The Psychology of Money (Part 1) – Keith Kurlander & Will Van Derveer – HPP 129
It goes without saying that money plays a significant role in our lives. The relationship we have with money tends to be influenced by experiences that we’ve had with money early on in life, including bearing witness to how our parents and other adults in our lives navigated their relationship with money.
In part one of this two-part series, Will and Keith have a detailed discussion about their experiences with money throughout their childhood and teenage years, and how it has affected their relationship with money in adulthood.
Will’s Childhood Recollection Around Money – 1:14
But she told me and my sister that people who came from money, had a good relationship with money, but people who made their own money, people who are self-made or who worked hard, and cared about accumulating wealth, were not good people. And that we shouldn’t follow that example.
Keith’s Childhood Insight About Finances – 3:54
I grew up in a family where the paternal lineage were entrepreneurs. So there’s this sort of entrepreneurial drive, that was definitely mostly the values in that or about how important wealth is to be able to, you know, have a family that has a good life, that wasn’t so much of a mission oriented relationship to career or how you earn your money.
Becoming Financially Independent – 11:39
So it’s a long story of how all of this metabolized and changed in me, but it took time for me to realize that, for me to be healthy, I needed to be able to feel sovereign, and really able to take care of myself and my family financially.
The Entitlement Phase – 16:50
But it never crossed my mind that I should offer value to people. And that if I offer a lot of value to people, then money will probably come toward me in exchange for giving value. And those early days, it was like I deserved this. Someone should look at how special I am, and really reward me for that. It’s terrible.
A Profound Advice – 18:10
And she said to me, and I remember this to this day, she said to me, all you need to do is fully get behind what’s really the most important way you think you could serve this world, and I promise you money, one day will follow. And that had a huge impact on me at the time.
Money is a Tool – 23:32
Maybe there’s more things, if I relate to money as a tool in this world, as an energetic tool, where I can have an impact and influence, and have more creative opportunities. When I started switching my psychology into that, it became much easier for me to have reasons to earn more money.
A Key Turning point – 24:48
I was a subsistent earner and felt like that shift for me. It came really hard for me inside of the separation with my first wife and there was, I guess you could say a third-party, there was a person that she met, who had a lot of money and cared a lot about money, who she said she was having feelings for and wanting to explore that.
Full Episode Transcript
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Keith Kurlander 00:07
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hi, everybody, welcome back. So Will and I are pretty excited to dive in here together about money, about the psychology of money, mostly. I think it’s a very nuanced topic that a lot of people sort of go through life and think about money all the time. But talking about the psychology of money isn’t necessarily a daily conversation in culture at all. So we’re gonna dive in on this, right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:53
Yeah, I’m excited.
Keith Kurlander 00:54
Yeah. Well, where should we start? What’s a good starting point, you think?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:00
Maybe we should start with where we started out in our lives around thinking about money and finances and our lives around money, our relationship with money.
Keith Kurlander 01:11
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:12
I could start if you want?
Keith Kurlander 01:13
Go for it.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:14
Well, I remember growing up in a situation where my father’s relationship with money was very disturbed, I would say. He was an entrepreneur. He had a really cool idea in the early 70s, it went very awry. He borrowed lots of money, he didn’t pay people back, he ended up getting in big trouble going to prison. And so that was kind of my dad’s side of money. And my mom’s side was, she came from a kind of traditional old Southern family where her family wasn’t wealthy at all, by any means. But she told me and my sister that people who came from money, had a good relationship with money, but people who made their own money, people who are self-made or who worked hard, and cared about accumulating wealth, were not good people. And that we shouldn’t follow that example. And so my sister and I were cared for financially by my grandfather, and grandmother. So it was a complex situation. But on both sides, parent-wise, I didn’t have examples that I felt great about emulating, because there was a lot of emotional charge on both sides.
Keith Kurlander 02:40
Well, so I’m gonna start in a little different place, and then we’re gonna go back to childhood. So when I went to college, and then left college, my psychology around money was, I should not want a lot of money because if I open to myself to wanting a lot of money in my life, beyond mostly basic means, and it will hurt my relationships, it will distract me from living a meaningful life, it will become very stressful. So that’s how I wanted to young adulthood without psychology about money. Now, if I back up to my early childhood, my childhood, not just early childhood, all childhood, leading up to that moment, I was in a household, middle class, upper middle class, that’s sometimes where both parents worked most of my life. And I was in an area, it was in central New Jersey, where many people were, there was a Keeping Up with the Joneses vibe, in terms of relationship to consumption and earnings, earnings and consumption to some degree. And there was definitely I grew up in a family where the paternal lineage were entrepreneurs. So there’s this sort of entrepreneurial drive, that was definitely mostly the values in that or about how important wealth is to be able to, you know, have a family that has a good life, that wasn’t so much of a mission oriented relationship to career or how you earn your money. And my mom’s maternal side was a hard work ethic, and it was more service oriented around that the relationship to how you earn is more like service related things. My mom was a social worker, but there was a lot of attention on money, where I grew up in my household growing up, what you can do with it, why you need it, that luxury is much better than not having it. So whatever I did as a kid relating to that, I clearly said that that you As surging I clearly as a very young adult was in a mindset of like, this doesn’t lead to good places where you sort of strive for money. Now, I don’t have that mindset. Now we’ll get more into that. So My early childhood was just, it was actually a lot of drive around money, where I grew up in, in my family system. And I saw a lot of fights around money, verbal fights, like a lot in my household. Money in my system was a very conflicted aspect of my childhood, I would say, which is probably why I came into early adulthood with some messaging and myself around are some of my beliefs. I should say that messaging that I don’t, I don’t want to go down that path. When you came into early adulthood from that childhood experience you described, what was your relationship to money, like first, like, you know, right out of college, what was your?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 05:56
Well, it starts a little earlier for me, because I started working as early as I could actually enjoy, you know, I had chores, I got paid for certain things around the house, when I was, you know, 12, 13, 14 felt really good to me. And then I got a job sacking groceries at 15, and worked in a lumberyard at 16. And I worked ever, ever after that, and just really enjoyed making my own money. So for me, my sort of reaction to my family of origin was I’m going to turn away from these perspectives about money, these two very conflicting perspectives. And I’m going to find my own way. And it took a long time for me to feel like my relationship with money entered into a place of health and well being and you know, we’ll talk about that later in the show. But for me, the beginning part of it, as I left my family of origin and went to college was, I need to get a good education so I can find a really good professional identity and job and take care of the family that I want to have. So it was much more of maybe I hadn’t really thought about this before, but more of a traditional kind of conventional, you know, there were these outliers in my childhood home. It’s kind of a very polarized outlier. And now I found myself going down the middle road.
Keith Kurlander 07:22
That’s interesting. Yeah. And you know, as you reminded me, I also, I started working at 13. So work ethic was actually, I didn’t want to depend on this is an important part of the narrative that I’m kind of realizing right now, like I was very much. I didn’t want to have to depend on my family for money as an adult. That was also a part of my reaction to the situation. But I also got a separate conversation, which is like work ethic, there was a really beautiful work ethic and my family, for the most part that kind of instilled in me. So I was, you know, working, starting at 13, bagging groceries. So we both kind of launch into adulthood, right? And you kind of had a message of like, how do I responsibly take care of things. And I wanted more of a sort of almost light handed monastic kind of attitude of like, well, I don’t need much, I’m not going to need much. I don’t want to need much in my early 20s, when I really launched at a college and it was like, I’m just so I’m curious for you. Maybe put some highlights into, well, why don’t we just kind of explore these two attitudes first, and then we go into the new attitudes that developed over time, right? So there’s a lot of attitudes that people get toward money, right? We’re describing ours, there’s a lot, some people their whole psychology is about that. They earn as much as they can, in one lifetime, like that is their level of success. Right? Some people have all kinds of injuries around money, there’s just so many things, but let’s just focus on our two attitudes, we come into young adulthood, you have a little bit of a more traditional attitude, and how you were looking at a career around that. And I had more of an anti kind of rebellious sort of attitude from what I was raised in around the values around money. So what kind of evolves for you in that way that you’re relating to money over time?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 09:23
Well, there was still a big shadow for me coming out of college and into medical school around the kind of setup that I had as a teenager where I relied heavily on the generosity of my grandparents, for private school, and other things that I needed. And I’ve come to understand that the next phase in my development in my 20s, and even my 30s was partly a reaction to not feeling like I had a father who I could rely on to protect me and financially support me through my education. So what ended up happening was I, well, the kind of education I was in was really hard to work because it was, you know, you know, really intense college, workloads and medical school, and then residency. And, you know, as a resident in the late 90s, early 2000s, you’re making 30 grand a year, working 100 hour weeks, so there wasn’t any, like extra time to go get a second job or something like that. But, you know, during that time, I met and fell in love with the person who was my first wife, who had come from a family with a lot of money. And we loved each other, and in its own right, we were in a relationship because of each other. But there was a shadow operating in me around the fact that her family had money, and her father was willing to help us out. And I sort of fell into this pattern of working minimally when I got out of my training, which actually was really beneficial for me, because I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, working part time unbutton when my daughter was born, you know, taking her to school, dropping her off, picking her up, barely working at all, and getting financial support from my father in law. And it didn’t feel bad at first. To me, psychologically, it actually felt like I was receiving support that I needed that I wished I had had earlier from my biological father. So it’s a long story of how all of this metabolized and changed in me, but it took time for me to realize that, for me to be healthy, I needed to be able to feel sovereign, and really able to take care of myself and my family financially.
Keith Kurlander 11:57
Yeah, so you’re reminding me of my life, you know, I came into my early 20s, with an attitude of I don’t want to depend on anyone for money. And I’m not going to need a lot of it. Or I don’t want to need a lot of it, right? But I got in a relationship in my mid 20s, with someone that we thought we would, you know, potentially spend the rest of my life with, you know, with who had enough money, that money, potentially could be taken off the table in terms of what I would ever need, ever. And so when I reflect back on that, it showed me that I was claiming I didn’t need a lot of money or won a lot of money or, but really, what I realized later was, there was a secret desire for me to be able to want things and need things and have more money. And I wasn’t owning that part. And I think that some part of me was afraid to acknowledge that I wanted to be rescued, around how to get the path, you know, how to get to the outcome of having the money that I wanted in my life, whatever that was. And so I didn’t allow myself to feel my desires, because I think mostly, I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I was in some deep belief system, that it’s spiritually wrong. It’s just a misguided path to seek money at all. Even though obviously, you know, money is the trading system of how we survive. But I was sort of in denial. And so you’re just reminding me that, like, I came in with this attitude, but there was so much shadow in the attitude. And I think that there’s a lot of shadow and a lot of people’s attitudes around money. I mean, most people have if they haven’t explored their attitude around money, their shadow in there, right, because they haven’t explored it. And there’s a lot of different sides. I mean, but if you sort of polarized the issue, I’m just gonna polarize the issue for a moment. There’s people who just go after money and never question it. And there’s a shadow in that approach that is often unexplored. And then there are people who just say, like, I don’t want that, I don’t need that. And there’s often a shadow in that approach, too. And for me, a lot of the shadow in that approach, that attitude that I have was a lot of beliefs of, I can’t actually fulfill it, I can’t do it. What if I actually desired or needed a lot of money, I can’t do it. So that was one shadow in my, I think early 20s in my belief system that I wasn’t aware of, I don’t know how to do it, I can’t do it or fail. And then there was this other shadow I had to work through of like, it’s not spiritual, to have a goal or to seek money as any kind of driver like it’s just not spiritual like that. I’m going to end up you know, in some attachment cycle and like I always be miserable and whatever. And maybe it was even some I don’t know, maybe it was even some deeper religious thing inside of my messaging system, I don’t know. So that was, I think what I came into adulthood with a good amount of shadow around money, I was claiming one thing. And I think it was a useful part of my development, because there was a lot of wisdom in my claim, which was I was trying to discover who I was, and not just be driven by money, so that I could actually get in touch with more values and meanings in myself, that money could fit into. And that was useful. But a lot of other material that I had a look at that I didn’t even know was there. But thanks for sharing about your first marriage, because I had a similar situation where I was facing a lot of money and I started to have a lot of different feelings come up in that moment, where I’m like, well, that’s nice. That’s really nice. And, you know, I was claiming, I didn’t need that. So why is it so nice now, right? So, yeah.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:02
Yeah, I’m becoming aware as you’re speaking about the similarities and beginning for us in our 20s, around money that was just really strong. It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but entitlement that I felt, I actually felt. And it’s really different now. I actually felt like I was so special, that someone should see my value and offer me money, because I’m special. I literally believe that I was that entitled, and that narcissistic. And this was all subconscious. But it wasn’t ever a part of my thinking. And in those years, you know, teenagers, 20s, even, you know, of course, I was practicing psychiatry, in my 30s. But it never crossed my mind that I should offer value to people. And that if I offer a lot of value to people, then money will probably come toward me in exchange for giving value. And those early days, it was like I deserved this. Someone should look at how special I am, and really reward me for that. It’s terrible. It’s so hard to admit that.
Keith Kurlander 17:20
I have a little funny story about this. So my, you know, so Jordan in my early 20s, where I was like, I don’t need a lot. And you know, like, I need a lot. And maybe one day, I don’t know, I was living in Vermont, and I was working for an enterprise renting a car. And at this time, I was extremely vocal about my sort of spiritual journey. You know, I was so excited. I was young, I was sort of manic, probably I was actually problematic. So I was getting into all these conversations, in my untreated bipolar states of like, like, what is the point of money, and whatever. So I’m like, at Enterprise rent a car, because I obviously needed money to have my life going. And I remember this thing. There was this woman from Alaska, who was in Vermont, she was visiting somebody, and we were talking and I was in this kind of conversation. And she said to me, and I remember this to this day, she said to me, all you need to do is fully get behind what’s really the most important way you think you could serve this world, and I promise you money, one day will follow. And that had a huge impact on me at the time. Because that was like the first time someone said to me out, you know, outside of myself, someone actually said to me, like, actually, the way money will come to you, in the most fulfilling way, is if you offer the value that’s unique inside of you. So it was a big moment and shift for me, which is what you’re talking about, you know, exactly. Can you give someone value? Yeah, I think that, you know, this is a, this conversation can get a little complex, where you have people that are in very challenging structures and situations where they’re like, Well, you know, I don’t have as much opportunity to go get into value driven jobs and, and that’s where it gets complex, and it is complex there. But my situation allowed me to live in my early 20s off of minimum wage and discover my values, and then just seek it out. And that was a major shift for me in my psychology of money that happened in my 20s. I never got a psychology shift in my 20s which is what you said. Well, what if you can offer someone value that’s important, that makes you unique, and it’s the value you can offer the world and then you’ll get paid a reciprocation like that land in my 20s. But what didn’t land in my 20s was, I’m allowed to have desires that you know, is Increasing desires through my life that require more and more money. That didn’t shift in my 20s. Those I kept way deeply suppressed, and myself in my 20s. Did you start to feel desire in your 20s? Around that you were with your first wife in your 20s? Yeah. Did you start to really allow yourself to feel a lot of desire around what you would do with money?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 20:25
Keith Kurlander 20:26
Or not really?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 20:27
No, not at all. No, we had a kind of a shared, I would say, in retrospect, we had a kind of a shared fantasy, similar to what you were talking about before, with the woman you were dating in your 20s that we didn’t care about money, money wasn’t important to us. People who were obsessed with money, you know, were inferior to us. Her father was very focused on money. And in my psychology, remembering, you know, my mom’s fear and trauma around being married to an entrepreneur who lost everything and went to prison. I wasn’t about to embrace desires for a lot of money. That just wasn’t on the table for me at all. It was more of what’s the minimum involvement I can have with money to meet my basic needs.
Keith Kurlander 21:22
Dr. Will Van Derveer 21:23
Keith Kurlander 21:23
Right. Well, for me, things started shifting in my 30s, around mid 30s, really around, I’d say 1510, maybe 10 to 15 years ago, when I started seeing responsibility stack as an adult. That’s when things started shifting for me mostly, that’s one reason they shifted. And so I started feeling the stack of responsibilities that cost money. And I started recognizing, Well, yeah, I remember having this thought process well, whether or not allow yourself to have desires for it, like these costs. And these things are going to find me now. Like, I don’t get to avoid this, if I’m going to keep having a life that includes more responsibility, where there’s finances attached, but it’s not even about wanting some new things. It’s like things stack as we get older in terms of the different types of responsibilities we have. So that started to impact my psychology. And that’s when I started to open to Okay, well, if I don’t just meet that, or like, if that’s because I started realizing my only relationship to money was that I meet my basic responsibility. And I should never think about anything else that meets basic responsibility. And that’s the point of money. Right? So up to that point, I assumed in my head, the point of money is to meet financial responsibility. And there’s no other reason for money. And then, as they started getting bigger, that need was growing. And then I started recognizing maybe it’s not the only point of money is to meet basic financial responsibility. Maybe there’s other things, that if I actually allowed a path in myself, where I sought higher earnings progressively, maybe there’s other benefits that aren’t even just about desires, like desires, or some, there’s the benefit of being able to create more experiences with my family, which was it has, it has been amazing. So there’s the benefit of other experiences, but I started opening, maybe there’s more things, if I relate to money as a tool in this world, as an energetic tool, where I can have an impact influence, have more creative opportunities. When I started switching my psychology into that, it became much easier for me to have reasons to earn more money. Now earning more money wasn’t easy, but it became easier to have a reason, sir, more money. So I want to talk about earning more money in a second, because I think that the only way to earn more money is to have a reason to do it. But I’ll stop there. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 24:09
Yeah, I can relate to a big shift in my psychology in my 30s. It took me I was kind of a late bloomer I think around this. I was mostly focused on healing my own trauma and working through family patterns and difficult, conflicted marriage and so forth and so on. It was around the second half of my 30s when it started to dawn on me that it didn’t feel good to be living my life like a teenager who was on a scholarship with my father in law. You know, even though I had an MD degree and I had all kinds of capacity to earn a living. I was a subsistent earner and felt like that shift for me. It came really hard for me inside of the separation with my first wife and there was a, I guess you could say a third-party, there was a person that she met, who had a lot of money and cared a lot about money, who she said she was having feelings for and wanting to explore that. And it occurred to me during our mid several months separation that my ongoing dependency on someone else to take care of some of these things that you’re talking about outsourcing, I was outsourcing my secret, shadowy desire to experience luxurious moments and have access to experiences that people who don’t earn a lot of money don’t get to have. And yeah, it suddenly occurred to me that I was kind of a fraud. And I needed to, this was in 2007, or 2008, I needed to take ownership of my desire to relate to money in a more mature way. And I went to my father in law, and I had a conversation with him at a time when the financial markets and housing markets had collapsed in 2008. And I said, look, we’re off the doll and I’ve got this family now. It’s kind of, again, kind of embarrassing how long it took me to get to the point of waking up to this. But from that point forward, I didn’t take another penny from anybody ever again. And it felt incredible to put myself on a growth path to independence that way.
Keith Kurlander 26:35
What was the like the moment you did it? Were you scared?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 26:39
No, actually, I wasn’t scared. I was totally like, it wasn’t like mania. But it was like this infusion of like energy. It was like, I’m feeling more empowered right now at this moment that I felt in a long time, and never felt disempowered before around money, to commit myself to actually earning money and even, imagine this foreign concept at age 37, saving money.
Keith Kurlander 27:09
Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:10
I never had a single thought about saving money before that, not one thought.
Keith Kurlander 27:20
We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.