03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Let's Get Real About Money: Tips for Financial Sobriety

How much money do you make?  How much debt do you have?  How much money do you spend each month?  How much money do you have saved?  How do you feel about money in general and yourself in terms of your financial situation?

These questions, and others like them, are about as personal and intimate as almost any questions we can ask ourselves and each other.  Money is one of the most emotionally charged issues in our lives, especially these days. Because of our feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, judgment, fear, and more about money - we often don't ask or answer these questions in an honest way.  Our inability or lack of comfort with this type of authentic discussion about money is one of the biggest reasons money continues to be such an area of stress, struggle, and confusion for so many of us.

I’ve struggled with money for much of my life – both not having money (growing up poor) and also not really understanding how it works, how to plan/spend/save in a conscious way, or how to attract it into my life.  Over the past few years as I’ve begun to learn a little bit about money and also manifest a bit more of it in my life, my feelings have not really changed all that much.  For example, instead of feeling ashamed of not having much money, I’ve simply shifted to feeling ashamed of not saving better or spending more wisely (and then assuming something was really wrong with me because even with more money coming in, we didn’t seem to be making that much financial progress).

As our financial circumstances change, how we relate to money often doesn’t change on its own, unless we intervene in a conscious way.  And, as many of us have been impacted by the current recession, it may be shining a light on some of the unhealthy, unconscious, and negative patterns we have about money – both specific and emotional.  My wife Michelle and I have been humbled this year by our decrease in revenue and the impact it has had on us, both financially and emotionally (as have so many people I’ve talked to about it).  Yet, at the same time – we’re finding ourselves eternally grateful for the wake-up call and the increased awareness this has brought about for us – both in terms of money and with life in general.

This “financial sobriety” that many of us are going through, whether we wanted to or not, can be such a blessing in our lives if we’re willing to really embrace it, tell the truth about it, and use it as an opportunity to grow, learn, and transform.  However, in order to do this we’re going to have to GET REAL about it.  Getting real about how we feel about money and, more specifically, about our specific financial situation is challenging for many of us.  We often spend and waste so much time and energy in judgment (of ourselves and others) about money; the thought of being vulnerable and transparent about it is something most of us choose not to do.

What if we did actually tell the truth about money – in detail, with specifics, and in an honest way?  While doing this may seem scary on the surface, think of how liberating it would be, how much stress it could reduce, and how much genuine support we could receive ourselves or provide for others if we did.

Here are a few things you can do to challenge yourself to get more real about money, and in the process liberate yourself with more freedom, less stress, and increased peace about your finances and your life.

1)  Tell the truth about how you feel about money.  How obsessed are you with money?  How much of your self-worth comes from your net worth (or lack thereof)?  Do you avoid your finances, judge yourself and others about money, or pretend money isn’t really all that important (when in truth it is for you)?  See if you can be honest about your own personal relationship to money.  You may feel great and very peaceful about money (although I don’t know too many people who do).  You may have a lot of fear, stress, shame, guilt, confusion, or anger about money.  As with everything else in life, “the truth will set you free.”  The more honest you are about your own relationship to money, the more freedom you’ll have.

2)  Share the specifics of your financial situation with others.  This one is BIG and for many of us, and quite scary.  First, you have to confront that fact that you may not actually know the specifics of your finances (how much you make, how much you spend, how much debt or savings you have, etc.)  When it comes to our money, “knowledge is power.”  If we’re not clear about the details of our finances, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to change them.  Once we do know, being able to share our financial details with others, even if we feel a sense of fear, shame, guilt, or anything else about them, can be incredibly liberating and empowering.  It takes a lot of energy to lie and pretend we have things all together when we don’t.  When we share our finances with other people, we have the ability to be free about it, as well as get some valuable feedback and support.

3)  Ask for support and give it to others.  Being able to ask basic (or advanced) questions, reach out for help, and lean on others is so important in all aspects of life, especially with our finances.  However, because of our emotional charge with money specifically, this is one of those areas we tend not to reach out to others about.  It’s counter-productive for us to try to figure it out all by ourselves, especially if money is something we struggle with personally.  And, regardless of how financially “successful” or knowledgeable we consider ourselves, we can always support and encourage those around us...even if it’s simply listening to them or being someone who they feel safe enough to share with about this vulnerable subject.  We don’t have to do this all alone!

Have as much empathy and compassion for yourself and other people as possible when it comes to money.  This one is such a big deal for so many of us, especially in today’s environment and climate.  Being honest and vulnerable about money one of the best things we can do, not only right now during this recession, but as we move forward – to deepen our capacities for authenticity, abundance, and fulfillment in life!

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -