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What My Incessantly Questioning 4-Year-Old Taught Me About Money Habits

A perfect relationship with money? We wish!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash



We overspend, we overgive, we take too much or too little risk with money. We might get an immediate benefit from this, but are the long term impacts positive?

Often not.

Yet we stay on this hamster wheel of internal conflict battling between the highs and lows of our money relationship.

Any coach will tell us that we have all the answers within us.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash


Hmm, yes, easy for them to say. You may not want to pay and see a financial coach right now. Hellooo, this self-sabotage means you’re skint. You can’t afford to do anything about it, and even if you could, you wouldn’t know where to start.

Sound familiar? Well, the good news is that we can use the natural skills of a 4-year-old and apply them for real results!

What’s a 4-year-old got that I don’t have?

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels


Kids are inquisitive. It is in their nature. They want to learn. All. The. Time. You know the kind of thing.

A random question like:

“Why are whales so big?”

as you navigate along the vegetable aisle at the grocery store.

You give them an answer you hope they are content with, but you just know what’s coming next:

“But why?"

Now, if you are like me at the prime of my parenting, you’ve quickly regressed to your junior school trip to the Natural History Museum, mustering up a response that you’re fairly sure will satisfy. But the darling child wants to channel the inner Sir David Attenborough in you, and the inevitable “but why?” follows.

At this point, stressed and simply trying to survive the competitive elbows of other shoppers, you just want to buy your groceries, and not lose your cool, and your response may not be of marine biology graduate quality, but more along the lines of:

“I don’t know, they just are, that’s why!”

If your inquisitive child is anything like mine, however, they’re only prepared to let it drop temporarily, continuing their quest when you get home.

Once the groceries are unpacked, you finally ask Google or Alexa or turn to Natural Geographic on TV, and find the answer and both of you will learn something of interest.

So what’s the size of a whale got to do with my financial self-sabotage?

As the coaches say, we have the answers within us.

But when someone asks us the question:

“Why do you do it?”

the answer we often give is one intended to quickly brush them off, a half-answer to get them off our back, or we respond with the awkward:

“I don’t know why, I just do."

Sound familiar?

Now, if the questioning took on the 4-year-old’s incessant desire to get an answer, with the follow up “but why?”, what answer would we give next? And then, with the NEXT response of “but why?” where would we be heading? The more that question is asked, the more likely we are to get the actual answer.

Along the way, we might stumble, lose patience, be outside our comfort zone. Downright squirming as the next “but why?” comes. But once we have uncovered the true answers, we can understand the rationale behind our behaviors and, armed with the new knowledge that we have, we can rationalize it and clear a path ahead.

Once we have uncovered the true answers, we can understand the rationale behind our behaviors and, armed with the new knowledge that we have, we can rationalize it and clear a path ahead.

The "But Why?" Method to Find the Root of the Money Issue

Let me give you an example. A client of mine was unsure about investing new money in his business. The environment was good, and the likely outcome would be favorable. But something was holding him back.

The questions started:

  • Me: "Why are you holding back?"

  • Client: "Because it’s not guaranteed."

  • Me: "And what would that mean?"

  • Client: "I could lose that money."

  • Me: "And what would that mean?"

  • Client: "That I’d have to have THAT conversation with my wife."

  • Me: "And what effect would that have?"

  • Client: "That she might not trust me with money."

  • Me: "And what would that mean?"

  • Client: "That she might leave me."

Boom! And there it was. The issue wasn’t whether it was a sound business opportunity, but one of insecurity within his marriage. Initially, the response was purely one of business risk and return that he thought would satisfy me. By adopting the “but why?” approach, we finally got to the true reason why he was holding back, and could then follow through appropriately.

For the record, both the business and the marriage continued to flourish!

Closing Thoughts

Working with a coach is desirable but not essential.

Taking the lead from our naturally inquisitive children, simply asking “but why?” of ourselves, we can address our internal conflicts, creating clarity and financial freedom for ourselves, our children, and theirs.

No actual Whales required!



Kim Uzzell is a financial coach with a 25-year career in Investment Management behind her. She is passionate about helping others to deal with their lack of financial confidence, giving them no-nonsense tools to deal with their negative approach to money, and carving out a future of financial freedom for themselves.

Follow her blog at

Kim is a guest author at Truly Free Society.

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