Lessons on Financial Planning from the Movie Inside Out 2

Jul 05, 2024
A hand holding a clear glass ball

“Dad! Dad! Dad! DAD!!!! I want to see Inside Out 2!” This is what I heard for days from my six- and eight-year-old boys. I loved the first Inside Out movie and was excited to see the second one. So we headed off to the movies the other night to see Inside Out 2. 


Wow, wow, wow. 


As I watched the movie I laughed, teared up, and had many moments of realization. Heck, my thirteen-year-old self felt so validated and seen by watching this movie. 


Have you seen the movie? What response did it evoke in you?


I wasn’t just watching this movie as a father of young boys, or that of a forty-three-year-old man. I was watching it as a professional specializing in Therapy-Informed Financial Planning where I bring together the worlds of financial planning, couples therapy, and financial therapy to help clients decrease anxiety in and avoidance of their financial lives and increase financial confidence and clarity. 


Understanding Our Psychology

I loved the movie Inside Out 2 because of its ability to communicate and demonstrate complex psychological concepts in very understandable and relatable ways. If you have never given much thought to psychology and how our minds develop and work, this is an incredible movie to get you started. If you are a student of the mind, the movie becomes a fun way to bring you back to second simplicity


Inside Out 2 covers some of the major tenets of deep study in the field of psychology and doesn’t just show them as stand-alone topics. Rather, it tells a beautiful story of how they are deeply interconnected with each other. 


Here are the nine main areas of psychology covered in Inside Out 2 (many more were also highlighted):


  1. Emotions
  2. Thoughts
  3. Behaviors
  4. Beliefs
  5. Sense of Self
  6. Deconstruction
  7. Denial 
  8. Memories
  9. Internal World/External World


What is important to keep in mind is that each of these areas of psychology is universal. Every human has their own constellation of these universal psychological elements, just as no humans share the same physical body realities like skin, eyes, bones, blood, etc. Our psychological anatomy is on full display in Inside Out 2 and given visual representation. 


Part of what has made understanding psychology so challenging is that many of the psychological elements are intangible, so seeing them all represented in the movie helps make them even more relatable. 


Using Psychology To Improve Our Experience With Financial Planning

“Why do I do that?”

“What is my partner doing spending money that way (or saving money that way)?”

“How could they think that’s a good idea to spend so much money on my birthday?”

“I am financially secure based on the math, but why don’t I feel financially secure?”


Questions like these prove that successful financial management is about money AND it is about psychological makeup. Each of our unique psychological constellations determines how we engage with the financial world outside of ourselves. 


Taking the time to reflect on the depth at which psychology impacts our financial life can be unsettling initially. It is our psychology that influences how we navigate our financial lives. 


When we recognize and can name the different parts of our psychological anatomy and their impact on our financial decision-making, we create the freedom and flexibility we need to work on our sense of self, or our belief systems, which are connected to our emotions. We can become curious about what memories are evoked in our decision-making. 


While watching Inside Out 2, you can see how the main character Riley pulls up different memories to see how they could help her navigate her time at hockey camp. The same is true for us as we navigate financial decisions. 


In the movie, each memory is represented by a ball. There are countless balls on racks. The old, unwanted memories that have been sent away eventually come into play and impact how Riley makes decisions.


She looks at individual memories, but the collection of memories that form her belief systems are represented as lines going up to her sense of self. When anxiety takes over in Riley’s mind, it starts to fill her belief system with more and more memories of painful experiences that leave her feeling like she is not enough. 


When it comes to our financial lives, the same process is at play for each of us. We have a collection of memories that informs our sense of self and whether we are worthy. When we have countless memories that we are pulling on that tell us that we are not worthy or good enough, like Riley, we can become more and more compulsive in pursuing our financial goal to find some relief. 


Yet like Riley, we eventually end up with panic attacks and in the penalty box of life. We know in the field of psychology and therapy that it is this complex set of experiences and memories, with different emotions that influence the presentation of mental well-being or distress. 

When Financial Therapy Is Needed To Help Financial Planning

When we get stuck trying to accomplish our financial goals in life, of course, there are external factors that can impact us and what is happening in our internal psychological world. It is usually in working with our internal psychological realities that we can change the way we experience the world around us. 


What I liked about Inside Out 2 is it also showed Riley’s parents caring for her while she was going through this big life stage transition into puberty. Her parents used patterns of secure relating as Riley was navigating the internal storms in the deconstruction and reconstruction of her sense of self. The movie briefly showed that her parents also had their own internal worlds with different emotions being activated. While the movie does not give the full imagery of her parents as it does for Riley, the same psychological anatomy and makeup are there for her parents.  


In the work of financial therapy with clients, we often reflect on our own internal experiences related to money. We also come to appreciate that others have their own internal worlds and experiences that led them to show up and relate the way they did with money. 


Our first money memories are usually connected with our family and parents. When it comes to our money hang-ups and challenges, there is always a relationship between what is happening now and what happened in the past in your family. In all my years of doing this work, I have yet to see where there aren’t some very strong influences from our families on the way we relate to saving, spending, investing, work, feelings and attitudes about wealth, financial risk, etc. 


Financial therapy is about understanding our psychological relationship with money and where there is pain related to the experience of ourselves, others, and money. The process of financial therapy is intended to help alleviate the psychological and relational distress that comes up around navigating money in our lives. 


This is why financial therapy is often needed in financial planning. Financial planning is about identifying our values and goals, and then aligning our spending, saving, investing, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and education funding with them. This sounds simple and understandable enough on the surface, but when it comes to developing and executing any part of the financial plan, that’s where we get stuck. As humans, we are layered, and complex, and often have painful experiences that color and influence our ability to fully engage in life. 


As one example I often hear is that one partner is trying to save for the future and retirement, while the other is spending without much thought about its impact on their financial future. Both partners feel immensely frustrated and hurt by the other. 


Beneath the surface, you come to learn that the spending partner had countless experiences of being controlled and manipulated with money. First by their parents, then by their first spouse. When they left that marriage, they made a promise to themselves to never be controlled again. Meanwhile, the other partner watched their family go through tremendous financial turmoil due to several failed businesses, and they vowed to never experience the same thing again. So they picked a big, stable company to work at with a great salary where they save 50% of their income. 


Let’s stop there and think about this couple in the context of the lessons from Inside Out 2. How many memories and experiences do you think they each had that led them to their approach to money? It was not one singular event, even if that is how I have written about it. There were many experiences for each of them that created memories of what love, money, and relationships are like. That created belief systems that funneled into their sense of self. 


For them to gain financial well-being and financial intimacy with each other, they will need to go through a process of deconstruction working with their memories, belief systems, and sense of self, which are so deeply interrelated. 


Watching Inside Out 2 For a Fresh Perspective on Financial Planning

If you haven’t watched Inside Out 2, I highly recommend the movie. Watch it for entertainment the first time. The second time, watch it to learn about how you work psychologically. 


You can see how the movie weaves together so many different parts of our psychological anatomy. Our psychological systems are intended to be integrated and differentiated as Dr. Dan Seigel has so eloquently written about in interpersonal neurobiology. 


When we increase our awareness of how we work and become more reflective in response to our financial lives, it increases our range of motions and options for navigating the inevitable money dilemmas we navigate in our lives. 


When you work on developing your financial plan and you get stuck, you will want someone with technical expertise on how to do things like structure your tax strategy and make sure you have enough savings for retirement—without a doubt. At the same time, you want to work with someone who understands people psychologically and can work with your unique psychological constellation. 


Therapy-Informed FInancial Planning is intended to bring this balance and perspective to help you live the financial life you desire. 


Let’s schedule 30 minutes to see how working from the inside out can help you. 


Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,

Ed Coambs 


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