Episode 46 with Financial Therapist Aja Evans

Overcome a Scarcity Mindset, Embrace Abundance and Loud Budgeting 

 

What’s your earliest money memory? We’re peeling back the layers on what’s getting in the way of our financial freedom and how the messages received during childhood plays a major role in how we manage our finances as adults. From outlining the impact of a scarcity versus an abundance mindset, to loud budgeting, in this episode financial therapist Aja Evans uncovers strategies to reshaping the way we think about money with the goal of finding balance between financial health and mental well-being.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Aja, I’m so excited to have you here with me today. It’s been so long, and it’s really, really wonderful seeing you.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

You too. I’m thrilled to be here and thrilled that you want to have this conversation and just dive in, because I think it’s so important and I think we definitely don’t talk about it enough. So I’m excited.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Yeah, I agree. You know, let’s start from the point of what is financial therapy? Because I still think that’s a term that people are still learning. Explain what it is and how it differs from kind of traditional therapy.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Sure. So financial therapy is specific to dealing with people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around money, around their relationship to money, around their money narratives, or their money story. So while in the past, specifically for me, I did practice as more of a generalist therapist, I realized through my own story and through just different things that I was seeing in the world and through my clients that it was really important to specifically be talking about money. So that’s now where I focus my business and just really diving into what comes up for people emotionally when they’re talking about their money. 

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

And I don’t feel like we talk about money enough, although it’s pulling all the levers in our lives, I don’t think that we talk about it enough. Talk about the connection between money and our mental health.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Definitely. So, one, I completely agree with you. I don’t think that we’re talking about money enough, and the way we talk about it is very specific, and even that is kind of more recently coming out of the deep, dark taboo of don’t talk about it. So having a more open conversation, I think social media has been really helpful for people. When you think about the debt free community or you think about people just trying to learn more about financial education in general, that has been really helpful in pushing some of these conversations forward. But a lot of times what happens is that people get some of the personal finance education that they need and then don’t deal with the emotional aspect. So you know what to do with your money, but you don’t know why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, even if you’re doing the right things with your money. So, for me, when I think about mental health and the emotional connection to our money, it really has to do with our roots, where we came from, how we were taught about money.

 

What were some of the messages that we sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously have about money that we don’t talk about or don’t realize that we have, and a lot of that comes from our upbringing and whether that meant your family or people around you. But a lot of it can be messaging that we’ve gotten from the media or outside of the home as well. So it’s just really important to get connected with what feelings come up for you emotionally. When we’re dealing with our money, when we’re talking about money, what are some of the assumptions that you have? Is your self esteem being impacted? I know mine was. That’s how I got to this in the first place. I took the time to realize I was like, wow, I’m feeling bad about myself, and it is because of where I was financially. And that to me, was very curious. And I was like, we need to definitely be having this conversation because I know I’m not the only one.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

You’re absolutely not the only one. I want to unpack that a little bit for this conversation or just for this podcast, honestly, when I’m talking to people anecdotally, I find that money is the root of why people feel like they’re stuck, right? So it might be something else, but I’m afraid I won’t get enough money to take care of my family, or if I make this move, then I won’t have enough. Money is always maybe not at that first level, but it’s always down there at the foundation. So talking about our money stories and what we’ve learned about money, how do we begin to unpack that? What are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves?

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Yeah, so what I like to do is kind of take people on a journey, therapy is a journey, and think back to what their first money memory was. And it doesn’t have to be positive, it doesn’t have to be negative. It doesn’t have to be anything. What is the first thing you can remember about money? And start from there and kind of start. I want people to either walk themselves through, whether that means journaling or writing it out, or just thinking about it, or looking at old photos and seeing what jogs their memory as they’re looking at their younger selves and walk themselves and me through their history. So taking the time to look at hey, around, I was eight when I had my first money memory, and this is what happened. And now kind of starting to ask yourself, what did money look like around my house? Did we talk about it? Did we not talk about it? Did I know about it? Were there open conversations? How did people, were people snarky about it? Were they in a bad mood? So, of course, when you’re younger, you may not understand the intricacies of what’s happening around you and the emotional aspect of what’s happening around you, but you feel it. You may not understand where it’s coming from, but you feel it.

 

So going back and starting to ask yourself, hey, what was going on? Mom was in a great mood on that day, or on Fridays, or we would go out to eat, or this is what it looked like, or things felt really rough around this time in my life. So starting to just kind of think about some of those memories and think about what the patterns were, thinking about what the sayings were. So a lot of times people will say, you’ll hear people say, like, oh, money doesn’t grow on trees, or, I don’t want my kids to want for anything. Those are money narratives. Those are themes that are going to come out. So starting to take the time to understand what was coming up. What were you hearing when you were growing older, when you were growing up? And then, how is that playing a part in what you do with your money now as an adult?

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

There are so many things. For me, it was the hard work, you have to work really hard for you to get money in return. It was one of the first ones. But I was just thinking while you were talking about it, something else that when we walked into a store, my mom would always say, take your hands out of your pockets. Take your hands out of your pockets so people don’t think that you’re stealing, right? And it was, obviously, you never have the language, but I go into stores now and I take my hands out of my pockets, right. It’s just a instinctive, when you cross the threshold, you take your hands out of your pockets.

But it’s just kind of like, why would people think that we wouldn’t have money to buy this? But then also, Fridays were the fun days where we would eat out. That was the splurge day where we’d go to a restaurant or go have fast food or whatever. All of that was sending information to us.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Exactly.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

The whole time.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

And it’s information that we don’t always realize had an impact. And then when I’m kind of bringing people back to that time, a lot of emotion comes up, and rightfully so, because now, as an adult, you can say, oh, well, my mom might have been trying to protect us but also, how awful is it that we had to worry about whether or not we were stealing when we just had our hands in our pockets? Something so simple as a kid, it can very quickly take away some of the innocence that you had without realizing that’s what’s happening. And I think we take that for granted, of course, as we should when we’re younger because we don’t always get it. But as an adult, looking back, you’re like, wow, I couldn’t just, like, my mom couldn’t even have the freedom to not worry about me having my hands in my pockets while we’re going to the store, while she’s trying to mom, while she might be thinking about her own finances for what we have to buy, what we’re in there, or time, or just the other mental load, like, she’s also thinking about, I want to make sure my kids are safe in this environment, and that is exhausting. And that feels bad. As an adult thinking about the past, even though it was protective. That’s the kind of thing and that’s when we start really getting into it. And people are like, well, Aja, I didn’t think we would be talking about my parents when we’re talking about my money. I’m like, yeah, they’re all connected. It’s all connected.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Can you kind of take us to the continuum of of things that you’ve heard of? This is how it manifested in childhood, or this is how it was presented in childhood, but this is how it manifests in adulthood because I think the middle part is still very much of a gap.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Yes. So just kind of figuring out what it is. So the thing about it is that it’s always going to be so individual for anybody. And your perspective of what happened could be very different than the person who was standing right next to you in that same exact event. So it’s very individual. But a lot of times what comes up for people is that if people lived in a place where they didn’t have enough money or didn’t have a lot of money growing up, now that they are older and may have plenty of money, they don’t want to spend it.

 

I call it hoarding. I’m like, are you a money hoarder? People will just have a ton of money in a checking account or a savings account, but they don’t want to move it to an investment. And I am on a mission to tell the girlies, please, for the love of God, at least move it to a high yield savings account at the very least high yield savings account. And we will work to get you to a place where you’re then investing it. But just hoarding your money, just in a checking account where it is not working for you, it is not gaining any interest, pennies is not helping you and it’s not helping your future. So we need to move it to a place that is going to be more helpful and have your money work for you. So that’s one thing like seeing people hoarding their money or not wanting to spend it, or taking old habits from what they saw in their upbringing and continuing them when they maybe not need to. So I had one client who didn’t feel like she could leave any leftovers on the plate, had to be clean plate, could not leave it at the restaurant. I must take the other half or I must finish it, even if she was full. 

 

So we had to do a lot of work to kind of move past what came from food scarcity into a place of like, no, it’s okay, I can take it home and I can eat it or not eat it or decide, but not that it has to come from this place of like, I must take care of this. And on the flip side, I will say a lot of times when we’re talking about money, especially when we’re talking about of color communities, because our wealth is obviously lower than our white counterparts, a lot of times we’re always talking about not having a lot and then potentially having a lot or still not having a lot. But I also want to talk about what it means when you did grow up in a wealthy situation. So what can happen is that there’s a lot of pressure to continue to either maintain that wealth or grow that wealth, or take over the family business, or feel like you are in a position to be “smart enough” to handle what your family may be expecting of you. Showing up excellent and what that means and the pressure that comes along with that. What has happened for some people is that they feel like their self efficacy or their self esteem, that they don’t believe in themselves enough because they have always been taken care of financially. 

 

Now I think a lot of people will be like, well, these are champagne problems. What? First world problems! They’re still problems. And I think it’s very easy for people to say that people who have money do not have issues, and it really doesn’t matter. People have issues. People have baggage. People have trauma. It does not matter how little or how much money you have made. Life beats us all up in some way, shape or form. It just looks different.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Yeah. I’m so glad you added that, because the way I learned that is through going to a luncheon where we were talking about this very topic about how did we learn, or our first lessons about money. And these women who came from very wealthy families said, we learned not to talk about it. It was taboo to talk about it. Even if it wasn’t coming from a place of lack, it was coming from a place of nobody wants to hear it. You are showing off. So now that they were in partnership, they did not feel comfortable talking about money and things of that nature.

 

In both instances, I don’t know if both instances are scarcity mindset, but we hear scarcity mindset, abundance mindset. What does that actually mean? Because we use it a lot, but what does that actually mean and how do we really address those differences?

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Sure. So scarcity to me is when you are coming from a place of not believing that more will come. So it’s looking at it like, hey, I got this opportunity. I’m so excited. But I have to take it because I don’t know when the next one is coming. I do not believe that the next one is coming. I will be lucky if the next one comes. So scarcity is truly very much a mindset. But in your heart of hearts, you’re like, I don’t know if the next one’s coming. So I have to take this on. Even though I’m sick. Even though I’m really busy. Even though I don’t have capacity right now, I’m going to make myself take this on because I am not sure that I will get another opportunity again. So that is kind of an example of scarcity. 

 

An abundance mindset is kind of the belief that it will happen. It will come to me. I believe that it will be okay. I believe that another opportunity like this or better will come to me. Whether I take this on or not, it does not matter. It is not contingent upon me taking this. There will be more here. 

 

And I think what happens a lot when we’re talking about this wealth pie. People are so worried that there’s not enough for everybody. So I need to make sure that I get mine right now and protect it. Scarcity versus abundance would be there’s room for all of us. We all have a different perspective. We all have something to share. There is enough for all of us.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

How do you understand the flow of money? Because I really think that this is a differentiating quality. Like in the intro, I’m going to be talking about that this is a differentiating quality from those who have money and those who don’t is really how they look at money and how it flows. There is an actual flow and energy to money. How do you explain that?

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Where I am now, and I’ll use myself an example, which I do often with my clients, because I also think that sometimes people are a little scared to kind of bring up where they’re coming from. And I don’t mind sharing. I’m pretty transparent person. But for me, this has involved a lot of work. So when I am reading about this, learning about it, it is not just that I’m thinking about my clients and how I can apply to them. I’m also thinking about and applying it to myself.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Right.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Because a lot of the work I’m doing started because I needed to talk about this. I was feeling, like I said, bad about myself and wondering if I was the only one. So when I realized, like, wow, we need to talk about this more often, we have to have these conversations. Learning about the flow of money and understanding it and understanding where you fit has to do with a lot of money work. So not just the finance and educational piece about it, but your emotions about it, your mindset about it, the things that come up for you. Where are you in scarcity? 

 

It’s going to be really hard for money to be flowing if you are constantly feeling like it’s not there. There is no flow if your belief says it is not there to come to you, versus if we’re thinking abundantly, and again, this took me some work, and it took experience for me to even get to this place to say there will be another opportunity. Because time and time again, when I thought there wasn’t another opportunity, another opportunity came. So now I need to start believing it. That has flow. 

 

So if you think about the scarcity, scarcity is kind of like, no, there is not enough money. It stops. There’s no flow there versus in abundance. You’re like, no, there will be another thing that comes, there’s flow there. 

 

So when I’m talking about your money mindset and your emotions, it’s about healing. It’s about healing some of the hardships that we had to go through, some of the misguided information that we may have gotten, learning new information that is correct, and then understanding how your beliefs around money impact what you do with your money and what you believe about money in general. And after you do that work and you start to heal, it is easier to believe like there’s enough money in the world to go around. I fully believe there is plenty of money for everyone. Does that mean that we all need to have a bank account that looks like Bezos or Elon’s? Probably not. But that brings me to the next thing, which is what is your like, what is your enough? The enough for me in a family of four is going to be very different than the enough for somebody who is a single person. And that might look different for a family of a family of eight or somebody who’s taking care of their parents or their extended family. So thinking about what enough looks like, and I won’t dive into consumerism and how that can really trick us into thinking that there’s never enough.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

No, let’s go there because the messages are all around. We’re being advertised to every moment. When you look at your phone, when you walk around outside, we are being advertised to. And advertising at the core is you’re not there yet. This is the ideal to strive for. You need more or you don’t have enough.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

And that to me is very problematic for people. And I want to make the distinction because there is a difference. I am not telling people to never shop. I’m not telling people never to buy the things that you like, the things that bring you joy. That’s not necessarily what I mean when I’m talking about more of a consumerism or how late stage capitalism impacts us. What I’m talking about is when you are buying five different Stanley cups because you think it’s going to make you feel better. When you are deciding that you need the latest and the greatest car, you’re driving a two year old car, and now you see that they have a new model. So now you want that model because of what you think it will say about you.

 

That is very different from, hey, you know what? I don’t like that my ice melts in my water bottle. I want my water cold and I want a bigger one so I’m going to go buy a new water bottle. That’s very different than, oh, I need the latest and greatest. People need to see me with this new color. This is what’s going on. Those two are very separate. And I think what happens is through very psychologically based marketing, the messaging that we are not enough until we buy XYZ is what the problem is. We are enough no matter what. People are deserving no matter what. And what I keep saying over and over and over again is that what you deserve as a human being and what you can afford are two separate things. Two totally separate things. But what we have done is connected them. So I deserve it, so I should have it? Yeah, you deserve it, but it doesn’t mean you can afford it and future, you deserves things, too. And those two things are very separate. 

 

But we very powerfully and if we’re only talking about making money and not thinking about humans, yeah, it works. It does work. I get it. But I’m here for people. I want people to feel good. I want people to feel their best. And sometimes that does mean refreshing your wardrobe, but it doesn’t mean refreshing your wardrobe every single season, because you need so and so to say so and so about your clothes. That’s not about you, that’s about them. And you are getting your validation externally. And I want people to learn to get it from themselves internally. And if you need to buy a new pair of leggings during that process, great. Just make sure you can afford them.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

So good. You were talking about the work. Is there an example of how people can really start the work? What does that look like?

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Yeah, I mean, there’s so many examples of healing. Right. The work is the process of healing. The work is the process of understanding yourself better and understanding where you come from and deciding whether or not those belief systems and how you think about them apply to who you are today. So the work is taking the time to say, you know what? When do I go shopping? What’s going on for me emotionally, when I have this urge to shop? And this has been coming up with my client like a crop of clients that I have more recently are realizing I shop because I’m stressed out. I shop when I’m really sad. I shop when I feel really lonely. Instead of the, I shopped, I spent too much money and now I feel bad. I want to get to the actual emotion that started the process. Money and the dopamine that we get from shopping is very powerful. That anticipation of, oh, I’m getting a package or, oh, I’m going to buy this thing, or click to buy that anticipation before we even purchase it is usually that rush is higher and more exciting than what happens when we actually have the item. The excitement of opening the box is very different than like, oh, hey, pulled it out. Look at it. Right? It’s so quick that what happens? But you’re excited about opening it and buying it, not necessarily excited about having it. And I think that people need to kind of sometimes make that distinction.

 

And a lot of times we’re just trying to cope. Money is a beautiful way for people to cope with things and it works, but it really is just a distraction and it takes away from what originally was happening emotionally. So when I’m talking about the work, I’m talking about asking yourself, hey, why do I feel like I have to take half of this meal home no matter what? What is this bringing up inside of me? Why did I kind of reach for my computer and start scrolling Amazon when I got home and had a bad day? Like, what’s going on? You’re stressed out. You’re stressed out and you’re coping. You were triggered from your childhood and feeling like you didn’t have enough food, so you’re feeling like you have to bring it home and a whole slew of different things that are specific to you. Other people can have similar experiences and can definitely relate, but the nuance in how you see that situation is going to be really different. So understanding yourself is where the work begins. Understanding yourself so you can heal is all about the work.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Remember, especially during the height of the pandemic, or like, once things started opening back up, people are like, going outside costs at least $100 as soon as I step outside. When you have your money goals, how do you create an environment to communicate that to others so your community can help support you to achieve those goals and not just be expensive? 

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

What I will say is that I think it’s so funny because I know the trend of loud budgeting is trendy and hot right now. And for those who may not know, loud budgeting is pretty much telling people what is a financial priority for you and what is not a financial priority for you. So an example would be, hey, I know you wanted to go to dinner and a movie and then maybe go dancing afterwards. I’m just making this up. But my budget won’t allow that because I’m trying to save for insert what you’re saving for here. So I can only do dinner and a movie. Or I can only do dancing tonight, or I’m only going to go to the movie. So really what you’re doing is saying to people what your financial priority is and saying out loud what your limit is for your budget. Now, I think it cracks me up that it has a name and we’re like, we’re loud budgeting because I was like, there are a lot of us suffering through the honesty and vulnerability of what it meant to just be like, yeah, no, I cannot afford that silence.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Before it was a trend

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

It was trendy before. And I love that it is trendy now because it does give people community, and it gives people almost, like, a reason to be able to say it. And that is supportive, and I love that. But like I said, there were a lot of us out here who were just kind of going through it with like, hey, I can’t afford to go on that girls trip because I just can’t afford it. Whether I’m budgeting for something or not, I just can’t afford it. So shout out to everybody who was doing it before loud budgeting. Shout out to people who are doing it now. The fact that we’re talking about money is beautiful to me. I’m never going to be upset about that.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Yeah, but you’re just kind of, like, giving people, I guess, permission, if they need it, to say, no, you don’t have to. There’s a lot, especially around the holidays, there’s so much pressure that people feel about showing up in a very expensive way. I quit Christmas in that way just because I was just like, this is just too expensive.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Right. And also too, who is it for? Who is it for? If you really believe and know that your family loves you and that you love them no matter what anybody is spending, it doesn’t matter. But I think that’s really hard to say. And I can imagine the people commenting about, well, it’s easy to say that when you’re XYZ, right? But it really doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. But it feels like it does and I understand, and it does a lot for young people. It really mattered to me when I was in middle school and in high school, what I was wearing and what it looked like and what it was translating to other people. But as an adult, I’m like, I’m the shit no matter what I’m wearing! That’s it. That’s it. You have to believe it. And that takes work to get there to help your self esteem grow to that point. And that’s hard, and it’s a lot easier to just buy it than it is easy to say, like, hey, why don’t you like yourself?

 

ACT UP Segment

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Well, the last segment is called ACT Up. A-C-T those are my initials. And we just talk about how to get from where you are to kind of where you want to be. So if somebody’s kind of listened to this whole thing and they’re like, all right, I’ve got some things to unpack here. I need to sort some things out. What are some of the first steps that they can take TODAY to kind of get their finances and their feelings around their finances in order.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Yes. So first, I mean, I would take somebody through that exercise, right? Write down your whole money story. Write down your money autobiography, if you will. Write down all the things that happened to you that involved money. And think about now how that impacted what you do and how you behave with your money and how you think about it. Number one. 

 

Two, figure out what you do not know about money. So if it’s personal finance education, if you’re like, hey, I really don’t understand investing, or I really don’t understand my 401, I don’t understand how to pay off debt, it’s time to learn. We’re going to learn. We’re going to go get books. There are tons of beautiful resources out there. Make sure that they’re credible. Make sure they’re coming from somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about, because that can be very scary, taking advice from people who don’t. And make sure that your values align with what they’re telling you you want to achieve as well. And get that information. So learn about it, read about it, have conversations about it with other people so that you don’t feel isolated and feel alone. 

 

And now let’s come up with a plan. Okay, what are we trying to do? What do you want to do? How much money do you want to save? What’s your goal? What are you trying to get to? What is the end game for you? And then how are we going to make that happen? 

And that’s why the goals and the plan are so important, too, because now you understand where you’re coming from emotionally. You are armed with the education of understanding money itself. You have your community, who you’re talking to and support to have these conversations with. You have your goals and your plan. I’m like, make it happen.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

There we go! Aja, thank you so much. We need to know about your book that’s going to be coming out at the end of the year. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you’re talking about in your book?

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

So much of the same, a lot of what we talked about today, but the book really walks people through kind of what our psychological histories are and how that impacts our money. The next the historical history and how that impacts what we think about our money. And a lot of that is family and then societal history in general. And then kind of some of the money mind mindsets that I see that impact people’s money and kind of what you can do to combat it in a more personal finance like step way.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host  

Love it. We can’t not wait. We are counting down. Congratulations to you on that major accomplishment, and we’ll be keeping up with you and put all of your information in our show notes. Thank you so much for being here.

 

Aja Evans, Financial Therapist 

Thank you for having me. This is great.

 

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