Innocence, Pain and Dreams of Money Maturity

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Innocence, Pain, and Personal Money Maturity

In his astonishingly thoughtful book, Seven Stages of Money Maturity, author George Kinder identifies (obviously) seven stages of money maturity. It’s not a quick read and I’m not finished with it yet.

So far, I have learned that, in spite of my recent breakthrough, I’m still a ways off from money maturity.

In fact, I am just moving out of stage 2.

The first two stages happen in a figurative childhood phase. I say figurative, because you don’t have to be a child to be in this phase. You just have to be child-like. It’s about state of mind.

Stage one is innocence, and stage two is pain.

Unfortunately these are not linear stages, they’re cyclic. That means innocence leads to pain, which leads to innocence, which leads to pain, and so on,  until one wakes up and notices being stuck in a cycle that Kinder refers to as suffering.

Can I get an amen?

Kinder writes: “Most of us recycle between Pain and Innocence in a way that prevents us from moving forward toward Money Maturity.”

I got that. For example, in my youth I believed that there would be plenty of time for me to save for retirement, and that I might not ever have kids so there wouldn’t be a need to save for college for anyone. That was Innocence.

When I got to age 39 and had my first child, and still didn’t have anything set aside for retirement, I realized I didn’t have the resources to stop working even for a few months to devote my full attention to my baby. That was pain. But we got through that, and I had a good business going, so I was sure it would all work out. Innocence.

Then the second baby came along at age 43 (me, not him), and I still hadn’t started saving for the first child’s college fund. At that point, I realized saving for retirement was probably moot because I’d be working until I dropped.


And the cycle is just as pernicious on a small scale as on a large one. Like at the grocery store, when I spend too much on groceries because I’m “positive” I’ll get a check in the mail by the end of the week (innocence).  Then the next day my client calls to say she can’t pay me til the middle of July (pain).

As a nation, Americans seem stuck in this same cycle.

The economy booms, housing prices soar, and we take out loans we don’t really need and don’t know exactly how we will pay in full (innocence). The economy slows, housing prices crash, and there’s no money to make the loan payments (pain). But the economy always gets better, so if we can just hang on another week, another month, another quarter…(innocence).

We even commonly refer to the economy as a cycle, and we accept that it moves from boom to bust and back to boom. We are programmed to stay stuck in this cycle in a way that prevents us, as individuals as well as collectively, from moving forward toward Money Maturity.

So how do we break the cycle?

It’s all about awareness. First we must recognize that we are cycling and recycling, and that cycles are fundamentally stagnant, not forward-moving.

It’s really hard to do this when one is in the innocence phase, because innocence feels good, and why question a good thing? Pain is a much better motivator. When we are in pain, the pain is a signal to wake up. It’s uncomfortable, and we’re in a rush to get out of it.

But Kinder suggests that instead of narcotizing pain by choosing to cycle back to innocence we should wake up to the fact that cycling back to innocence is only a set-up for more pain.

It’s like taking an aspirin to quell a toothache: ah, the relief. Three hours later: oh, the pain. Perhaps it’s not an aspirin we need, but a dentist.

So this is where I find myself, per my last post: I’ve become aware of the cycle, and I’m working on using the pain to propel myself out of it. What’s next?

According to Kinder, I’m ready for the first of the three stages that happen in the adult phase of money maturity.


More on that next time, World of Dreamers. And in the meantime, do you see the innocence/pain cycle in your own money maturity behavior, past or present?

Leave a comment in the box below.


Jayne Speich is a small business coach/consultant who writes, thinks, and coaches extensively on customer service, business finance, and ways to thrive in the new economy. She has an exciting new business venture with sister dreamer Remy Gervais, called The Gazelle Goal. She is the owner of Onsys21 Dental, a coaching/consulting firm for dental practice owners. Plus, you can find her at Jayne’s post day is Saturday.

  • ms

    I found myself in a financial bind because I invested too heavily in the real estate back in the 2000s. Just about everyone who has dabbled into real estate in the early 2000s rave about how much money they have made. Feeling jealous and envious, I attempted to do the same, but to find that it is not as easy as all the TV shows claim to be. In the traditional world, you would want to buy at the lowest and sell at the highest, but no one could have predicted when this ceiling and floor limit will present itself. As you can probably guess by now, I was one of the unlucky ones and ended up losing a lot of money when the stock market crashed. I had to endure such a big financial loss that the only thing that I can do is to file for bankruptcy protection if I ever get back on my two feet again. It was definitely difficult for me emotionally as I seemingly was on top of the world, and then in a matter of a year or so, I was left with nothing. Since the fallout of my financial demise, I have learned that I cannot look for the shortcut to making easy money. It is a better choice to be realistic about what you can make, whether it is through your job, or any investment you are thinking of. Do not put yourself in a position where you will have so much debt that you will have to file for bankruptcy protection. My immaturity about money and wanting to make it easily cost me everything. I realize I wanted it to be like when I was a kid and my parents just handed me money. My car always had gas, I didn’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage and food was always in the refrigerator. I was trying to recreate that sensation without realizing it. It has been a painful process. Your post nailed it. m

  • Love the post! I can totally track my career/paycheck innocence/pain cycles.

    It’s like the money spending innocence phase can be equated to that classic “It’s always fun until someone loses an eye”.

    Or in this case, sometimes loses a mortgage. Ack!

    Great post – H

  • This idea makes so much sense to me and it would make sense that we would pick it up in childhood too.

    There is also this child-like tendency not to look at where you are with money in your life — like pulling your blanket over your head in the dark means you pretend you are safe — not looking at your money means you can pretend you are financially safe.


    You should really get some of these in Readers Digest and some national magazines.

    Love them.


  • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

    Good God I am gonna start charging you for stealing my money life story. lol. Pain. definitely pain stage for the past 4 years. But its funny how “innocent” and pain free I was anticipating feeling after my possible retirement influx of taxed cash. I was hoping not to feel pain anymore, but that is just trading real time pain for future pain. So knowledge is how to break it? I need help with that part. Damn you! xox Rem