75. Working Through Money Trauma with Shannah Game

March 7, 2023

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn't cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don't personally use or believe in.

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

Money Trauma comes in all forms

From spending habits you’d rather break up with to anxiety that manifests in your body to a general discomfort around your finances.

Most of our listeners experience some sort of money anxiety or trauma around money –– so we brought in an expert to chat with us about what we can do about it.

Shannah Game joins host Tori Dunlap for this actionable episode on managing financial trauma and moving forward on the other side. Shannah shares her story of leaving her first marriage with nothing, how she overcame that trauma that stemmed from that, and how she re-built her finances and now helps others do the same.

This episode is great for anyone, regardless of if you have trauma around money or just feel some level of anxiety or discomfort around parts of your finances.

What you’ll learn:

  • How Shannah handled a divorce that left her with next to nothing in assets

  • Why and how financial trauma manifests itself in our bodies and day-to-day lives

  • Helpful techniques for regulating your nervous system when you’re stressed about money

  • How money trauma affects people differently based on gender, ethnicity, and more

Shannah’s Links:

Meet Shannah

Shannah Game is an award-winning Money Wellness Expert, Host of Everyone’s Talkin’ Money podcast, Certified Financial Planner with an MBA, entrepreneur, educator, Certified Trauma of Money Specialist, and the creator of the Money Mindset Journal. 

Shannah waved goodbye to the old traditional financial planning model and turned her focus on helping everyone “unf*ck their relationship with money” through her podcast, Everyone’s Talkin’ Money.  Everyone’s Talkin’ Money podcast, formerly the Millennial Money podcast, was named a Top 4 Money podcast by the NY Times and has been downloaded 23 million + times in over 167 countries. The show focuses on sharing relevant, inclusive, and forward-thinking conversations around money – this is the place to learn everything about money that no one taught you. Through life-changing conversations, you’ll get rid of the rules, drop your mistakes at the door and step into a new way to money.

Shannah has also spent over 10 years teaching financial literacy at California State University Northridge, she’s spoken on stages to thousands sharing her money expertise, and sat elbow to elbow with hundreds of individuals guiding them towards their money goals. She’s a mental health advocate and openly shares her mental health struggles with her listeners. Shannah became permanently deaf in her left ear in 2018 and is often referred to as the Beethoven of the podcast world. 

In her “free” time, Shannah’s been known to make a mean risotto, spends way too much time researching travel destinations, and can be seen all around Asheville, NC with her service pup, Winnie. 


[00:00:00] Tori Dunlap: We kind of start these organically, which is always fun. Yeah, it’s been a minute since we’ve seen each other. What’s, what’s going on in your world? How’s

[00:00:06] Shannah Game: It Ha it has been a minute. I feel like everything since the pandemic has been a minute.

[00:00:12] Tori Dunlap: That’s true. Have we not talked since? Oh my gosh, it’s probably been pre pandemic.

[00:00:17] Shannah Game: It’s been quite a while. I can’t remember the last time, but it has been quite a while. Yeah. I mean, time feels like it’s totally, you know, this weird like, This weird thing lately, so I have no idea how we’re at the end of 2022 either, but here we are.

[00:00:31] Tori Dunlap: do you watch The Good Place? Have you ever seen the good.

[00:00:34] Shannah Game: Oh yes, yes, I

[00:00:35] Tori Dunlap: Okay. So it feels like a Jeremy Barie feels

[00:00:38] like a Jeremy 

[00:00:39] Shannah Game: doesn’t it?

[00:00:40] Tori Dunlap: timeline. , yes. I’m rewatching it with my partner and we just watched the Jeremy Barie episode last night and Yeah, or breaks Cheat’s Brain. It kills me every

[00:00:49] Shannah Game: Yeah, I know. I swear.

[00:00:51] Tori Dunlap: We like to start all of our interviews with money experts by asking, what is your first money memory? What is the first time that you remember thinking about money considering. What did that look like for you?

[00:01:04] Shannah Game: Yeah, I mean, wow, that’s like such a great question. I think my first money memory was the first time I lost a tooth. and realized that, you know, the tooth fairy was gonna come like this was, I had a brother who was five years older, so for me it was like, you know, the never ending like waiting game. And we’d gone to a movie and I had eaten some milk duds, very classic, lost the tooth like in a milk dud.

[00:01:30] And just remember like, I don’t remember the rest of the movie. And just coming home and like needing to call my grandma and tell her. I lost this tooth and like now the tooth ray was gonna come and I was gonna have money and you know, she was asking me like, well, what are you gonna do with it? I’m like, well, I don’t know.

[00:01:44] Like I’ve never really had money before, so I have no idea . But I think that was like the, that was like the first time I had like a real conscious memory of. Okay, I’ve got money and you know, I was, I don’t know how old I was, I don’t know, 6, 7, 8. I don’t know how old you’re, when you lose your first tooth.

[00:02:01] But then I was like, okay, well what am I gonna do with this? And I, I don’t remember what I did with it, but I probably like went and bought like a cow patch, kid doll or something like that.

[00:02:09] Tori Dunlap: I love it. Do you feel like that influenced any way you manage money now or think about money now?

[00:02:16] Shannah Game: you know, that’s a good question. Not necessarily, although I’ve always been. Been always been a little bit of a risk taker with money. Yeah, I’m, I’m not too conservative. I like to, I kind of from an early age figured, you know, we only got one shot at life, so we might as well have some funds. I’ve always been somebody who’s really about balance.

[00:02:36] Like, you know, half the money goes towards something fun that I like to do, and then half the money goes to something maybe a little bit more practical. So, yeah, that’s kind of always been the way I’ve, I’ve approached any money that I’ve ever. , and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

[00:02:51] Tori Dunlap: yeah. . So we are both millennial finance experts, and of course you’ve built an entire brand around it. What is the thing that you feel like, if you could touch on one thing that millennials are facing when it comes to finances, like what is the thing they’re struggling with most or the thing that is causing them the most anxiety when it comes to money?

[00:03:13] Shannah Game: you know, I think that, What’s interesting about the generations is although we each have, each generation has its kind of own unique circumstances and, you know, world climate, economic climate, everything that they’re in, there are a lot of similarities amongst people. I’m a non-practicing certified financial planner, but spent, you know, 10, 12 years working with people and.

[00:03:35] Regardless of kind of demographic of age of income, we all had sort of the same things in common around money, which was really fascinating for me to see. But I would say with millennials, like I’m right on the cusp between Gen X and millennial, depending on what’s. You know, what survey you kinda look at.

[00:03:55] But I would say, you know, comparison is a really big trap that I see millennials get in, especially because a lot of the younger millennials have join, you know, grown up with, with social media and kind of everything in your face all at once. And so it’s really easy to start comparing yourself against other people.

[00:04:13] And it can be a big trap because we don’t know behind the scenes. Of, of anyone, what’s going on. So, you know, to compare what you are doing versus somebody else, it’s just, it’s, it’s never gonna end up in a good place for yourself. So I think that’s the big thing is really figuring out how to, how to forge your own path and to put up some blinders and not really see or even care what anybody else is doing.

[00:04:40] But it’s, it’s tricky. It’s hard.

[00:04:43] Tori Dunlap: Well, and it’s the realization too, that there are so many people who don’t, don’t even do this intentionally, but present one thing online or one thing to their friends or one thing to their family, and there’s a completely different reality behind the scenes. And they might not even be aware of that reality.

[00:05:03] Like the amount of people, of course, that have come to me who have been like, I’ve been avoiding my credit card statements for a year, and I finally got honest and looked, and it’s worse than I thought, or sometimes better than I thought. But I think that that’s the interesting thing too, is you see a lot of people, I don’t know, taking vacations, starting businesses, getting married on social media, and you might be thinking like, I want that, or Why don’t I have.

[00:05:25] Behind the scenes, they might not be happy. They might be happy, who knows, but they might not be happy. They might be in debt in order to get those things, can’t tell you the amount of people and you know, of course better than anybody, the amount of people who are getting married or having children and making deep financial sacrific
es to have those things in a way that I don’t know if they’ve completely understood.

[00:05:44] Shannah Game: Yeah, it’s it’s really tough because, you know, money is always this elephant in the room. We don’t, we don’t talk about it. We talk about it on shows like yours and shows like mine. It’s literally the name of my show now. Everyone’s talking money. So it’s, it’s about these conversations. So, We do this here in these places, but we don’t do this outside.

[00:06:01] We certainly don’t do it with strangers. We don’t really, no. And we don’t wanna get into these.

[00:06:06] Tori Dunlap: to talk about money.

[00:06:07] Shannah Game: Yeah. And we don’t wanna get into these conversations with family. It’s hard enough to get into them with our partners. So we operate in this vacuum and it’s really easy to think that your mistakes are original and unique.

[00:06:22] and that there’s something wrong with you. And a, a large part of my messaging is always to tell people there’s nothing wrong with you . Anything that you’ve done or haven’t done, it’s completely normal. And most everything can be fixed and can be figured out, you know? But I think it’s really important to ha to have these conversations and to talk about that comparison is a thing, and it, it’s okay if you get stuck in those trap.

[00:06:48] Tori Dunlap: Totally. Speaking of talking about money, you have been so transparent in your own financial journey, and I kind of want to just jump into that tough stuff. You have publicly talked about your separation, your divorce. Was that part of what brought you to becoming a financial educator? Did it change the way you thought about money or talked about.

[00:07:12] Shannah Game: I was already in the financial industry for about. Gosh, about mm, six years before that, five or six years and had become a certified financial planner. So, you know, I, I really knew the ins and outs of money, which is a good thing and not a good thing when you’re going through a divorce. And I think it was really at that time when I started to have a lot of ahas about.

[00:07:39] The power of the things that we don’t talk about. And those things for me are your money story, the beliefs, money, trauma that we’re gonna talk about your mindset around money, how you think, act, and feel about money. All of those things are so powerful and I got stuck in the trap of being really, really negative and coming from a place of, of true scarcity and fear and shame.

[00:08:02] I stayed in the relationship. Far too long because I was afraid of what he would do to me financially, , and all of it came true and I lived and survived and have come out the other side. So it all is survivable, but it was, it was really tough. And so I, I started to see the things I was struggling with echoed in the clients and the people I was working with.

[00:08:28] You know, when. Practicing certified financial planner. I worked predominantly with female entrepreneurs and I would see the same patterns and I thought, okay, well first I’ve gotta figure this out for myself, then I can start to help other people kind of figure this out. But there were a lot of, you know, really tough, like low moments where I thought like, who am I to give money advice to anybody?

[00:08:53] I mean, I had to give up all of my. Every single asset. I was left with a car that I had, we had just bought and I had a huge payment on it, and I had a suitcase, a blue suitcase that I packed full of all my clothes and anything else I could squeeze into it. That was it. I went, moved in with my parents and he lived in the house rent free for a long period of time and had everything.

[00:09:22] So in order to, you know, not have to pay this person for the rest of my life basically, is what that felt like to me. I had to, you know, make the tough choice to walk away from everything that I’d built, and it’s hard. Those, those choices are or are not easy.

[00:09:39] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. How do you, how did you keep yourself from drowning during that time? Like what, for you was the motivation to keep going and also I imagine a ton of bitterness or resentment to overcome of like, I’ve done all this work seemingly for not

[00:09:55] Shannah Game: I still have a lot of bitterness, , and it’s been quite a while. Sometimes I’ll go to, like, I love to cook. Sometimes I’ll go to like, make something and I’ll be like, where’s that tool? I’ll ask my husband now. I’ll be like, where’s that, that tool that I need? And he’s like, we don’t own that. And I’m like, oh crap.

[00:10:11] That was like from my previous marriage.

[00:10:13] Tori Dunlap: you’re like that lemon juicer. He

[00:10:15] Shannah Game: Yeah, exactly. Don’t have it. When I got divorced, my parents or my parents, my friends actually did the best thing. They threw me a divorce party, which I highly suggest to anybody, and they just brought over all their like odds and ends of extra stuff, like toasters and spatulas and cooking stuff and whatever.

[00:10:33] And so I had this like just complete misage of stuff, but it was so cool cuz it was

[00:10:38] Tori Dunlap: And I, I wanna pause you there. This is like, I’m gonna be on a soapbox for a second. Society celebrates in a woman’s life, like three things. You get engaged, you get married, you have babies. Those are like the three main things. And maybe graduation now more than, more, more frequently, but like those are the big three things like.

[00:10:57] People come out in droves. You literally have, yeah. You have registers where people can go and buy you. Yeah. Toaster, blender, tea towels you know, the, the nursing bra you need and all of that. And the amount of support that you need during those times. Yes. Completely, completely amazing. Critical. You need, I, I would argue even more support during times of starting a business, going through a divorce.

[00:11:25] Graduating like grad school or getting a doctorate, like, uh, becoming sober. Like the things that society celebrates are significant, but should also be coupled with all of these other life milestones where you need support from friends, you need literal physical things, or money or goods, or at least just generosity.

[00:11:47] And I fucking love that. I love

[00:11:49] that they did that for. 

[00:11:50] Shannah Game: it was brilliant. I mean, it just, you know, I still have a lot of those like odds and ends and, you know, I remember the people attached to them who gave them to me, you know, with kindness and because they, you know, believed in who I was and they knew I was in a bad situation and, you know, I could have gone out and bought spatulas and whatever.

[00:12:08] But it was a really, it was a really cool thing. And so for me that during that time, You know, having, having friends was great, but there was also this pure, just unadulterated freedom that I
felt that I could never express, but it was just the most beautiful feeling. Like I felt totally, like, you know, my whole life was resetting.

[00:12:34] I, I moved into apartment. I moved into apartment by myself. Before college or you know, during college. So like moved into this apartment, I didn’t have anything, so I just wheeled in my little blue suitcase and you know, then started buying furniture and buying what I wanted. So it was a great. You know, sense of freedom.

[00:12:56] I also realized it was a privilege that I was able to, to afford, you know, to, to buy those things. Not everybody has that luxury. Totally understand that. So it was, you know, it was starting over. But yeah, it’s, it’s tough, you know, it’s, it’s rough specifically when the person on the other end. Is using money as the tool to harm you and you know, you’re just doing the best you can to try and get out of it, you know, unscathed.

[00:13:20] But but I, you know, I think it’s, it really taught me, again, you know, I already knew this, but it really taught me that money is, is a tool and. You, you can rebuild, you can make more money. So for me, the choice of giving up all my assets was an easy choice. And a lot of people think I’m completely crazy for doing that, but what I gained was myself and there is no price you can put on that.

[00:13:47] So, you know, I would, I would make the same choice over again if I had.

[00:13:50] to 

[00:13:51] Tori Dunlap: Yeah, such a hard choice, but also I. One you deemed necessary. I think there’s plenty of people who could figure out a way to split assets or get assets back. Sounds like for you that was just not, not your situation where it was

[00:14:04] Shannah Game: No

[00:14:05] Tori Dunlap: just easier to cut. Yeah.

[00:14:06] Shannah Game: When the attorney says it’s better for you to just let everything go, you’re like, all right, let’s

[00:14:11] do

[00:14:11] it 

[00:14:11] Tori Dunlap: like, okay, . So in our research we found that around 20 to 25% of Americans experience some sort of. Trauma, like deep trauma, P T S D symptoms around money and finances. So can you talk about what sort of forms of money trauma there are or how money trauma manifests for, for us as individuals?

[00:14:36] Shannah Game: Yeah. You know, money is one of the most significant trauma bonds that most of us have and it is deep. And if you’ve never had this if you’ve never gone through this process of really thinking about trauma, you know, hopefully this is an invitation in to just think about the different areas in your life where you may experience some, some money, trauma.

[00:14:58] But there’s lots of different ways, right? We can have ancestral so, you know, money, trauma that has passed down generations. Like my grandparents lived through the great depress. . And so, you know, their thoughts and feelings and actions around money then passed to my parents that then there’s a warped, you know, version of that that was passed to me.

[00:15:17] And so, you know, trying to understand your ancestors and what they walk through, what they’ve been through is very important to figure out money, trauma that might exist. You could have obviously relationship trauma, money, trauma that we were just talking. Uh, You could also have trauma around things like, like blood money, right?

[00:15:38] So let’s say that you know, your partner or your spouse passed away and you got a life insurance policy, that money may feel almost like survivor’s guilt, right? It might feel like blood money to you, and so you might 

[00:15:53] Tori Dunlap: I’ve worked with a ton of people who have who’ve gotten inheritances. Somebody has died and they’re like, I didn’t, I don’t deserve this money. I don’t, I feel guilty about this amount of money. I just, I kind of don’t want it. Yeah. Super common.

[00:16:07] Shannah Game: Yeah. And you can also think about blood money this way too. Like what if you are working a job that you. , right? And you get the paycheck, that could still feel like a version of blood money to you. That is, that is a money trauma, right? I’m, I’m exchanging my time doing something that I don’t like to do for money.

[00:16:25] Right? So there’s lots of different ways that money trauma shows up. You know, it could be you know, from your parents, how you were raised, could be societal but I would argue that. All of us have some form of money, trauma, you know, we live in this very like money scarcity environment. That’s how we grow up.

[00:16:47] That’s how we learn to be in relationship with money. And that is definitely a form of money, trauma that we all walk through. So there’s lots of different ways that this can really show up in, in your life.

[00:17:04] Tori Dunlap: Yeah, I think that’s one thing I wish we talked about more. Like I start my book with a whole chapter around the emotions of money, of like the psychological impact that narratives have on you. That, again, like I asked about money memories, right? Like that is so interesting about how that shapes our relationship to money based on how our parents managed money or how our, you know, the people we grew up around, how they managed money and.

[00:17:31] I wish just people would give themselves more slack and grace in the understanding that so much of the way you view money, so much of how you manage money has everything to do with your lived experience. And with a systemic oppression and less like your, you know, p personal defects or something like that.

[00:17:50] Shannah Game: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with you if, if you feel. Money, trauma, you know, if you, if you’ve experienced anything that we’re, that we’re talking about. But I mean, honestly, if you are, if you’re walking around and you’re feeling fear, shame, guilt, regret if you’re hyper-vigilant around money, all of those are signs of money, trauma.

[00:18:11] And I would, I would say that probably everyone listening, we could all raise our hands and say, yes, we have some version. You know, some of us. Deeper and more ingrained. But there, there’s always something there I think really bubbling at the surface.

[00:18:26] Tori Dunlap: So let’s talk about like some concrete examples of how this financial trauma might show up in our lives. I think the most obvious example is like spending, right, of like somebody who over. Spends someone who you know, doesn’t really spend money on things that they love, feels deep guilt for their spending, spends money to cope, right?

[00:18:45] This, I think this is the most common. What are some other responses and how does this impact somebody in their day-to-day?

[00:18:55] Shannah Game: Yeah. You brought, you brought up a lot of the, the like super pra
ctical ones around, around spending and, and, and those sorts of things. You know, when we talk about money scarcity when we’re living in a place of money scarcity, we. Can’t make good decisions, right? Our brains just don’t operate from a place where we’re able to rationalize the decisions we need to make around money.

[00:19:15] And so we tend to make the opposite decision of what we’re actually going towards. So if we’re actually wanting to pay off debt, if we’re feeling a lot of money, scarcity, we may actually spend more money and get more in debt just because that’s the way our bodies and brains work. But when we talk about trauma, In any kind of trauma, specifically money, trauma, you’re gonna, a lot of times feel it in your body.

[00:19:39] You’re gonna have some sort of body response, right? So these are the things that aren’t as, as tangible as savings, spending money, those types of things. You know, you might, you might get anxiety, you might develop depression. You know, just this year I developed panic attacks. I never had those before, and.

[00:19:56] Came to learn that that is a repercussion in my body from trauma that I had not dealt with and really worked through. So it, it could also manifest in your body, like you’re not sleeping well, right? If you’re, if you’re waking up at night and you’re thinking about money, or you’re thinking about those bills you have to pay or.

[00:20:16] Maybe you lost money in the stock market and you’re kind of freaking out about that, whatever it might be, right? That is causing a trauma response in your body. It usually raises your blood pressure, your heart rate goes up. And so most of us operate in this, this hyperactive state particularly around money.

[00:20:34] You know, we don’t wanna have conversations, we don’t wanna think about it. We wanna kind of push it aside. We’ll do again, the kind of opposite of. We’re actually going towards. And so, you know, there’s a big, big body connection to trauma, right? And so it’s really like unearthing what’s going on in your body.

[00:20:53] And h how is that related to your relationship with money? That is a huge process of that, you know, kind of working through the money trauma that you might have.

[00:21:07] Tori Dunlap: and I wish we talked about it again, like any other kind of trauma, like traumatic. Traumatic events are traumatic events, and I have a, the. Who calls it like big T trauma versus little T trauma? So like big T trauma, right? Is sexual assault murder, like the, the big, big, horrible things. Little t trauma might be microaggressions or you know, a frayed relationship with your family, depending on the severity.

[00:21:32] But like, I think we all have, I think all of us have at least little Ty trauma. And then some of us have these, you know, horribly traumatic events in our life. Yeah, I mean, I think about just how you deal with trauma in any other aspect, right? You gain or lose weight. To your point, you lose sleep. Your body starts feeling either, you know, extremely tight and sore all the time.

[00:21:55] You don’t have any motivation to do the things that you normally like to do. I mean, I’m basically describing depression, right? But like that, I feel, I feel like that that is a hundred. Those are a hundred percent symptoms of money, trauma, and of you know, concern around money that you don’t have enough or you’re going to lose what you do have.

[00:22:15] We know from, I actually know from research from my book that so much trauma is added. In addition, if you are a person of color and especially if you were like first gen, and I have so many friends of mine who have told me, Yeah, I have money now and I’m doing okay, but it feels like every single second I could lose it because I didn’t have a lot of it growing up.

[00:22:39] And because I live in a world that is constantly trying to bar my rights, and we found in research for this episode, it’s a heartbreaking piece of research, but that black woman, Have the highest levels of this, like cumulative burden of bodily wear and tear from chronic stress and adverse life events, and it’s linked to cognitive and physical decline, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and all of these terrible things.

[00:23:05] So, I mean, and not so fun question, but like how, how much do you see factors like systemic racism affecting money, trauma in adults, and especially in people of.

[00:23:17] Shannah Game: I mean, the answer is a lot, right? I mean, everything that you’re just, you’re just talking about, you know, everything that’s going on in, in, in the body as a result is, is very real, you know, and it, it, it does stem from first, you know, we don’t. Often recognize that money trauma exists. I think you know, I have a lot of friends that are African American you know, Asian, lots, lots of different demographics, and you know, when we talk about this idea of trauma, it’s like, whoa, wait a minute.

[00:23:49] I didn’t even know. This existed, like, okay, this starts to explain a lot, a lot of what I’m feeling and thinking about money. And you’re absolutely right. Like it, it creates in particularly people of color, this sense of wanting to be super conservative with their money, wanting to, you know, hold on to everything that they can.

[00:24:08] A lot of times it creates, You know, false beliefs around their, their value that they’re, they’re not worthy of a certain income or you know, that they can’t step up to the table and have their voice heard and have it, have it be, you know, worthy and, and, and, and worth the amount of money that they’re worth.

[00:24:26] And so, you know, I think. The most important thing is to really take some time and start to just, whether you’re a journaler or you know, you’re somebody that likes to just kind of sit and meditate or whatever you kind of use, even if you’re doing yoga or something like that, and just start to let your brain go to a place where you think about.

[00:24:49] you know what money traumas like might exist for me. And if you are you know, someone who has had ancestral like deep ancestral societal money, trauma, like just start to think about. What that is and how that shows up in your, in your life, in your world, in your every day. And you know, we can’t flip the switch.

[00:25:09] I wish we could just flip the switch and all of us could suddenly be, you know, trauma free if, if that existed. I really want to flip that switch , but You know, starting to have awareness over the trauma and the stories and the beliefs and all of those things that are impacting you and weighing you down is a really important first step to kind of moving through this.

[00:25:32] And I think people think that that is, You know, really light and airy and like, why would I need to spend time doing that? But that’s the hard work. That is the process that really will cultivate change for you. And I’ve seen it so powerfully with so many people. But again, we don’t, we don’t acknowledge that that piece of the process is important.

[00:25:53] Tori Dunlap: I mean it, it’s why you and I talk about it so much. I, the first full chapter of my book, which is the longest chapter, is just about, again, the emotions ar
ound money, the financial trauma, because you cannot make a budget, build wealth, start investing until you understand how these traumas have impacted your life.

[00:26:11] And I think about my best friend. Who graduated college right before the recession, and we’ve talked a lot about how being unemployed for such a long period of time and being in a scarcity mindset for so long caused her to stay in jobs and situations for far too long because she was like, I, I what if another recession happens?

[00:26:31] Right? Or like, how do I get this back? Or to your point, again, I’m not deserving of a better opportunity because I’m, I’m, I, I, it’s okay with what I have. I’m okay with what I have. I, I don’t wanna rock the boat because something could happen,

[00:26:45] Shannah Game: and it could work the opposite too. You know, you could be in a form of, of money, trauma, and you could just be like, well, just screw it. I’m just gonna spend all my money. Like, I’m just gonna, you know, I, I’m just gonna get rid of

[00:26:58] Tori Dunlap: about Cheaty at the beginning, right? Where he is like nothing matters. And he is making peep, what is it? Peeps and m and

[00:27:03] Shannah Game: Yeah. I mean, so it can work both ways. You know, we tend to talk about it like in the conservative form, but it could also be very much just like, you know, you’re complete, just like throw it to the wind and, you know, neither one of ’em isn’t, isn’t bad or good, they just are.

[00:27:18] But you know, starting to recognize your money, personality and your patterns and, you know, it’s just, it’s like a muck of shit and you know, you. Starting to unle it all and it’s, it really will, like, you’ll start to have these epiphany moments like, oh my God. Like I finally understand myself. I finally understand why I do certain things.

[00:27:42] And those are like the true gems, you know, if we can take money, trauma and turn it into something good, I mean that, that is really a beautiful gift that you can give.

[00:27:51] Tori Dunlap: So let’s talk about that. So if somebody is listening and they’re like, oh, I’m sure I have a financial trauma, maybe I haven’t dug into it much. There’s a lot of course with trauma that is again, systemic is things that are outside of your control. And for a lot of people um, This trauma is not something that they can necessarily cope with, deal with, or process on their own.

[00:28:17] I mean, my natural recommendation for anybody going through any sort of sort of trauma is if you have access to it, go to therapy,

[00:28:24] Shannah Game: Absolutely,

[00:28:24] Tori Dunlap: work with a therapist. But obviously that requires a certain level of privilege. What are the things we can control you, you mentioned like the first one is a great first step of.

[00:28:35] Assessing processing, just coming to the realization that, oh, I have this sort of belief about money, or, oh, this event happened in my life that shaped, that shaped how I view money now. What other things can we do to work through that trauma to better understand it in a way that is hopefully as I don’t know, actionable as possible?

[00:28:58] And knowing that like trauma is so messy,

[00:29:01] Shannah Game: Yeah, it’s messy. And I, I’m glad that you said that word, because I, I don’t want anyone listening to think it’s not gonna be messy. It’s gonna be messy for you. So just embrace the, the messiness and the muck and that. Some days it’ll feel like you’ve made progress, and other days it’ll feel like you’re completely stuck, you know, back where you started from.

[00:29:19] But yeah, I mean, the first thing obviously is the recognizing and releasing as best as you can. Any money, trauma that, that you feel like might You know, might, might be there for you. And there are a lot of different ways you could do that. I do a process I call a financial forgiveness, where I set a timer for like 10 minutes and I just like angry, write out everything about money that feels like it’s stuck in me or that I’m afraid of, or a belief that I’ve had that I know doesn’t work anymore.

[00:29:51] And then I like take that piece of paper and I, I’m a burn it girl, so I like to go out. Burn it, but some people don’t like that. So you could shred it, you could cut it up, you could do whatever you need to. It doesn’t matter, right? But there’s, there’s powerful science behind getting out what is in your head on paper and then releasing that in some form.

[00:30:09] There’s, there’s a lot of science behind the power of doing that and how that helps to rewire whatever’s going on in your brain. Another thing that I think is really important kind of goes back to what we were talking about when we started this convers. around comparison is to get really clear on a vision that you have for your life.

[00:30:27] And I know that may be really hard when we’re talking about trauma because you might feel like I, you know, I can’t dare think about. The future, but I want to give you permission to do that. And even if you can’t think five years ahead or a year ahead, just think about today or tomorrow or maybe next month, like some of the things that you wanna do.

[00:30:50] What do you want your life to look like? Where do you wanna work? Where do you wanna live? What do you wanna do for fun? All of these things, right? And if you’re somebody who likes to do kind of like old school vision board, I’m a big fan of it, you know? Cut out thing. Cut out phrases. Just put something in front of your face.

[00:31:07] That feels authentic to you and feels like it’s the vision for your life and how you want it to look like. Right? And from from there, I want you to start thinking about, this is an important piece of of money, trauma. I want you to start thinking about what success looks like for you. So I want you to think about how much money do you need?

[00:31:27] Do you want to make you alone, right? You know, how do you wanna spend your money? What are your values around money? All of these things, I want you to think about. What is your success measurement? Maybe your success measurement is like, I just wanna wake up and not feel so shitty about money. Fantastic.

[00:31:43] Like that’s an amazing goal. It doesn’t have to be this big, lofty, you know, I don’t make a million bucks type thing. So figure out what success means to you. And then from there you can start taking, you know, really what I call like measured risks that help you move closer towards that vision. So those are all, you know, things you can do.

[00:32:03] I mean, I’m a huge fan of mindfulness. I do meditation every morning. It has literally changed my life. It has literally changed my connections to trauma. And so I’m a big fan of meditation. I would encourage anybody to just try it for like, Five days. But I, I, I like this idea. I think of it like a pause.

[00:32:25] So my thoughts, I know my thoughts and feelings around money are so powerful and my thoughts and feel
ings then affect my actions and behaviors around money, right? So if I can focus on my thoughts and feelings, that can hopefully lead to good actions and behaviors around money. So, You know what meditation does or you know, practice, I like to call the pause is if I’m having a negative thought or feeling around money, I take a pause, just a pause, just a break.

[00:32:56] and then I think about what do I wanna do about that thought or feeling right? Most of us are so used to not even, we don’t even think about our thoughts and feelings. We just go straight to like the action and behavior and it, it usually is counterintuitive to what we’re trying to achieve. So, you know, just building in little moments for yourself where you can take a breath, you know, take a pause and really think about, okay.

[00:33:18] What I actually really want to do. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no, but it gives you control. And so, you know, money, trauma takes us out of control. And so all of these little things are about just helping you find little bits of control with your money so that you can feel like you are playing, you know, on the offense versus playing like the defense with your money.

[00:33:41] S and, and another thing, you know, this is, this is a trauma. I don’t know if this will quite translate over podcasts, but we’ll give it a try. So, you know, when I was taking a course to become a certified trauma money specialist, one of the things we talked about was, you know how much trauma shows up in your body?

[00:33:57] And like little techniques that you can do. You know, obviously breathing, there’s box breathing and different things like that. But one of the things that I love, it’s called butterfly tapping. And so if you literally think about like taking your your wrists and kind of crossing them and putting your hands kind of near your collarbone and with your three fingers, not using your thumb and your pinky, if you just kind of.

[00:34:21] Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. What that does is it actually sends signals to your brain that you need to work in both hemispheres of your brain, and so it, it, it works to, it’s gonna take you out of a trauma response that you might feel and put you back into your body and help you to be able to start making.

[00:34:42] You know, hopefully decisions and actions and thoughts and feelings and all of those things from a place where you feel a little bit more empowered. So it may sound like a really kind of crazy thing, but I would highly suggest when you’re starting to feel like money, anxiety, give it a try, cuz it is.

[00:34:58] It’s pretty awesome.

[00:35:00] Tori Dunlap: It might be placebo, but I was doing it while you were talking and it made me calmer, so

[00:35:05] Shannah Game: It does.

[00:35:06] Tori Dunlap: Well, there you go.

[00:35:08] Shannah Game: Normally you can feel it like tingling in your toes a little bit. So yeah, it just activates both sides of your brain and you can go faster when you’re really feeling like an intense moment or you know, slower when you’re just,

[00:35:20] Tori Dunlap: my head at the top of my head, like my top chakra

[00:35:24] Shannah Game: that’s a good thing.

[00:35:26] Tori Dunlap: I love all of that and I, I would add two. One. Also a body thing is I, when you were saying tapping, I thought you were gonna say this is I believe it’s like an old, it’s a Chinese medicine technique of taking your hands and putting them into like light fists and just like tapping up and down, kind of like your Tarzan, but all over your body and it like wakes your body up.

[00:35:47] So when you. Stressed and you’re in your head too much. Again, it grounds you, it puts you in your body. And I would say again, the whole like thesis of my, and the, the one thing I want from my entire body of work is to get people to talk about money. And one of the easiest ways to feel more comfortable with events that have happened in your life with shame, with judgment is to have conversations with people.

[00:36:17] and those can be as minor as, Hey, I am really stressed about debt. Have you ever felt this way? And it can be as major as like sitting down with your partner and being like, let’s plan our life together and let’s figure out how money, we can use money as a tool to, to vacation once a year if that’s something we wanna do or have children or get married or whatever that looks like.

[00:36:35] And so I think just having conversations as simple as that sounds, is going to allow you to be more comfortable with money in general, but also. Feel way less shame. Brene Brown says that shame lives in shadow. And so if you don’t talk about it, you have no idea that somebody else might be feeling the same way or has felt the same way.

[00:36:57] And I think it becomes way easier the more you do it.

[00:37:01] Shannah Game: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, conversations are so important and you know, if you, if you think about money, trauma and like, you’re thinking like, ah, I might be someone who has like ancestral or family money, trauma, you know, encourage you like, Have those conversations with, you know, your parents or your grandparents if they’re still around and just, you know, it doesn’t have to be a judgemental thing.

[00:37:22] Just ask questions. Just say, you know, you wanna, you wanna learn, you’re exploring this idea of, of money, trauma, and you really wanna hear their story because it’s really these stories that. Connect us and help us not feel so alone. And so money needs to, like you said, you know, money needs to come outta the shadows.

[00:37:40] It needs to be something that we can talk about and specifically things that aren’t fun, like trauma. I mean, we, we just need to be able to talk about it.

[00:37:47] Tori Dunlap: I mentioned the recession before. We’re coming into a period and we’ve already been in a period, I think, for the past couple years of. Financial anxiety of economic volatility, of a lot of stress for people, for somebody either prone to financial anxiety or someone who is maybe experiencing it deeply for the first time.

[00:38:11] How can we like, get ahead or even just implement practices to help curb that anxiety? Both like actionable money things, but also things we can do to like just comfort ourselves.

[00:38:24] Shannah Game: Oh, I’m a big fan of eating a giant bowl of ice cream.

[00:38:29] I will highly suggest grabbing your favorite flavor of ice cream and just sitting down and having a moment because, you know, I think we need to, I’m gonna definitely give some more practical things,

[00:38:41] Tori Dunlap: but life is fucking hard.

[00:38:42] Shannah Game: It is. It’s very hard and I think 

[00:38:44] Tori Dunlap: your Rocky Road ice

[00:38:45] Shannah Game: Yeah, you need to, you need to feel good about yourself sometimes. And sometimes, you know, I always tell people like, build a reward into your money. Like, build something in and make you feel good. I mean, you spend all your time paying other people, like do something fun for yourself.

[00:39:01] And that actually could be a great way to work through, you know, stress, anxiety, fear, like you don’t always have to do these big. Big things when it comes to money. It could just be like, I just wanna feel better today. Like, I just wanna do something that makes me feel good, you know, maybe wanna crank on the music and just like, you know, dance crazy or you know, get outside and like, go for a walk and just remind myself that my life is not.

[00:39:24] only about money. . There are lots of other parts of me. Money is just this tiny little, you know, component. Sometimes it feels very big. I totally understand that, and I’ve totally been there. I’m a big fan of journaling, so, if you’re somebody that likes to write, you know, even just grabbing like a blank notebook and every morning, every night, you know, get what’s out of your head.

[00:39:45] If there’s something that’s feeling like it feels overwhelming to you, write it. , right? And at least then you acknowledge like, okay, I’m going through this day, I’m feeling some stress or some anxiety around money. Maybe today’s not the best day for me to make certain money decisions. Maybe today is just a day.

[00:40:02] I wanna take extra time and pause and I wanna make sure I get out and get some sunlight and maybe I wanna have an extra scoop of my ice cream or whatever it might be. Right? So I think, you know, that’s something that that’s really important to focus on and I just keep rooting back into. What do I want my life to look like?

[00:40:19] You know, what is something really, really small I can do today that moves me closer, that makes me feel better about the place that I am in, even if everything doesn’t look great, you know, talking about. My divorce story, you know, there were times where I was looking and I was like, okay, I have like negative money, , you know, I have, I have nothing.

[00:40:43] I have a lot of debt and this is really not a good situation to be in. And I could either make one of two choices. One, I could really stay in that negative place, or the other choice was like, , what can I do today that is going to help me feel just a tiny bit better? And if I start stringing that together each day, then I started to feel like, okay, I can do this.

[00:41:08] I can make some progress, even if there are big setbacks. So, you know, try a lot of things like try whatever works for you. Lean into, you know, again, we’ve joked about ice cream. I love food. I’m not gonna deny that, you know, lean into the things that make you feel good. If you can’t go on a vacation right now, look at some cool pictures online, right?

[00:41:28] Watch a, watch a YouTube video. Like do things that take you out of that, that brain loop that we can get in when we’re feeling stressed. Trauma, anxiety around money. You know, jog yourself out of it, even if it’s only for just a few little moments.

[00:41:44] Tori Dunlap: I’m realizing how much of that I either. Do or do, like I just came back from a vacation and the first week or so I had all of these thoughts of like, oh, you need to do this when you get back for work. Oh, you need to do this for the book launch. Oh, you need to do this. And I kept telling myself, okay, nope, it’s vacation, so we’re not gonna think about work.

[00:42:03] And I got to the point where that was actually more stressful cuz I was like, oh my gosh, I’m gonna forget about it. It’s not gonna happen. And so by week two I had a notes app, like a notes in my phone on the notes app of just like, okay, we’re just gonna write it. And then when we read it down, like all my anxiety went away cuz I was like, yep, it’ll get handled when I go back.

[00:42:21] Shannah Game: It’s so

[00:42:22] Tori Dunlap: it in a list, it’ll get handled when I go back and like that was so effective for me.

[00:42:27] Shannah Game: Yeah. I mean, it it, some of those things sound like. So simple, right? Like it can’t be that, it can’t, can’t be that because that’s so simple. But a lot of times with with money, fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, sometimes it’s simple things are the things that just help you feel a little bit better. And you know, if you can just feel even, you know, 5% better every day, I mean, that’s a solid win.

[00:42:51] Tori Dunlap: Well, and it’s progress over perfection too, right? It’s this idea that like, and I, I’m sure that you feel this way. We’re money experts. We still make financial mistakes all of the time, or learn something new about money. Yeah. So it’s like there’s the constant, I just need you to keep moving, even if things don’t go the right way or you can’t save money this month. you have that intrusive thought about, about money leaving or money being, you know, not a thing anymore in your bank account. Like, all of these things are going to crop up again. And the, you know, the idea is it’s that, yeah, we’re aiming for progress. We’re not aiming for perfection. We’re not aiming for you succeeding and doing the right financial thing a hundred percent of the time.

[00:43:37] That’s

[00:43:37] Shannah Game: Which doesn’t 

[00:43:38] Tori Dunlap: not realistic. Right,

[00:43:40] Shannah Game: there is no right thing

[00:43:42] Tori Dunlap: Yeah, totally. You obviously just been so transparent in your work and in today’s conversation about money, trauma, about how this affects our lives. If somebody is out there listening and you know, they’re, they’re going, okay, I want to dig into this.

[00:44:05] I’m so scared to get started, like it’s the monster in my closet, and as long as he’s contained in the closet, I don’t have to deal with him and everything’s fine. What would you say to that person?

[00:44:17] Shannah Game: I have one question that I ask everybody to think very, very deeply about, and again, this is gonna sound simple, but when you start this process, it’s it can be a deep one. I want you to think about how does money make me feel? That’s your question of the day. How does money make me feel? I want you to write down, Anything that pops into your head, this will really help you kind of uncover those bits.

[00:44:41] But it’s a soft, kind of gentle way for you to tiptoe into this idea of money, trauma, of your story, of, of maybe even false beliefs that you have. So just start asking your questions, asking yourself questions, you know, how do I feel about money? And then followed up with, , why do I feel a certain way if, if money always makes me feel pissed off and stressed out?

[00:45:08] Okay, why? What’s behind that? Can
we dig a little deeper? So I always tell people, ask yourself seven whys. So how do you feel about money? And then go seven layers deep with that. Why? Why, why, why, why? Right? Because what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get to the foundation to really have that deep understanding of what is actually causing the trauma or the fear, the shame or the guilt or whatever it is, right?

[00:45:35] When we get to that layer, ah, there, okay, now we can start doing something with that layer. So just gently walk yourself through this process. You don’t have to do. , you know, and just one day or just sitting down, but just start like reating on this idea of how does money make me feel and why? And, and that, that digging process is sometimes very painful.

[00:45:57] But usually what happens is it starts to feel super empowering. Like you’re really doing something of self-care for yourself to help yourself get to a place where you can really set that course for what you wanna do with your life and with your money, you can actually start making that.

[00:46:15] Tori Dunlap: I’ve never heard the seven layers of why I. That’s so powerful. And one of the things I think about a lot too, and I encourage people to think about is there’s often this fear around money of like realizing, oh shit, it’s all me. Like it’s all up to me. It’s entirely my responsibility. What if I fuck it up?

[00:46:33] What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t handle it? Like, I’m not prepared to do this. I don’t know anything about money. There’s like this scarcity, terrified version of that. And then there’s a version that’s like, this is all. I get to make all of the decisions. I get

[00:46:50] Shannah Game: rules are my

[00:46:50] Tori Dunlap: I want, right?

[00:46:52] I get to spend money on what I wanna spend money on. And the amount of confidence that the, that my proper, usually proper management of money has like given me, has been incredible. Like you just said, like, well, how does money make you feel? And my first word for me is powerful. Like powerful, completely powerful because I am in control of my.

[00:47:13] I don’t have to counsel anybody. At least for me as a single woman, I don’t have to counsel anybody. I don’t have to ask questions. I can do what I want with my money and spend it how I want and save as much or as little as I want. And of course there’s a level of privilege in that. But I think getting to that state again, where you can, you can say, yep, this is all me and I got it and I’m not gonna be perfect and it’s gonna be messy, but I’ve.

[00:47:36] I think that’s, yeah. An incredible transformation from, oh my God, shit. It’s all me to like, hell yeah. It’s all me. Let’s go.

[00:47:43] Shannah Game: Yeah. I love that. You know, start, you know, when you, when you ask your, ask the question, you know, how do you feel about money? You get to that bottom. Why? See if you can start flipping the switch. See if you can start, you know, flipping the script of like, yeah, all right. It may be just me, but. I feel really empowered, like, I got this, I can do this, and if I make a mistake, who cares?

[00:48:03] It’s totally fine.

[00:48:05] Tori Dunlap: My last question for you, what would you say to someone who is scared of money and just feels so, so?

[00:48:14] Shannah Game: First, I would say that you are not alone. I know that’s really easy to say. I am the first one to admit that I have had. My fair share of money, fear, anxiety, trauma, guilt, shame, you name it. So you have a friend in me for sure. And I would, I would highly, highly Suggests that I think everybody listening here feels that way.

[00:48:41] So you, you are not alone. There are lots of people like Tori, like myself that are out there really having these important conversations and sharing these important stories around money and r i, I know for myself, I mean, Tori, the same way, you know, you can reach out to any of us and you know, connect with.

[00:48:58] And, and know that we’re here. Trying to just make your day feel not so alone and trying to help you feel like you have a place to come to. There are certainly certified financial therapists out there. If you’re really struggling, you know, I highly suggest, you know, trying to find one of those if you have the resources and that’s available to.

[00:49:19] But at the end of the day, if you are feeling alone, one of the most powerful things you can do is actually sharing that with somebody. So sharing that with a friend or a partner or a family member and saying, I’m really, whatever the feeling is, whatever the word is. A lot of people feel embarrassed. If you feel embarrassed, just say that.

[00:49:36] I feeling really embarrassed. that I’m feeling alone with my money that I’m, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve made mistakes or I feel stuck, right? And somebody else doesn’t have to have an answer for you, but just the sheer act of having that conversation and opening up in that way will open up in you lots of different things that you didn’t know would were even possible.

[00:49:58] So, you know, maybe start with just something very simple like that.

[00:50:03] Tori Dunlap: You’re amazing. This was so, so impactful. Where can people find.

[00:50:08] Shannah Game: I am over on Everyone’s Talking Money podcast. You can listen to it on any podcast player, or you can come over to our website, everyone’s talking money.com and check out all of our show notes and all the amazing things we’ve got coming up.

[00:50:20] Tori Dunlap: Amazing. Thank you for your time as always, and thank you for your support of H F K. You were, I think you were one of the first people to ever like, have me on, on a show, so that was just thrilling for me. And, and just thank you for all your support.

[00:50:34] Shannah Game: Thank you.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

Facebook Group