Having huge credit card and student loan debt, living paycheck to paycheck or being unable to make car payments are more than just adverse events. For some, these life circumstances trigger financial trauma that can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is this intense anxiety, paranoia, and fear that emerges during financial transactions or even conversations around money that ultimately impacts how certain perceptions and behaviors regarding finances are learned and passed down from generation to generation. generation. While financial trauma does not discriminate and affects people from all economic, racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds, more and more Latinas are beginning to open up about their traumatic relationships with money and what they do to heal them.
“People don’t like to talk about their finances, but it’s usually correlated or linked to their mental health as well. »
“People don’t like to talk about their finances, but that’s usually correlated or linked to their mental health as well,” Natalie Torres-Haddad, financial literacy and mental health expert, told POPSUGAR Latina. “You hear people say they’re on shopping sprees or they think it’s retail therapy, or whatever they want to call it, but usually they’re dealing with something deeper. . They’re dealing with an emotion they don’t recognize, and unfortunately they’re using their purchasing power in a way that will put them in financial ruin if left unchecked. »
Often, financial trauma is rooted in generational trauma. As children, we are introduced to financial interactions by watching parents or guardians purchase items from a store, pay bills, or incur debt. If the senior is worried about how much money they have in their bank account or fears they won’t be able to pay a utility bill, attentive young people get the message that these negative emotions are money-related. As adults, we tend to mimic the behaviors of our guardians, picking up on their same habits and/or financial traumas. In fact, about a third of millennials, including those who are more financially well off than their parents, experience financial trauma, also known as acute financial stress.
“It’s not necessarily how much you earn or how much you save; it’s really what makes you feel comfortable, happy and safe. »
As an author, host of the bilingual Financially Savvy Latina podcast, and financial coach, Torres-Haddad helps women overcome financial stress and start having a healthy relationship with money — which looks different for everyone. “It’s not necessarily how much you earn or how much you save; it’s really what makes you feel comfortable, happy and secure,” says the Salvadoran-born money expert.
We spoke with Torres-Haddad about how Latinas can overcome generational financial trauma. Moving forward, find ways to start disrupting financially stressful states of mind and emotions, as well as tools you can use to achieve your financial goals.
To develop a healthy relationship with money, Torres-Haddad says it’s important to first detect if you’re operating from a place of generational financial trauma. To do this, she suggests getting real with yourself. Ask questions like: How do I feel when I pay my bills? What kind of emotions come to me with that? It can also be helpful to check your body and your emotions when performing these tasks. When answering these questions, think about where you learned these behaviors from. Then compare your life, career, and income to the people who showed you these ways. If they don’t match, ask yourself why you’re still carrying their stress and anxiety into your financial behaviors. “The path of your parents and that of your grandparents is not your path. You have a different path. Just because your family comes from sacrifice doesn’t mean you have to too,” adds Torres-Haddad.
Part of unlearning unhealthy money behaviors is changing how you feel when you talk about money or manage your finances. “Is there a way to create the kind of environment to not be so anxious,” asks Torres-Haddad. She encourages her clients to create a pleasant atmosphere; they can turn bill payments into a spa experience with soothing music, a deliciously scented candle, and cozy pajamas. “Having this facility will transform your bill paying process,” she says. If she’s still very anxious, Torres-Haddad encourages women to schedule therapy sessions on the day the bill is paid.
Whether you dream of starting your own business, saving money for a house, or paying off debt, find people in your network with similar financial goals (and experience) and hold each other accountable. “These are the people you want to keep watching, because chances are you’re not only making sure you follow your next steps, but also keeping yourself on your toes,” says Torres-Haddad. You can find accountability partners within your own group of friends, among your colleagues, or through an online community.
According to Torres-Haddad, even if someone won the lottery or received an inheritance, their financial habits and feelings wouldn’t necessarily change. This is because they operate from a place of trauma and move on to the next experience or relationship with the same mindsets and behaviors. “Financial trauma isn’t something that can be cured overnight, and it’s something you have to deal with every day,” she says. Reprogramming how you feel, think, and act with money takes time. It’s okay to feel discouraged if you don’t see early results – most people don’t – but patience is what will get you where you want to be.
As with any goal, Torres-Haddad says it’s important to keep a physical reminder of your “why” nearby. Some of the financial coach’s clients carry checks in their purses from the next big purchase they want to make. Torres-Haddad prefers to keep a counterfeit dollar bill in her wallet that indicates her financial goal. Every time she opens her wallet, she sees it and remembers why. “You want something that you’re going to see every day and that will remind you: that’s why I’m doing it,” she adds.
It’s also important to remember where you were when you started and to celebrate your growth regularly. “Look back and remember where you were a year ago. Go into your Facebook memories, and remember those defining moments, and consider everything you’ve done since then,” says Torres-Haddad. She recommends women hang physical reminders of their growth in their office, like framing their first check, a photo of themselves at their first event, or even their college graduation. Additionally, she encourages women to celebrate their victories as they happen. Too often, she says, women downplay their accomplishments by attributing triumphs to “team efforts” or calling them “no big deal.” In contrast, men usually congratulate themselves on even the smallest victories. “I always pick a bone with my Latinas, and women of color in particular, because we don’t celebrate enough. You have to learn how to brag: brag very aggressively, girl,” she says.
Sometimes when Latinas work through their financial trauma and develop healthy financial relationships, they may be pushed back by family, friends, or community who say they’ve “changed” or worse that they think they’re better off now. . Even when this is not the case, it is still common for first-generation Latinos to feel guilty or ashamed for having earned a higher salary than their parents or for having been able to own and participate in activities than those close to them. could never have. For Torres-Haddad, healing from financial trauma also means moving from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality — and knowing that we deserve that abundance.
“We are our ancestors’ wildest dream come true, and because of that, we are in a place where they wanted us to be, to create change in the world and within our families,” she says. . “You and the generation before you have worked hard to get where you are. After all, playing small serves neither them nor you.
Image source: Natalie Torres-Haddad/TED Talk