We all have baggage.

We’re used to thinking this in the context of relationships and personal hang-ups. In recent years, there are more people talking about it in the context of money, though I suspect a majority of “serious” finance people dismiss this as snowflakey, touchy-feely nonsense. The dismissiveness is kind of a LOL for me. I’ve met some fancy investor types who carry pretty heavy bags.

Some argue we should handle money with cold, calculating rationality. Here, financial decisions are reduced to straightforward cost/benefit calculations. Financial problems are first and foremost optimization problems. Some quant and engineer types might get close to this “rational ideal.” But most of us don’t even come close.

Like all baggage, financial baggage is rooted in our formative experiences with money. Childhood experiences with money are particularly powerful.

My own baggage came a little late in life. I graduated into the Great Recession. What I took from the experience was a certain baseline level of paranoia, and heightened risk-consciousness. No one is looking out for you. You are expendable.

To paraphrase a wise man: you can operate within the system; you can respect the system (parts of it, anyway); but you should never, ever trust the system.

For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter whether this worldview is “correct” or not. What matters is recognizing it colors my attitude toward financial and career decisions. It shapes my priorities. It’s a background process that’s always running on my internal OS. Some people call these background processes “money scripts.” There is a whole taxonomy of money scripts. Maybe this is the “right” taxonomy. Maybe not. It strikes me as at least directionally correct.

What do we “do” about these deeply ingrained scripts?

It is the wrong question. Ultimately, we’re the sum of our scripts.

What is the “right” set of scripts? Does a dog have a Buddha nature? They’re the same question. They have the same “answer.”