By Aleeza Rasheed

To be a college student is to be stuck in a liminal space between adulthood and childhood. In this space, there’s a lot of learning and transformation.

Earning and spending my own money is something I’m still coming to terms with as I, like many of my peers, can afford a vacation but not tuition. I watch my friends experience this learning curve too, in person and on social media.

Venmo, the social payments platform popular with my generation, really gave me insight as to how my friends view money, and consequently, how I view money. For example, some friends of mine pay our entire bill at a restaurant and completely forget about it, while others run to Venmo in order to split the bill down to the cent.

I’ve always wondered how people become one or the other. It seems intuitive; people with more disposable income would probably be more likely to exhibit behaviors corresponding with generosity. However, this doesn’t correlate with both my personal experiences and the research regarding this topic.

In 2011, the wealthiest Americans contributed an average of 1.3% of their income to charity, while Americans at the bottom of the income pyramid donated 3.2% of their income. It’s with this curiosity that I discovered money therapy.

If therapy is a tool used to understand the intricacies of one’s personality in order to improve communication skills and emotional resilience, money therapy delves into understanding one’s financial personality to achieve similar goals.

Eileen Gallo, in article called “Understanding our Relationship with Money,” explained how this personality is based on the information we received about money and values as children, as well as the way we chose to organize that information. It develops our cognitive, affective, and behavioral traits with regards to finances. There are three dimensions that help identify one’s unique money personality: acquiring, spending, and managing money. Each dimension is its own spectrum.

In regard to earning, one can be “avoidant” or “insatiable.” For spending, the two extremes are “miserly” or “over-spender.” For managing, they’re “micro-manager” or “chaotic.” Most people fall in the middle of each spectrum, which means spending isn’t a pathological issue.

Even so, I’ve found power in this knowledge, especially since I want to improve my spending habits. Like most children of divorced parents, I’ve witnessed my fair share of arguments over finances, which placed myself closer to the insatiable end of the acquisition spectrum.

However, growing up with affluent, college educated Asian-American parents might have guided me towards being an over-spender at times. Additionally, being socialized as female in an Asian culture influenced a more chaotic form of money management for me.

This isn’t to say that someone with similar circumstances as mine will have a similar relationship with money. Everyone’s money personality develops in their own unique way, contingent on factors like culture, capitalism, environment, gender identity, and more.

The point of engaging in money therapy is in the hope that analyzing my past will help formulate an ideal, balanced relationship with money. The first step to changing habits is to acknowledge where these habits originated from; after understanding how unconscious beliefs affected my spending patterns, I can now make more informed choices.

Socrates once said, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” and engaging in money therapy reveals truly compelling facets of oneself just waiting to be discovered.

Aleeza Rasheed is studying journalism at the University of Georgia. She is a 2020 Cox-SABEW Fellow, a training program in partnership with UGA’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership.