Someone recently asked if I knew of a CPA that was trained as a financial therapist. I admitted I didn’t. I even chuckled at the peculiar combination—until I realized it’s probably just as peculiar for an investment-loving CFP like me to be trained in financial therapy.
Why would a CPA need financial therapy skills? You just give them the data and they do the return. There’s no emotion involved in paying taxes, is there?
If you don’t think paying taxes is emotional, try this. When you read, “money and taxes,” what are your first uncensored thoughts? Are they words like happy, excited, fun, invigorating? Or maybe drudgery, obligation, boredom, anger?
The average person has 50 to 200 money scripts that are often subconscious. There are four general categories of money scripts—Money Avoidance, Money Status, Money Worship, and Money Vigilance—and most of us have one that’s dominant. Here are some of the feelings and money scripts (which can be contradictory) each category might hold around paying taxes.
Money Avoiders believe money is bad and anxiety-provoking and rich people are greedy. Their main emotion is fear, and they may believe they don’t deserve money. Their thoughts around tax filing may include: “I’m incompetent,” “I don’t understand,” “I just don’t want to deal with it,” “I don’t earn enough to spend much time on this,” “Those who don’t pay their fair share are greedy and evil,” or “This is too much work.” Some Money Avoiders will hire a tax preparer, then when asked for the supporting documents may respond, “What do you mean, ‘Where are my receipts?’ I thought you would figure all that out.”
Those with Money Status scripts equate net worth with self-worth. They may hold beliefs such as: “People are only as successful as the amount of money they earn,” and “If something isn’t ‘the best,’ it’s not worth buying.” Their main emotions are pride and insecurity. Their tax-related thoughts may include: “Look how much I pay in taxes; I really do my part,” “Those who work so hard to pay less in taxes are cheating,” “I can afford to hire the best professionals, and I pay much less in taxes than my peers,” or “Let me tell you about all the ways I avoid paying taxes.”
Money Worshipers will have beliefs such as, “Things would get better if I had more money,” “More money makes people happier,” and “Money would solve all of my problems.” Their main emotion is anger. At tax time, they may have thoughts like these: “The government is taking my hard-earned money and wasting it,” “I must avoid paying taxes no matter how much it costs me,” or “I can cheat a little bit, they will never know.” They would also feel anxious around not fully disclosing,
Those with Money Vigilance will have money scripts like, “You shouldn’t tell how much money you have or make,” “Money should be saved, not spent,” and “I would be a nervous wreck if I didn’t have money saved for an emergency.” Their main emotion is anxiety. Their tax-related thoughts could include: “I’m afraid I won’t do it right and I’ll get audited, fined, or thrown in jail,” “I need to triple-check everything,” “It’s my patriotic duty to pay as little in tax as legally possible,” “Hiring a tax preparer costs way too much, I can do my own,” or “It’s nobody’s business how much I make or pay in taxes.”
There must be a category for those whose money scripts help them prepare calmly for tax season and write a check to the IRS with a sense of serenity. I have yet to meet anyone from this group.