By this time you have probably given up on your New Year's resolutions, which sounded good but had little chance of succeeding. Let me offer you a different money approach for this new year: New Year's Exonerations. Change is especially hard to make when you have not forgiven yourself for perceived past transgressions. So it's time to exonerate yourself.
You are exonerated from being conflicted about money. All of us are conflicted. We may feel guilty about what we have, jealous of what we don't or struggle with the role money plays in our lives. One of our financially successful clients came from a poor background. Her father would constantly imply that people who had money were bad people or cheated to get it. This was how he handled his own discomfort. When this client's career took off, she was fighting the message that because she was doing well, she could not have been a good person. This conflict resulted in her consistently questioning what she was doing with her money. Before she could become more comfortable, she ironically had to exonerate herself for her success. This shift resulted in her making money decisions consistent with her values.
The money messages we interpreted growing up have an influence on our lives. We may be unforgiving of ourselves for passing on our fear of money or our love of nice things to our kids. You are exonerated. Every person experiences money differently. While you had influence over your kids' internalizations, how they handle things is ultimately up to them. We work with a number of families whose children have different money outlooks, even though they were raised in the same home. Some differences may be attributed to being in the home during different parental stages, but most is attributed to how the kid is wired and their own views. You can show your values by your actions and influence others' values by some decisions you make, but you can't instill their actual values. That is their personal work.
We all have made money mistakes. We sold investments too early or too late or bought things we wish we hadn't. You are exonerated, especially if you pay attention to learn from this regret. Exoneration is not a perpetual free pass. When you are feeling bad about a money decision, explore why, try to understand what motivated you to make it, see how it served you and hurt you, and figure out how to move on.
While it may be too late for your resolutions, it is never too late for your exoneration. Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.