way of perceiving money, as it symbolizes something different for each individual. One’s financial perspective is a direct reflection of personal history and background, which creates the bias that skews many decisions regarding money. Without complete consciousness of this bias, we may often experience money blunders.
I spoke with Joe John Duran, author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now.” Duran opened up about this lack of awareness when it comes to this bias and its effect on one’s personal relationship with money. It is a straightforward book that breaks down the mental process and emotions behind bad money decisions. The book might be able to change our stagnant culture and practice regarding money.
One section of his book that I found to be extremely helpful, focused on three types of “Money Minds.” Duran said that people can be divided into three main types of Money Minds that focused on three things: to avoid pain, to be happy and to fulfill your commitment to those you love. Whichever one happens to be your main priority will then determine the type of “Money Mind” you possess.
Most people will exhibit all three perspectives, but the one that dominates over the rest can be seen to have the greatest influence over your financial choices. By becoming conscious of your Money Mind, you can take the bias that it has on your decisions and act accordingly. It can also prevent problems and misunderstandings that can arise from having conflicting views on how to handle money and financial issues.
Find out which “Money Mind” you have by taking [The Money Mind Quiz].
MBT: Which “Money Mind” are you?
JD: After taking the quiz myself, I fell into the fear category.
MBT: So, I guess you’re not Jack. (The fictional character in his book who possesses the happiness Money Mind.)
JD: No, I’m not Jack. I’m probably his wife (Jack’s wife has a fear-based Money Mind). (laughs)
MBT: So, is your wife Jack?
JD: She is — she’s happiness and commitment. Jack is actually my sister. I initially wrote the book for her so she would be able to make smart choices that’ll lead her to a good life. She, who is a happiness Money Mind, was married to another happiness Money Mind, and they were going through a lot of financial battles and stress because they were overspending and being overly optimistic on how things were going to work out. Since then, she has really changed her life and the way she approaches money, thanks to the book.
In the end, if you want to have a good life, you want to have good habits, make good decisions, and need to have good luck. But all the good luck in the world won’t help unless you have good habits and can make good decisions.
MBT: So essentially, are you saying that the answer to a good life lies within us, and the control is in our hands as long as we have the will to do so?
JD: Yes. I’ve grown as a person by asking myself what I can do differently and better. The mistake that a lot of people make is that they try to fix the world around them first, and think that’s going to give them happiness. What I’ve found to be true is that you’ve got to start with yourself. If you cannot manage yourself, you cannot manage the things around you. Unfortunately, we are seldom given any instruction on how to move our biases and let go of the baggage. We have to come up with good answers, and good ways to come up with the best answers.
MBT: Discussing money and one’s personal finances, along with religion and politics, is so taboo in our culture. I think we live in a society where we try to stay away from the topic as long as they can, until it directly affects us.
JD: Nobody wants to talk about money. It’s really all uncomfortable.
MBT: That probably adds to the lack of our awareness when it comes to our financial perspective.
JD: That’s exactly right. I think there are two biggest challenge we face: The first is that we presume. Most of us are not even engaged in our decision-making and therefore make unconscious decisions, which is dreadful.
The second thing is that we assume that what we see is the truth. Almost always, what we think is true is usually an opinion and not a fact. It is important to ask yourself, is this, in fact true? It feels true but is it?
MBT: So does your Money Mind and your perspective about money shift at all?
JD: Money Minds do not shift that much. If you have more than 4 or more on any one bias, it really doesn’t change. If you have 3, it’s possible. If you have 5, 6, or 7, it’s almost never going to change. So it really depends on the strength of that bias. My bias was a 6 so it’s pretty much entrenched in my system. If you’re kind of on the bubble, you can have a different perspective depending on what happens.
For example, if you are a fear Money Mind, and you are worried about not having enough money, you would think that they would shift to a happiness Money Mind after they win the lottery, but you don’t. What happens is you become obsessed with losing your money.
MBT: It is then the attachment with the money itself at that point, and our fear of detaching from it.
JD: It is. You’re attached to the money, and you don’t have the ability to be objective about it.
The thing that you think will bring you happiness, typically becomes an obsession for you. So if you think you want more money, you’ll just become slave to making more money. No matter how much you have, the thing that fuels the need is still there. The money doesn’t fill it.
MBT: So rather than being balanced, the most ideal situation would be accepting your biases that you have towards money?
JD: I think the most important thing to have is awareness. There’s a great book that you should read called “Awareness” by a gentleman named Anthony de Mello. That book changed my life. It’s a very interesting book that has a simple perspective: that human beings know instinctively how to do the right thing the minute they become conscious of their own biases.
If i know that I’m a fear Money Mind, I know can look at my situation objectively and go against the natural instincts based on the bias. The minute you are conscious, you’ll then automatically do all the right things afterwards.
MBT: Basically building awareness would be the best and most effective way to bridge the gap between what you want to do and what you’re actually doing.
JD: Right. I’m not a therapist so I don’t seek to change anyone — all I’m saying is that you must have the perspective of all three.
I like to think about it as basically you get money and you have three buckets you can put it into. The bucket that allows you to spend money to make you happy, allows you to feel safe and protected, and allows you to look after people you love.
Every day, my bias is to put the money in the bucket that makes me feel safe. But I should understand that no matter how much money is in that bucket, I’m not going to feel safe. That’s the truth. Even if you put all the money you can get into that bucket, it’s not going to make you feel that, because happiness doesn’t come from any of those buckets.
What I need to do is be prudent that my own cravings and my own biases do not drive me to one bucket while neglecting the others. One thing that every human being wants is all three things. Even a strong fear Money Mind wants to be happy and wants to take care of the ones you love while feeling safe. You just have a bias towards which one you want first.
My job is to make sure that my bias for that one thing does not overwhelm my judgment, and put me be in a position where I make unconscious decisions that are just automatic and lead me to a life where I’m not doing all three.
So our goal is to be aware of our priorities and where we’re pouring all our energy into and how we spread it across the three things.
MBT: In the past, you have served as president of GE Private Asset Management and currently head one of nation’s fastest growing wealth counseling firms — what kind of investments would you recommend for the each type of money mind?
JD: Nothing specifically, but we do know that certain Money Minds have certain biases and ways of looking at things, so we know that if you’re a fear Money Mind, you’re likely going to want to be a lot more conservative than you should be investing. If you’re a happiness Money Mind, you’re going to be more aggressive in your portfolio than you should be. It just frames the the way you invest. So we incorporate the way people think about money to really attract how they see their portfolios.
MBT: If you can give one piece of advice, what would it be?
JD: I think if I had to give one piece of advice, it’s to remove all emotions from any financial decisions you have. Also, removing all emotion from any financial discussions you have or financial decisions you make. That the emotions are the most deadly thing you can bring to an investment or a financial conversation.
MBT: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
JD: Some of the biggest challenges that an individual faces when making financial decisions are: they make unconscious decisions, their emotions cloud their judgment, and they don’t have a disciplined way to make a decision.
There’s a checklist in my book — a step-by-step guide to improve your habits. It’s a never-ending voyage. People mistakenly believe that once I do this, I’ll be fine but it’s not true. So you should view your financial world to be no different than you physical health.
Profits from the book will go to charity. To pick up a copy of “The Money Code,” visit Amazon.