Category Archives: Money Taboo

“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

Money doesn't grown on trees… but it can grow!We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we?  It’s an example of a money belief—an idea that we have about money.  We all have beliefs around money, yet somehow we don’t actually try to untangle them. We shy away from looking at the beliefs.

Instead we tend to try some method of crunching numbers or budgeting.  We put money in envelopes, we watch our spending on our cell phones.  Some even play with my handy dandy “GOSH” model.  (Which by the way is very cool and useful!)

And here’s the truth:  None of that really works until you figure out what your money beliefs are, and if you want to keep them!  Your money behavior is driven by your money beliefs.

You will create and perpetuate your beliefs around money.  You just will!  Frankly we do that with all our beliefs.  We find the information that supports them, and we ignore the information that refutes them.  It’s part of all that lovely pattern making that goes on in our heads.

Of course, with money it’s more complex than with other things because of that whole money being a taboo topic thing!  Since we don’t talk with others  or even ourselves about our money beliefs that just keep influencing our choices over and over.

Which of these have you ever heard, thought or found yourself believing?

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • You’ll have to work really hard and you’ll still never make any money.
  • There is never enough!
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people.
  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • I am not good with money.
  • I can’t do math, so I can’t do money.
  • I feel like I must have been out sick the day they actually explained money.
  • Having debt means I’m a bad person.

Those are just some of the most common ones.  There are no doubt thousands of possible money beliefs that will hinder or hold back your effectiveness with the stuff.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about how much of it you have, I’m talking about what is your relationship with money?  Do you see it as a tool and ally, or as an enemy?

What do you make up about money?  Really, what do you make up about money?  Make a list!  Now look at each one of those beliefs and ask yourself a couple of questions, like:

  • Is this really true?  Like 100% of the time TRUE?
  • Is this my belief?  Or is it my family’s belief?  Or even, is it my cultures belief?
  • What might be different if I changed this belief?

That’s one of the cool things about beliefs: we can change them.  It takes noticing that you want to change the belief.  Then it takes both patience and maybe even humor to work on changing it.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish the change in beliefs is to throw in another option every time I hear myself either thinking or saying the belief.  It works like this: You follow the belief statement with something like, “…except when it’s not!”  (Examples:  Money’s hard to come by… except when it’s not.  Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people… except when they are!)

So ‘Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees‘ — except it can grow.  It can be different.  And you can do better with it.  It all starts with choosing how you want to think about it.  As humans we are really committed to proving our beliefs.  We see it all the time.  So figure out what your beliefs are, and, if continuing to prove your current beliefs to be true actually makes your life worse, try understanding and re-framing the belief.

Just imagine how much easier all this money stuff would be if you had some positive thoughts about it!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to play with this belief changing idea more, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Backing Away From Money?

Have you ever found yourself doing that? Backing away from money? People do it way more often than you might think. If you pay attention, you may even find yourself doing it. Let me give you a couple of pretty interesting examples.

When I first started being a Money Coach I noticed this weird thing that would often happen to me at networking events. Someone would introduce me as  a Money Coach and people would literally back away from me. It was pretty disconcerting. I’d find myself checking to see if I had an odd odor emanating from me, or some part hanging out that shouldn’t be… nope, nothing like that. It was simply because I represented Money and it’s a big, scary taboo topic.

Here’s another one.  Year’s ago when my then husband and his brother inherited a fairly large chunk of change this odd thing happened.  I was in the kitchen getting some food ready to take to the table and my brother-in-law was standing there.  I asked him if there was anything particular he was going to do with the money, and mentioned something like “hiring a financial planner” to help him.  He literally backed up, and went to another room.  Ah the faux pas strikes again!

More recently, I was at an Opening Studio event being held by Sari de la Motte of Forte.  Her company works with people around making sure that the messages they are sending with tone and body match the verbal messages.  This event was specifically for attorneys.  I was part of a mock jury, and the attorneys were delivering their opening arguments to us, and then getting feedback from us, and coaching from Sari.  Of course, I can’t tell you anything about the four different cases, which were fascinating!  What I can tell you is that when each one of them got to talking about money they backed up.  Wow!  Trial attorneys!  Amazing.  Money is the vehicle they use to determine damages and worth of their cases.

And just to make the point even clearer, let me give you one closer to home.  There is a listserv that I belong to, it’s primarily people posting about events, things for sale, classes, etc.   I post a notice of my blog on it when I write one.  That’s mostly twice a month.  You probably get a similar notice via email.  The one on the listserv is simpler in that it doesn’t have any photos.  So I posted a notice of my last blog—the one titled ‘Rehearsing Conversations‘—and I got an email from someone that said: “Please stop sending these.”  I assumed he didn’t want the listserv at all, but no: he didn’t want me on it.  What he said next was: “I like the list. I don’t want to unsubscribe. I just don’t like you over using this for self-promotion.  Too many ‘contributions’ from Ka-ching.”  Wow, talk about gobsmacked!  Even writing this out now, I feel my own personal Defense Horse chomping at the bit to zoom out and gallop all over this! Instead, I’d like you to notice that this guy is in essence backing away from what I have to say. My guess is he hasn’t actually read anything I’ve posted, he’s seen word “Ka-ching” and assumed it’s something about money and that was enough for him.

We often get backed up around money, and it’s pretty likely that we don’t even recognize it’s happening because it’s so overwhelmingly taboo.

And here’s the really important and sticky part of this.  How effective do you think you are going to be at making and amassing money if you avoid it so stridently?  If you can’t bring up your fee without backing up, how do you think the potential client is going to react?  Backing up when it comes to money is frankly antithetical to acquiring it.  We back up and avoid things that are harmful, dangerous, scary, and oh, yes, taboo.  If money is all that, then why do you want it?  Our brains avoid things with mixed messages, and backing away from money, while saying we want it is definitely a mixed message.  Which way do you think your brain is actually going to align with?  You body saying: “back up” or some other part saying: “lean in and get some”?

How about you try taking steps toward your money?  Getting closer?  Getting friendly?  Take a deep breath and step toward it – just see what happens.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d a bit of extra support is moving toward your money, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Cuckoo Clock Phenomenon

The other day my massage person and I were talking about how sometimes a long-term client just disappears for some amount of time, and then often returns some time later.  I can’t be sure in all instances, but my guess is that what is often happening with this kind of stuff is something I call the Cuckoo Clock Phenomenon.  

On some level the client acts as if you, the practitioner, live in a Cuckoo Clock, and between interactions with the client you are inside the clock waiting for them to chime the hour and ask you to come out.  They are rightly thinking of themselves, not you.

When you are in a personal service type of profession like a coach, massage therapist, virtual assistant, etc., clients often end up leaving your ‘practice’ without warning.  They just stop, which can leave you dangling.

In many ways this is just fine. You are providing a service, and that is how the client thinks of you.  It’s not personal.  For them, when you are not with them, they do not think of you.  These are your clients, not your friends or family.  You do the same thing.  I don’t think of the dentist or the person who pet-sits my cat when I’m out of town in between when I need their services either.

Part of what gets this in a tangle is that when we provide a service based largely on our own selves, it can feel more personal when the client leaves or takes a long break. It very likely that if they do disappear it’s not about you. It’s about something else.  That something else could be a myriad of things, many of which you haven’t even thought of.

One of the things I find intriguing  about this, is that there is more often than not a money component in the disappearance.  Or at least the illusion of a money piece.  Let me give you an example of my very own!

When I first moved to Portland I was getting massages by a perfectly good massage therapist.  (Yes, I think that at least two rubs a month are a necessity)  All of a sudden, one day, I had the thought that “I can’t afford this any more!”   First I kinda looked around and thought “Who said that?”  Then I dug a little deeper.

Nothing had changed in my money situation—I had the funds to continue with the massages.  What I finally realized is that what had changed is that I was simply tired of the method the person used.  The massages were fine.  I just needed a change.  Frankly that was too weird and awkward for my brain to process, I had to make up a more viable reason—and money is always good for one of those.  Of course, it costs too much.  On some level that makes sense because I no longer valued the massage in the same way.  What is really more likely is that “I can’t afford it” is a great excuse.  Getting clear on this was very helpful to me.  I got clear that I could still afford to get a massage, I just needed a different  masseuse.

See here’s the deal.  Money is the most taboo topic, ever!  If you want to get out of something just bring up the money and people will quickly scurry away.  And it goes deeper.  Something like a massage, coaching, or fitness training are often thought of as indulgent, or selfish—not as self-care, growth, or improvement.  When things get tough financially we are more likely to sacrifice those things that help us feel and do better with some kind of “things are already tough, so let’s make it harder—it will build character” logic.

This is a likely scenario when you have a client that all of a sudden disappears and  then returns sometime later.  The return indicates they liked the service you provided.  If that’s true, then the disappearance was probably something about money.  Or at least that the client thought was about money.  And the client figured you will just be sitting inside the Cuckoo Clock waiting for their return, right?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you end up in this kind of money tangle as a practitioner or client give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

How Deep Does the Money Taboo Go?

How deep does the money taboo go?  Pretty deep, if you ask me!  I recently experienced a remarkable example of just how systemic this taboo around talking about money is: I signed up for Medicare.  Yep, as of October 17th I will pass into one of those milestone years: 65.   I wish I lived it a culture where they’d send me flowers, maybe a watch, or even a certificate.

Instead what I got was the ‘joy’ of signing up for Medicare.  Frankly, it’s a bewildering experience.  For those of you who haven’t been through the adventure, here’s what you can expect:

  • A deluge of phone calls from people wanting to sell you Medicare of various parts and flavors
  • Warnings that you’d better pick Part B now, or forever pay more money—they don’t actually say how much more, just more!
  • Letters from current insurers telling you to contact Social Security and sign up
  • A letter from the Social Security Administration telling you to enroll

medicare-moneyWhat you don’t get is any clarity about the process or any idea of the cost.  I went on line to sign up.  I found it ironic that when you sign up there are not any questions about what carrier you have chosen for the supplemental stuff.   It’s more like “do you want this, yes or no?” Oh and up to this point there is absolutely no mention of what it might cost.  Hmmm.

So then the magic card comes in the mail, and for me the other card from Kaiser telling me to hide the magic card, and only use their card.  Again no mention of money.  (I know I’m a bit obsessed with wanting to know about costs—it goes with the territory being a recovering accountant and a money coach)

All this started in early July.  Finally I got a bill for the Part A and/or Part B (really just Part B but why make it easy?) issued on August 26th.  It was for October through December—so for a quarter—and it was for $365.40.  That’s $121.80 per month, which I assume is the going rate for people signing up now since I have one friend that pays $104 per month and another who pays $109 per month.

So the first time I actually received any notification of what it’s going to cost is when I got the bill.  That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?  When you buy almost anything you actually know the cost first, right?  But not with this!

And there is at least one more money thing attached to this that I found totally astounding.  You have some choices.  You can pay monthly instead of quarterly, you can set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking, and you can pay by credit card (sort of).  Actually the credit card option is both archaic and dangerous.  Want to pay by credit card?  Great, fill out the form on the bottom of the bill from U.S. Department of Health and Services and mail it back to them. Peachy.  Then a human (and no doubt a different one every time you send in a payment) will open and process your payment.  With all the concerns about keeping credit card information secure this is bizarre!

And just as a side note, the Social Security folks—who are very much tied to Medicare—decided to do this wacky thing earlier this year.  They were going to make it that each time you tried to sign on to the Social Security website they would send a special code to your cell phone that you’d have to input to get on line.  Sometime after the announcement they backed out of that mess.  I guess someone pointed out that. contrary to popular opinion, not everyone has a cell phone, or (like me) has it on all the time!

The reason I felt compelled to write about this is less about the vagaries of money and Medicare and more about how deep the taboo around money goes.  Deeper than we think, yes?  There is a way it is so deep we don’t even notice that we aren’t talking about it.

Given that money is something we use and think about everyday, it remains amazing how taboo it is.  I can’t help thinking that if the conversations were more open and the topic was just plain talked about we’d have less trouble with money… hmmm.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want to explore your money taboo? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website: