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Net Worth, Self-Worth and How We Feel About Money

HOW you feel about money can have a significant impact on how you save, spend and plan for your financial future — not to mention on your overall mental and emotional well-being.

This is one of the findings of a new academic study, “Money Beliefs and Financial Behaviors: Development of the Klontz Money Script Inventory,” published in the current issue of The Journal of Financial Therapy.

The study, conducted mainly by Brad Klontz, a research associate professor at Kansas State University, and Sonya L. Britt, an assistant professor there, comes at a time of high financial anxiety among most Americans. The jobless rate continues to be high. And houses, the asset that made so many people feel rich before the recession, have yet to regain their value. In fact, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index, home prices in 20 metropolitan areas, after some modest gains, fell again in February. For those whose net worth is largely tied to the value of their houses, it could take a long time for their nest eggs to rebound, even if jobs do come back.

Amid this financial unease, Mr. Klontz said he set out to test observations he had been gathering in his practice as a clinical psychologist in Kapaa, Hawaii, for over a decade. He found that some people were under stress about having too little money while others were anxious about losing what they had or felt guilty for having so much. Some people immediately disliked anyone with money, while others would spend their money immediately without regard to the future.

The Klontz study asked 422 people about 72 money-related beliefs and then analyzed correlations among the answers. This produced four broad categories that Mr. Klontz called “money scripts”: money avoidance, money worship, money status and money vigilance. How does he define them?


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