Money Shame: Getting Real About our Relationship with Money


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Tammy Lally — a certified money coach, author of Money Detox and TED Speaker — works with her clients on the one thing that prevents people from reaching financial freedom, and that is our relationship with money. Financial planning is not a mysterious thing that only certain people understand and get access to. It’s actually straight forward (and there’s a lot of resources out there to get informed), but where we go awry is in our relationship to money. How it makes us feel. How we think it makes us look. How we value ourselves against what we own. So, in order to feel empowered and get to financial freedom, the emotional part of the equation needs to be addressed first.

Many of us were taught to never discuss money, religion, and politics at a dinner table, and for good reasons. But Tammy says that in order to break free from the money shame and/or whatever else you have going on in your relationship with money, you have to be willing to talk about it. Get uncomfortable. Get real. And only then, will you take ground.

Tammy’s journey to financial freedom is very personal. In 2007, things came crashing down. Tammy lost her brother Keith to suicide, shortly after he received a foreclosure notice, which was the last straw in a long battle of financial shame and suffering. Then, she lost her business overnight and was forced to eventually declare personal bankruptcy.

In this episode, Tanya and Tammy get real and talk about what it took to crawl out of the toughest moment in Tammy’s life and how she helps her clients do the same.

Tune in to get the full conversation and learn about:

      • How money shame manifests itself for people
      • Where it stems from
      • How to overcome relationship constraints that exist around money
      • Getting to financial freedom
      • Breaking free from inherited cultural behaviors that don’t serve you
      • What it looks like to have financial integrity
      • Personal well-being and healthy mindset

Tammy Lally’s biography:

Tammy Lally is a Certified Money Coach, TED Speaker, and Author of Money Detox. She helps others master their finances by first conquering their emotions around money, then by creating a comprehensive financial plan.

Tammy has over 17 years of experience in the financial industry and 27 years of study in psychology, addiction, recovery, and spirituality. Her teachers include Brené Brown, Marianne Williamson, Pia Melody, and Byron Katie.

Tammy brings a distinctive blend of financial industry experience, psychological knowledge, and spiritual consciousness to her work. She offers a compassionate approach to money and money shame, which is truly powerful in helping her clients achieve transformative outcomes.

Tammy created her signature “Money Detox” process, a seven-step journey that allows anyone to achieve financial freedom and joy. “After seventeen years in the financial industry, I know a ‘financial plan’ is not enough to help those looking for the path to financial freedom and to escape the loop of money shame. Money issues and shame continue to be a major life struggle for millions of people, and I have dedicated my life to assisting them.”

Tammy’s combined professional experience and passionate commitment to assist others on their path are keys to helping her clients achieve unparalleled results. Tammy is most often sought out by individuals, couples, groups, and businesses.

Connect with Tammy Lally:

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Full Transcription:

Tammy Lally: My own money shame and my lack of awareness around it drove me into some real, real trouble, real problems.

Tanya: That’s Tammy Lally, Certified Money Coach, TED speaker and author, who has been outspoken on our need to rid our shame around money. This subject touches close to home, as Tammy lost her brother when he committed suicide shortly after he received a foreclosure notice, which was the last straw in a long battle of financial shame and suffering. Tammy believes the only way to help others master their finances is by first conquering their emotions around money, and only then, creating a financial plan that actually works is possible.

Tammy has over 17 years of experience in the financial industry and 27 years of studying psychology, addiction, recovery, and spirituality. Money Detox, the book she authored, distills her knowledge into actionable frameworks you can use to reach financial health.

Tammy, before being a money coach, you actually did a lot of personal development, and I’m assuming maybe even possibly still do a lot of personal development. Actually, you studied psychology, if I remember seeing that correctly. What has your journey in your personal development been like?

Tammy Lally: I think that when I was a young person, I was just really curious. I was curious about people. I was curious about what people said and what people did and the contradiction that I often saw in my family of origin. I think because of the family I grew up in, there was a lot of unspoken and spoken words that were very confusing to me. I think I just had a deep curiosity about people and behavior. It just started there.

I used to ask a lot of questions. I used to ask a lot of whys. Didn’t get any answers, so I just kept seeking through – when I was a kid, I just asked other people. I went to my neighbors that seemed a little bit more interested in me and I would ask questions. That’s really how I started to learn that there’s a difference between what other people are doing in their house and in my house, and I started really recognizing some behaviors that were concerning.

I grew up with a single mother and it was hard for her. She was young and had a lot of her own emotional struggles. She grew up in a way that was very naïve and her belief system was grounded in Catholicism, so it wasn’t challenged. We just didn’t have a – there was no other way. If you asked why, it was, “Because I said so,” and that was pretty much it. That didn’t satisfy me, so as I got a little bit older, as a teenager, I ventured out of the house. I just started going and exploring. I started doing things that weren’t common in my family, like going to a retreat or participating in some kind of meditation.

Now this is back in the ‘80s, so –

Tanya: Wow, and it wasn’t in fashion to go and do that. Today, it’s totally common, people do it. I’ve done it. I love them. You’re right, back in the ‘80s that was actually something quite unheard of.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, witchcraft! It’s witchcraft. I also witnessed a lot of – I have two older brothers and I really witnessed them coming of age, becoming teenagers. There was a lot of dysfunction. There was alcohol abuse and drug abuse, just a lot of upset in my family. When I turned 18, I started going to therapy. I really struggled with alcohol addiction, alcoholism, when I was a teenager and it really became problematic and I got into illegal drugs, cocaine and smoking pot and it became a problem. I decided on my own to go into treatment when I was 22, which is crazy. I [summoned up] the courage.

Tanya: Wow, there’s so much to unpack there.

Tammy Lally: Yeah. The short of it is, I had some really good friends, older friends that I was surrounded by at work. They recognized patterns in me that they had in themselves. One of my co-workers asked me to lunch and he took me to an AA meeting.

Tanya: Oh my God! God bless him! He sounds amazing.

Tammy Lally: I was like, what are you doing? What do you mean, AA? It took two years for me to really get that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own, there was a problem. That’s really how it started. At 22, I went into 12-step recovery and I’m still in it, I haven’t stopped. I just learned a tremendous amount about myself. Through unpacking so much of my family’s story, it was just – I just kept going with it.

I became a coach back in my early career. I was actually a professional salesperson, working for a large corporation. I had a lot of skill at really coaching and helping people and they put me through a coaching program. It was just a really natural fit for me to be a coach. To be somebody that could listen, could hear, could empathize, could offer really strong, clear direction. That’s how I landed into – my own personal process landed me into giving back and being of service to other people in the industry that I was in. Then it translated into what it is today, but always through the industry. It was sales and then it turned into finance.

Tanya: What was the journey from that initial sales training, where you actually got to be the coach and work through your own challenges when you were younger, to now being an amazing money coach that – by the way, I have to acknowledge you for not taking the money approach that everybody takes, which is if you come to me, we’ll put together a sound plan and you’re going to be on your way. No. Obviously, if it was that easy, everybody could do it. There’s emotional stuff and you’ve recognized that and you’ve been very upfront about that.

How did you get into being a money coach, with a real clue into people’s psychological states?

Tammy Lally: Well, it’s my own story, again. That’s how it unfolded. I always struggled – I grew up in a working class blue-collar family, very proud people, so work ethic was very high and it was very important. I had a childhood experience that my mom was a single parent with three kids, divorced, in the early 1970s, in a Catholic town. She experienced a lot of discrimination and shame from the wealthier part of the community, which is where we rented – we rented an apartment within a wealthy community and my mom was the help.

Several of the families looked down upon my mother and we went to school with their children, so the children then teased us, and we were bullied. We had a lot of money shame. A lot of what are you wearing, where did that come from? I was teased a lot. What happened for me is I internalized that to mean that money was my worth.

When I became old enough, I chose a career that suited me – where I could earn a high net worth. That was the specific reason I chose my career. I didn’t choose it because I liked it; I was actually more introverted. I went into sales, became extroverted and learned a craft to be able to earn a high income so that I could change my social-economical level. I grew up in blue collar. My mother married blue-collar. We stayed in middle class blue collar and I wanted out of there.

I got out of there and went into a white-collar profession. When I say white and blue collar, I don’t know if the listeners can connect with that, but the bottom line is it was – you either worked with your hands or you worked with your mind. The people that worked with their hands, were considered blue collar and people that worked with their mind, were considered white collar.

Tanya: That’s an interesting analogy. I never thought about it like that. It makes a lot of sense.

Tammy Lally: Yeah. That was just how I made sense of it and how I saw it as a kid. It was like, who were those people that go to work in their Mercedes every day versus my stepfather going to work in a pickup truck every day as a carpenter, or my uncles had plumbing businesses. That was the difference.

My own money shame and my lack of awareness around it, drove me into some real, real trouble, real problems. Unbeknownst to me – I chose professions where I was a high earner but I was a shopper. I saved the 20% you were supposed to save in your 401k and I spent the rest. I took care of a lot of my family, my friends, and I was a big shot. What I didn’t know is that my self-esteem was very low because of my childhood, and I used money to fit in, to belong, to feel approval, to find love, to feel worthy, all of it. I had no idea I was doing it. Nobody confronted me about it. Even though I had a therapist, he didn’t really bring it up much. He always gave me a lot of accolades; you’re so successful and you work so hard. I had a lot of shame and I used money to cover up the shame.

Fast forward, this is where so many millions of people can relate to this story. It’s 2007 and I lived in Florida. I currently live in Washington DC but I lived in Florida in 2007. The housing market crashes and the stock market crashes shortly after that. I owned a mortgage company at the time. I had got out of corporate sales seven years prior and had a really great ride in the mortgage industry, but I was young and didn’t think it would ever end. I was facing bankruptcy, personal bankruptcy, due to my overextended and I basically lost my income overnight, literally. When the mortgage industry closed, it closed. You could no longer earn a living in it [as a sole proprietor that I was].

At the same time, my brother, Keith, had got caught up in what a lot of people got caught up in at that time, which was refinancing their house and taking cash out of the house. That was a really common thing that happened back then. My brother got caught up in a bad mortgage, high payments, and him and his wife got really underwater financially and they faced foreclosure. After a couple of family bailouts, they weren’t able to change the behavior and my brother was devasted and hopeless by it and took his life, committed suicide, right at that time. He committed suicide in 2007. I lost my business shortly after.

I didn’t really understand what he was experiencing around money and shame and how he could take his life. He had a couple of children and a wife and he was 40 years old. I didn’t really get it, but within about six months, having lost my job, I totally got it. I was experiencing debilitating shame. I never had asked anybody for help. I was very self-sufficient and I was single. I had no money. I didn’t have an income. Instead of letting people know and really seeking some counsel, I internalized it as I had really screwed up. This was my fault. I did something wrong. I should have been more responsible. I should have been less – I shouldn’t have spent so much money, on and on, plus I was grieving my brother’s death. It was just a disaster.

Tanya: To add on macroeconomic issues, the whole world was in shambles at that point.

Tammy Lally: Right, but I didn’t see that. Intellectually, I could see it but the internal pain was so huge that I couldn’t even allow myself to ask for help. I didn’t tell anybody. I really lived in a lot of secrecy around it for almost a year. I got myself right up to a breaking point where I had to either file for bankruptcy or not. In order to do that, I had to tell somebody because I needed some help. That was the turning point.

How I got into coaching was, the mortgage industry closed so it was easy for me to just step into the insurance – the financial industry. I went and got certified and took my exams and became a financial planner because people in the community really trusted me with their money. As a mortgage broker, I had a lot of trusted friends and colleagues so it was an easy transition. Once I got there, I was now sitting across the table from people going through the recession, and it didn’t matter if they had millions of dollars or if they were living paycheck to paycheck. Everybody felt the same way, which was everybody had a lot of shame, a lot of fear, a lot of guilt. Most of the conversations I was having was about emotions, not what should we do.

Tanya: Tammy, just so that I can rectify for myself the events that happened, you were at the point where you lost, unfortunately, your brother, which I have so much empathy and sympathy for you and his family. Then overnight, you lose your business. For a year, you didn’t tell anyone what was happening and you were internalizing everything and you were at a point where you needed to make a decision as to whether you filed for personal bankruptcy or not. Did you?

Tammy Lally: Yes!

Tanya: You did, okay.

Tammy Lally: I did, and it freed me.

Tanya: Right, which is amazing. Okay so that –

Tammy Lally: No, I had a tremendous amount of shame about doing that, so I’m not [16:50]. In my family, you don’t do that. You don’t eat, you pay your bills. You pay your bills first before you eat. For me to get to the point – and back then, when I finally told somebody and they suggested I file for bankruptcy, I was horrified. Then once I got passed the mortification, I went and actually talked to an attorney. He said, “This is what we call strategic financial bankruptcy.”

At the time, President Obama was newly elected and there weren’t all of the safeguards. There wasn’t all the options that you had to refinance your house and to remodify. It didn’t exist yet so the banks weren’t allowing me to remodify my house because I didn’t have an income. They wanted to take my house, so I’m fighting for that and I’m whatever. It was awful.

The bankruptcy made financial sense and I was told, and I want to say this for anyone that’s listening, that it was put in the financial system for a reason. Good people deserve a do-over and that’s how the attorney explained it to me. He said, “You’ve been doing all the right things your whole life, this is a difficult situation.” I had real estate that needed to be incorporated into the bankruptcy so that I wouldn’t be on the hook for the short sales. Back then, you were on the hook for the difference if you sold the house for less than you owed, even though the market crashed. President Obama put all that into place later, so bankruptcy was what made sense at the time.

In doing it, it allowed me to keep my home and get my head back in the game. Then I could really hit the ground running as a financial planner. It was extraordinarily challenging to navigate all that emotion.

Tanya: I can imagine. Here you are, you finally find the strength to pick yourself up. Was the filing for bankruptcy the catalyst that gave you the juice, like you said, freed you up, to move on and find that strength.

Tammy Lally: Likely. There was a combination of quite a few things, but it definitely had a bigger psychological impact than I would have admitted. I didn’t even know but the minute I sat down and decided to file – and I qualified for a bankruptcy because you really have to qualify, they just don’t let everybody just file. When I saw it in black and white that I actually did qualify and I did actually experience a hardship, and the lawyer really helped me through that, then I felt better about myself. It took about five years for me to admit that I had a bankruptcy after that. It wasn’t an easy thing to –

Tanya: Accept.

Tammy Lally: Yeah. It was loaded with shame, so it took a while to work through.

Tanya: After your bankruptcy, you went and got certified as a financial planner and now were helping people plan for their finances. In that coaching relationship and advisory relationship, did that help you get your financial plans in order as well?

Tammy Lally: Sure. I think we teach what we need to learn. I was sitting across from people day in and day out and it literally helped me continue to pay attention. Really look at where I was being really irresponsible with buying things that I didn’t need. When you’re looking at people’s budgets and you’re watching the money go in and out, I was doing the same thing previously. Now I had no money, I couldn’t do it, but I was going to come back. I was going to have money again and I was going to have credit again and I knew that I needed to do that differently. I hired a money coach. That’s how I really became a money coach, as I hired one for myself.

Tanya: At what point did you hire a money coach and what was that experience like?

Tammy Lally: It was maybe a couple of years in that I started making money again. I was like, okay, okay. I didn’t even know there was such a – I have many, many friends that are in coaching and I didn’t know there was a specific niche for being a money coach. How it came to me was a friend of mine called me and said, “I’m getting my money coach certification and I need practice clients. Would you be interested?” I was like, oh my God, she had no idea. I’m like, yes!

I will tell you that first – it was a complete game-changer. We had a one-hour coaching call and it completely shifted my perception around my behavior with money in this way. I had done a lot of psychological work for years, therapy, looking at my co-dependency, looking at my addictions, all this stuff. I never made the connection that what I was doing – my behaviors and my money were also laced with co-dependency, which is basically just rescuing people. Playing God in other people’s lives. [22:45].

I didn’t see that until I had to write out my money story. Then it was like, oh my God! It blew my mind. I was sitting there and I said to her, I’m doing this, I’m doing this. I’m going to be a money coach. I’m going to do it. It led me to find the Money Coaching Institute, which is where I got my certification as a money coach and went through their certification program. Then I just tagged it on to my financial planning. That’s really what happened. It was something that I desperately needed for myself, and when it all clicked and my whole – I basically put on a new pair of glasses and I saw things in a way I’d never seen them. I got so fascinated with it that I had to do it for a living. I had to show other people this way.

Tanya: Well, it’s interesting because a few things, well a lot of things you’ve said is very, very fascinating to me. This idea of using money as an extension, and it could be money, it could be food, it could be work, it could be working out, it could be alcohol, it could be all types of stuff, but money is something that shows up often for people. You were using money as a way to comfort the insecurities that were actually going on inside. A way of feeding the ego. Short of being aware that that’s going on, there’s no effective way to address, or even reach, some type of financial health.

Taking shame for a second. How did we get to this place in society where, and it’s not just you, it’s so many people and probably me too, how do we associate our self-worth with our bank account or our income? How did we get there?

Tammy Lally: It’s a belief. That’s all it is. Not that that’s all it is, but it is that’s all it is. We believe, as a society, one family at a time. If you just break it down, you have to look at the whole world, it’s a little complicated. If you look at our family, just look at our family of origin. What did they say about money? What energy, what words are associated with money, how do people react to money, how do people behave with money and your family. That’s where it comes from.

Not everybody has money and shame, not everybody does. I’ve met some people that are pretty healthy with money and it’s not even a thing for them. However, the majority of the people that I talk to have something going on with money in terms of shame, secrecy, guilt. It starts in your family. It’s a belief system. I also believe that it’s been handed down for generations and generations and generations, so it’s not just your family of origin, it’s also three, four generations back, five generations. It goes back and all of that learning and all of that belief system gets handed down.

Why I believe it’s an epidemic, like what you’re talking about, how did we all get here, I believe it’s an epidemic because nobody’s ever investigated the thinking. We don’t [take it on]. We’re taught and told, don’t air your dirty laundry. Money is a taboo topic, don’t talk about it. Well, if you’re not talking about it, you’re not looking at your beliefs about it. If we want to change the epidemic, we just have to talk about it. That’s why I do the work because I want people to talk about it. I want to have the hard conversations. I love it. I love having the hard conversations.

My brother died because my family didn’t create a safe space to have hard conversations. My family of origin, unfortunately I didn’t grow up with parents that could create safety, so he had nowhere to go with that information. He had nowhere to go with his feelings. That is what I also experienced when I came up against the dark night of the soul for me with money. It’s what I hear with all of my clients. They don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t talk about it with their best friends.

That’s how we change the paradigm, we just talk about it and we get uncomfortable and we share. Like, how much credit card debt do you have and how often – that’s a big secret. We all pretend we don’t have credit card debt. [Every American] has $15,000 in consumer debt. How do we not have it? How can our circle of friends not have it?

Tanya: Absolutely. Actually, one of the things that blew my mind. The founder of Bridgewater Associations, Ray Dalio, has this really neat video on YouTube called The Economic Machine or something like that, Economic Machine. He distills in a very simple way what are the levers within the economy that make the economy work and what are the drivers. Even as he distills it, it’s still quite complex.

In that video, he says that there’s something like – our actual cash spending power in the US is something around $2 trillion, $3 trillion, around that neighborhood. Our actual spend, so plus credit debt, is in the $50 trillion. If you look at that ratio of what we actually make to what is actually spent, that blew me right out of my seat. I was, wow!

Tammy Lally: Yeah, I know. The way that I see this country, I live in the US so I don’t know what it’s like in other places, I just feel like they’ve got us so numbed out. We’re checked out. We’re numbed out. We’re addicted to this. We’re addicted to that. They’re just taking everything we’ve got. They’re just taking more and taking more and taking more. The corporations, the wealthy, the people that are like, watch them, watch how we get them hooked on this.

Tanya: Yes, and actually it’s hooked on – there’s a war for your wallet and for your attention and that’s true in algorithms, anything. If you go on Netflix, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, on Google, there’s a competition for your attention. Then with that comes what are you going to spend on? Yes, it’s brutal.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, but it starts with talking. Just like this. I’m always grateful to be in this conversation is really the truth.

Tanya: What’s really nice about your approach is you lead by example. You actually open up with your story, which puts everyone else at ease. Okay, I’m not alone. There’s other people that have been through this. Do you find that – the people that have stuff going on with money, is that mostly men, or women, or is it pretty much equal?

Tammy Lally: Yeah, it does not discriminate at all. There’s not one gender that has more problems. There’s not race that has more problems. It doesn’t discriminate. It’s the same for everyone. The human experience, you either have or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if the person has no money or the person is extremely wealthy. What I’ve seen is that the money beliefs are what drive them. Understanding the money belief that you have and the things that you say about money all the time, they dictate your outcome in your life. It doesn’t matter because everybody on the planet is touched by money. We live in that world, so no, I don’t see people suffering more.

I think, the difference, one thing I can say is I believe men suffer greatly, and I think the wealthy suffer greatly more than we know, and they don’t reach out for help. Women do suffer, but women get help. Women are very different. I work with a lot of women. I’d love to work with the same amount of men. More and more men are finding me because of my TED Talk. That’s great because they’re watching that in the privacy of their own home, and it’s very specific to my brother’s death. The conversations I have with men are different than the conversations I have with women, and I believe that men and the wealthy are at the highest risk because they don’t talk about it.

Tanya: Are at the highest risk of?

Tammy Lally: Of suffering.

Tanya: Of suffering.

Tammy Lally: Suffering could be addiction. It could be suicide. It could be just loneliness and despair, just living in more of a place of scarcity and lack, and so many people don’t believe that. A lot of people think, oh, they got money. They could just buy their way out. It’s not the truth. People that have money have a whole set of responsibility that people with money don’t have. It’s very difficult, especially when people inherit wealth. Oh, my God, the pressure that comes with inheriting wealth is very, very intense for a lot of people too.

Tanya: Why do you think that especially men and especially people that are wealthy suffer from – suffer around money?

Tammy Lally: Men I believe suffer because they’re told that they’re supposed to be strong, so they don’t ask for help. Also, their brain’s wired a little bit differently. They’re not going to dive into their emotions in the same way that women dive in, and so men just buck up. They’re a little tougher. They just keep going with – rolling with the punches. What I see in marriages often – and it doesn’t have to be a heterosexual marriage. It can be a gay relationship as well. It has a dynamic. You get somebody that’s a high earner, and there’s a lot of pressure on one person to carry a family, and men internalize that. They do it differently than we do. They hold it.

Men die younger for a reason because of stress, typically, stress-related illness like cancer and heart disease, so I believe that is the issue with men. With the wealthy is who are they going to talk to that’s going to have a lot of compassion, right? They’re going to go to their friend who might have a little less money or whatever and say, hey, I’m really struggling with this money thing. What do you mean you’re struggling? You got money. Go buy some help. That really happens, and the other piece with the wealthy is a lot of times they don’t share that they have wealth because they do not want to be discriminated against in the way that confusion of why people are in their lives. I hear this often. I don’t know if that person’s my friend because they’re just my friend or because I have money. I know.

Tanya: Yes, absolutely. I mean, when you get to a point where you do have wealth, you have a bullseye on your back, and people sometimes, not always – and there’s certainly ways to deal with this, but people’s motivation to be around you now becomes your bank account. That’s tough. I have a lot of friends in that situation. It can be very suffocating. I can see how even though there is wealth there’s still that mental prison, so to speak, around the conversation of money, and short of getting that addressed, the prison is very real regardless of the assets available.

How do you define financial health? How would I clue in as a person that, ooh, something is wrong? Maybe I’m not quite balanced here, or I might have an issue with finances versus somebody that’s in a really good position or even okay position.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, financial health for me is a feeling. It’s a feeling more than anything. It’s a feeling of being in your power and being in your power with money specifically, meaning that your day is not dictated whether it’s going to be good day or a bad day based on your bank account balance, or based on if you’re going to get that job or not get that job, or if your mom sends the money or doesn’t send the money, or if you’ve got – it’s just being in your power. Being in your power I believe takes a good deal of self-inquiry. You’ve got to really study yourself. You have to understand your thinking, understand your mind, and the only way to have financial wellness, financial health is to have wellness of your mind.

You can’t fix money problems with money. It’s an inside job. You have to go inside. You have to go inside, and so if you want financial health, you have to feel whole as a person. The only way that I know to do that is I have to ask myself questions. I got to get curious about my behavior. The only way I can do that is I have to have practices that allow me space inside my mind so I can see what’s happening, and I always have a coach, a therapist, or a spiritual advisor on hand because I can’t do that work on my own, never been able to do that.

Tanya: It’s interesting because there was – well, in some cases, it still is, but mostly before, there was a very big stigma around having a therapist or somebody to help you. Actually, if you think about it, most high performing professional athletes have coaches. Why? They need to see blind spots that they have, things that they cannot see themselves, have feedback loops, and now it’s very much becoming more accepted in the business world. Corporations are really starting to invest in their people. In fact, that’s actually quite top of mind lately that it’s not just about shareholder value, but it’s also about investing in your people and the mental well-being of your people and the development of your people. It makes total sense that you would have to start with your mental space around money and really get a coach. What is the experience like that you bring your clients through when you onboard a new client?

Tammy Lally: I first have to explain a little because people don’t know what a money coach does, and there are money coaches out there that do very specific things. What I do in my practice is a little bit more than money coaching. It’s very much transformational development work through the lens of money. As a financial planner, we do the budgeting. We do the blueprinting. We do retirement planning. We look at investment strategies. All of that happens. I don’t give advice because that’s not what I do anymore, but I help people, empower them to go off and implement with the right people.

First I have to give them an idea of what’s going to happen, and people find me. I don’t go out and find them, but people do find me. It’s really helping people understand that there’s three ways in is how I see it with money. You’ve got to go into the money story. You have to understand ad unpack your money story. You have to know what your beliefs are. Just think about this. Your money beliefs are in your subconscious mind. They’re not at the forefront, and they’re largely false, and they impact every decision that you make all day long about money. Wouldn’t you like to know what the story is?

Tanya: Yes, I would. It’s funny. Actually, in your case, you were mentioning that there – your childhood. In a child’s mind, the decisions or the way that you interpreted people bullying you, or people judging you for not having this clothes or that clothes, or being the help in a wealthy neighborhood and all that stuff that you internalized is probably what made your decisions or made who you were to later dominate all the decisions. It sounds like it wasn’t you the adult, the rational thinking person that came up with that at a later point. It’s all influenced from when you were a kid.

Tammy Lally: You got it, sister, and let me give you an example. I’m 30 years old. I drive into my driveway in the brand new convertible Porsche Boxster that I just bought. I open the driveway, and there is a Mercedes sitting in there already and a company car, and I’m single. There was a problem. There was a problem, and I didn’t even know there was a problem. My mind kept telling me just get more stuff and people will love you and accept you and want you and love you, blah, blah, blah. I had no idea what that childhood experience did to me. It had me literally going to car dealerships. Every time something bad happened like a breakup if I was in a relationship, I would get a new car, an expensive car.

Yes, that’s why I lead with you have to know your money story. You have to, and in the money story, a lot of things can be uncovered. There’s traumas. There’s addictions. There’s a lot of family stuff that comes in that money story, so you can’t do this work with somebody that isn’t skilled at really helping you through that level. I might work with somebody that has an issue. I mean, I’m not a therapist, so I’m not going to pretend that I am. They have an issue that is trauma related, and I will say I think it’s a really good idea to do some trauma therapy and find a therapist if you don’t have one and do some work. The mental health issues really show up in the money story, and there’s a lot of people that have mental health issues.

That’s the other piece to this is that, if we can’t follow a budget – okay, let’s just keep it basic. If you have $10 and you spend 20, you’re going to owe somebody 10 bucks. I mean, you’re going to be in debt, big debt. The math doesn’t lie.

Tanya: Yes, and actually, of that $10 that you’re going to owe, it’s probably going to be more like 12 or 15 over time because it’s accumulating interest, so you’re paying to even borrow that debt, which a lot of people don’t think about.

Tammy Lally: Exactly, but why would you make a decision like that? That’s what you have to find out about yourself, and that’s what’s in the money story. If you’re using debt to – if you’re living beyond your means, it’s because there’s a story about that, and you want to know what it is. If you don’t, you’re going to be broke. You’re always going to be broke. You’re not going to save. You’re going to be at the end of your – or towards the middle of your life or towards the end of your life going I have nothing, and that will break you down. That will create sickness. That creates depression. There’s a lot in that.

The approach is you got to go into the money story, and the book that I wrote which is called Money Detox really approaches this that way. It’s you got to go into the money story. Then we can go into the math. The second piece is, as doing the financial work, okay, now let’s look where the money is going. Why is the money going there? Let’s look at the story. It makes sense that the money is going there because here’s the story. Here’s what you believe, right? It allows people to really start to have more compassion and understanding for themselves and their families, which allows them to forgive. Forgiveness is the experience of really allowing yourself to bring more space into your life, so you can have more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. Forgiveness is, I believe, the only way to financial freedom.

Tanya: Forgiveness of who?

Tammy Lally: The only path to financial freedom.

Tanya: I mean, I agree with you. I love forgiveness, but in this case, in the context of money, who are you forgiving?

Tammy Lally: Often your family, your parents, a neighbor, somebody that might’ve said something really derogatory, but parents, parents get – they set up our belief system. Our belief systems are created by what we hear from our folks and what we see them do, and often our parents make a lot of mistakes. Then, as adults, we start repeating them. Then the forgiveness is parents, but then it’s to ourselves. Sometimes we have to look outwardly at others and blame them to be able to look inwardly and forgive ourselves.

Tanya: On that path of thinking about our family and our parents probably inherited whatever belief system their parents had about money. As a parent myself, as you’re talking, I’m thinking, hmm, what kind of mistakes am I perpetuating here? What would you recommend for the parents out there to really set their kids up for financial success or at least stop this money shaming or this self-worth equating to money thing happening?

Tammy Lally: Okay, Step 1, parents have to do their work. They have to do their personal growth work. You can’t change something if you don’t acknowledge what it is and understand it for yourself, and kids don’t believe you. My mom used to say – and I love my mother. I have deep forgiveness for her. What I used to hear her say was don’t do that. I would say why? She’d say because I said so, and then I’d see her do it. I remember that she did it. I don’t remember what she said. I remember what she did.

For parents, you have to practice healthy boundaries with money. You have to say no and mean no. You have to set limits and keep them. You can’t bargain with children. Children are going to run you over if you do that. With money with kids, kids watch us like hawks. I mean, children are watching everything every minute. My clients tell me, well, my kid doesn’t know anything. Bullshit, they know everything.

Tanya: Totally, and if they don’t…

Tammy Lally: They know everything.

Tanya: Oh, yeah, and if they don’t connect the dots today, they will tomorrow, guaranteed.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, they might not be able to say it verbally, but they know it energetically. They know exactly how to navigate it good. They’re brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. They’re our best teachers. For parents, don’t go down the rabbit hole. Don’t think, oh, my God, I screwed my kid up because that’s not going to help. I’d say get a copy of Money Detox. It’s a great place to start, and do the work. Do your work.

Look at your stories. Look at your behaviors, and do your work, and forgive yourself. Teach your children what you want them to be, so if you want your kids to be really financially responsible, practice showing them how to be financially responsible. One way to do that is, when they get money from family members, be intentional. Set up an account for them. Take them to the bank. Show them what real money looks like. They think credit cards are free money.

I mean, I work with a lot of families, and the kids are in on it. I work with families, individuals, couples, but I love when I work with a family because the parents think, oh, my kids doesn’t – oh, watch this. Then I get the kids individually. Hear the story. Then we share it with the parents, and the parents’ minds are blown. Kids think that a credit card is magic. They don’t know what that is. They’ll just, oh, the money’s on that. What do you mean the money’s on that? They don’t see it anymore.

You just go back, and you teach your children the way that your great-grandparents were taught. You have them write things down. You keep a ledger. You get real money out. You let them touch it. When all else fails, you go back to the olden days.

Tanya: I love that idea. It’s great. I have a 3-year-old and two kids that are 2, two identical twin girls.

Tammy Lally: Oh, fun.

Tanya: As an activity, we go sometimes to the store. I give my credit card to my daughter, and I say, okay, pay. She does whatever she does, and she loves it. She feels very empowered with it, and then she just leaves with the thing. You’re right. No concept of limit, amount, what you start with, what you end with, zero. It’s like, ooh, you just swipe this thing.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, it’s a magic card.

Tanya: I get it, yeah.

Tammy Lally: That’s really cool that you can see that. You’re right. When kids start becoming – especially a 3-year-old, they can conceptualize. What you could do is take a $20 bill and start breaking that money down and just having her hand you – okay, give me $2. I mean, I don’t know where she is in…

Tanya: Yeah, we’re getting to counting, so we’re right there, yeah, so right in time.

Tammy Lally: Bring some cash in. Stores still take cash right now.

Tanya: Yeah, this is amazing. Okay, so first you go through the mental – first you explain what you do, what your actual role is, which is to first look at the story, and then get really clear on where the money’s going, which ties back to the story. Then once people get really – get a visual on all this, that’s when you can really start doing financial planning.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, what the story and the budget will do is it will show you what you value and what you hold a priority. Once you see what you make a priority, you can really start to look at your values and see if that’s even aligning. If it’s not aligning, it causes a lot of unrest in your body, irritation, upset, resentment. You don’t even know it. When you’re out of alignment with yourself, meaning you’re lying to yourself about something…

Tanya: Ah, yes, I like that.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, it becomes really clear. If I’m looking at my spending and I go, God, I spent $500 last month on blah, blah, blah and I’m like I didn’t even enjoy that, I get pissed, ra-ra-ra-ra-ra. God, I’m stupid. What was I doing there? Then if I go back and say, well, wait a minute, maybe there was a belief there. Maybe I was emotional. Maybe something happened. Maybe something hijacked me and got me running over to Ben & Jerry’s and blowing up my diet.

It’s like that. It’s like being able to – and that’s what I do with my clients. It’s like bringing in a lot of compassion. Okay, here’s where the money’s going. Where do you really want it to go? What’s the life you really want? What’s the daydream? How do you want to live?

Helping them align their day-to-day practices with the ideal life, and money has to be a part of that. Money is part of our whole being. I mean, it impacts us spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, physically. We think about money thousands of times a day. We have so many exchanges of money. It’s really just approaching it from a kinder place. Really understanding that, if money isn’t flowing well, if there’s some hiccups there, it’s emotional. You’re continually coming back to that. You’re having an emotional reaction. This is not practical math.

Tanya: What’s the process? How long do your clients typically work with you until they get to where they need to go?

Tammy Lally: About a year.

Tanya: About a year.

Tammy Lally: Yeah, so six months, we start. That’s the minimum. Six months is the minimum requirement, and then it always turns into a year. It depends on the person. It depends on what they’re up to, but if they’re really starting to step into their power, I have some clients that have been with me for six years.

Tanya: Oh, I can see why people would want to keep you around. You’re brilliant. Yes, okay, so then between six months to a year. What’s the frequency of coaching? Is it once a week, twice a week, once a month?

Tammy Lally: Yeah, it’s weekly for the first three months, and that’s on purpose because we fall into – first, we establish trust. Talking with somebody about money like this, you have to really establish trust. I’m real friendly, and it’s an easy thing to start building the trust because I’m so personal and vulnerable. I just say what it is, true. All the stuff I struggle with, I don’t hide. I might be a money coach, but I’m still learning. It’s weekly, and that really helps me and them see the pattern. We all have patterns. We’re creatures of habit. We do the same thing over and over, so it really helps them be seen.

A lot of times in coaching – when I was coached in the past from other types of coaches, business coaches, I didn’t feel – I could hide out. I could really still hide out in my shame and my whatever I was up to, so I know that. I know that, if people really want to be the best that they can be inside themselves and really experience financial freedom, enjoy, they have to be seen. They have to let somebody in.

My philosophy is I really want you to have the experience of being seen, and I get it that it’s going to be shame – there’s going to be shaming. I’m not going to shame you. I get it. We’re going to have hard conversations, but I’m never going to tell you what to do. I’m just here to really empower you to live the way you want. It’s like that because we’re building that level of a relationship. We’re really getting in there together, so I ask for weekly.

Tanya: That’s great. Tammy, this has been – first of all, I want to acknowledge you for the incredible work that you’re doing. For those listening, Money Detox is Tammy’s book, really, really amazing. I’m actually going to get myself a copy, and I highly recommend watching Tammy’s TED Talk, which really goes into depth about her story, some of what you heard today, really amazing. If people want to get in touch with you, Tammy, how do they get in touch with you?

Tammy Lally: Just go to my website, which is

Tanya: Okay, great.

Tammy Lally: Google me. Find me on Facebook. My website, it’s got everything right there.

Tanya: You know what, Tammy? The good news is you have a lot of work to do with a lot of people. I just love it. I love the approach, and I think that this is – we’re in a cultural shift right now where we’re bringing everything back into alignment. Actually, up until this conversation, I knew for myself that I needed to have career alignment, health alignment. Yes, I knew I had to be within budget, but I didn’t understand the connection with the overall alignment of my purpose with where I’m spending my money and how I’m using money to either soothe or further what I’m up to.

Tammy Lally: Nice. Do it, [58:20].

Tanya: Really, really cool stuff, Tammy. Thank you so much for being unmessable, and I applaud you for the difference that you’re making.

Tammy Lally: Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

Announcement: Unmessable is recorded in the heart of New York City, and a special thanks to all the team involved in producing the show. Visit to find a transcript of this episode and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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