Money Scripts

What are Money Scripts?

Money scripts are unconscious beliefs we hold about money that affect our financial well-being. These beliefs—usually forged in childhood, passed down from parents or other influential people we grew up with—shape our attitudes and emotions relating to money as adults. Like lines from a movie script that an actor would use, our money scripts are lines we act out in real life.

They are neither completely true nor completely false, rather they tend to be based on partial truths or incomplete information. Likewise, there are no good or bad money scripts. However, their influence on our thoughts and actions can lead to destructive and self-defeating behavior. Increasing your awareness of your own money scripts allows you to question or even "rewrite" ones that are causing destructive financial behaviors.

Money scripts are grouped into four subtypes:

Image by Morgan Housel

Money Avoidance

Money avoidance is the belief that money is inherently bad or undeserved. Using or even thinking about money can lead to feelings of discomfort. Those with money avoidance beliefs may unconsciously seek out ways to get rid of money or not use it. Higher money avoidance scores have been associated with lower income and net worth levels and are more common among younger people.

Money Worship

Money worship is the belief that more money will solve all your problems or improve your quality of life. High money worship scores have been associated with compulsive hoarding, gambling, overspending, and workaholism. Money worship beliefs can lead to excessive risk-taking and debt, and higher scores are also common with younger people and those with lower incomes.

Money Status

Money status beliefs link net-worth to self-worth and lead people to compare themselves with others, financially. Higher scores with money status beliefs are associated with materialism, overspending, and the chasing of get-rich-quick schemes. Money status beliefs are more prevalent among those without college educations and those who self-identify as having a financially disadvantageous background.

Money Vigilance

Money vigilance is one of the more common money beliefs. It is the belief that the use and discussion of money ought to be guarded and discrete. People with money vigilance beliefs may be seen as frugal or even miserly. Higher money vigilance scores tend to be more prevalent among older adults and associated with distrust and financial anxiety.

What are your Money Scripts?

Researchers developed a 51-question assessment known as the Klontz Money Script Inventory (KMSI). Click the button below to see how you score in each of the four money script subtypes.

Source: Klontz, B. T., & Britt, S. L. (2012). How clients’ money scripts predict their financial behaviors. Journal of Financial Planning, 25(11), 33-43.