Money language

You are probably not aware of the language you use around money but the thoughts and words you use will have a significant impact on your attitude to money and financial matters, and those around you.

So, for example, if your money conversations or thoughts are always along the lines of:

“We can’t afford that”

“I wish we could buy a new …” move someone else”,

“It’s OK for the Jones’s – they’ve got heaps of money”,

“We don’t earn enough”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees”

“When the grandparents die we’ll inherit some money”

“If interest rates increase, we’ll be out on the street”

“Banks are robbers”

“Business owners rip off their customers and don’t pay their fair share of taxes”

Etc etc,

Then that is what you will subconsciously believe. You will find financial matters stressful, that interest is bad, bankers are bad, and that money is hard to get. This may be the language that you grew up with or that you hear in your workplace or amongst your friends or colleagues or even from your partner.  Your children will grow up thinking and believing what they hear from you every day.

Indeed, research from Massey University [1] has shown that the single biggest influence on your financial behaviour is your parents. Conversations you had at home while growing up greatly influence your confidence around financial matters. You may, for example, be wary of the sharemarket because you’ve heard your parents talking about how much they lost in the crash of ’87, through Finance Companies or the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) between  2007 and 2009, or the COVID-19 Coronavirus in 2020.

But you will need to change your thinking first. Some of this will be subconscious but all you can change is on the conscious level. Consciously changing your thoughts will impact your subconscious thinking.  Some people find using affirmations or printing out post notes and putting them in places that you will see help reinforce positive thoughts.

Then by simply changing our language, we can completely change our perspective on money and financial matters.

For example, notice the change in attitude and emphasis from the following phrases:

“What can we do to be able to afford that?”

“How can we afford to buy x?”

“The Jones’s are fortunate in that they don’t have to think as carefully about money”

“We earn enough/ plenty for everything we need”

“We should pay some more principal off our mortgage now in case interest rates rise in the future”

“Let’s use your bonus to buy a small treat and then pay off a chunk of the mortgage”

“We should bank with a NZ owned bank so we know the profits remain in NZ”

“It’s difficult for people who own their own businesses to take holidays when they want”.

The latter conversations are not as negative and put the onus of taking responsibility on sorting out financial decisions back to us, the decision maker, not blaming someone else.

Remember your children absorb so much from their parents, often subconsciously.  And parents role model behavior for their children. Our children are listening to our every word, even though it may take them several years to work out what they mean.  So in much the same way that children learn to speak from hearing others speak, so too they learn about financial matters.

And that is why the words we use, and our tone when using them, reinforce our own thinking and teach our children about money.

But if we and they are constantly exposed to negative words and connotations around money then that’s what we’ll think and they’ll learn and it will take some effort to change that ingrained thinking.


Petra grew up in a household where money was never talked about although the children seemed to understand what the family could afford and what they couldn’t.  Things became worse when her parents divorced. Large items such as a new bike were reserved for birthdays or Christmas.  So when she got her first job at an investment company after leaving school she spent the whole of her first pay check.  Afterwards she felt worried sick but she quickly learned to be more careful.

Meanwhile everyone she worked with seemed quite extravagant with their money.  Sure they earned more than her but their language was of financial abundance.  She took their advice on savings and investments and soon found herself very comfortable and confident around money.

So always speak in an abundant and positive, but modest, way about money.  And it won’t cost you anything!

[1]  Matthews C, Reyers M, Stangl J, Wood P. Insights from 2012–2032 Longitudinal Study: Stage two. Westpac Massey Fin-Ed Centre. URL:

The information in this blog does not purport to be financial advice and no reliance should be placed on it. It is of a general nature only based on my experience as a Chartered Accountant in practice and specific advice should be sought for your particular situation.