It’s Your Money Column – Finding Money Maturity

Young adults graduating this spring step into lives of independence and responsibility. They face numerous choices every day and must decide how much of today’s enjoyment must be balanced against tomorrow’s opportunities.

In his book, "Seven Stages of Money Maturity," George Kinder encourages us to incorporate personal meaning and integrity into these decisions. He suggests that, all too often, we make financial decisions based on what we think other people value, or we carry old and inappropriate childhood messages into adulthood and sabotage our own happiness.

Kinder suggests that there are seven stages of personal and financial growth. As we learn from each stage, we move to life satisfaction or misdirection and pain. The first two stages, innocence and pain, begin in childhood. The next five adult stages are knowledge, understanding, vigor, vision and aloha.

One of the first challenges facing young adults is to examine their own childhood experiences of innocence and pain. Kinder directs us to examine messages acquired during childhood that keep us bound in anxiety and misery about money. This process is based on honest answers to questions such as, "What were your family stories about money?" and "How have your beliefs about money hurt your life and caused suffering?" Pain may give us the wake-up call to give up old, habitual ways and move toward more successful financial choices.

Knowledge occurs as we learn about and apply a process of financial planning – a process based on integrity. The stage of understanding teaches people to "achieve peace in the midst of the anxiety, stress, and suffering that arise from money issues." Vigor is the stage where we use our knowledge and understanding to pursue financial freedom based on our personal values. Vigor means discovering purpose in life and "putting one’s energy into accomplishing that purpose."

From the stage of vigor we move into the stage of vision, where we apply our energy and financial resources to the health and welfare of communities. And the stage of aloha extends generosity and wisdom in our everyday actions.

When asked about their financial goals, people commonly say they want a million dollars. The challenge of using knowledge, understanding and vigor is to answer the question: "What do you want to do with the money?" If you had all the money in the world, how would you live your life from this day forward?

Numerous questions and exercises in Kinder’s book guide us to lives of financial freedom based on our unique interests and dreams.

by Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,, 491-5772