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A Message from Tiffany Bass Bukow, Founder of

Throughout my life, I have enjoyed significant financial success and endured surprising financial failure. Dealing with the success was easy. Dealing with the failure was not, especially when it was unexpected. I have had to challenge my values and work hard to continue to succeed while learning from failure. And I discovered that friends who had been in similar circumstances were my greatest source of motivation.

I hope that's Success Stories provide you with the same inspiration I received from my friends. Each week, we will profile a remarkable woman who has confronted financial obstacles and overcome challenges to lead a happy, financially secure, and meaningful life.

If you'd like to share your success story, please e-mail us at

How I Became a Financial Psychologist

By Dr. Kathleen Gurney

My pioneering work in “financial psychology” dates back to the fall of 1981 when I became my first client. I had just received my doctorate degree from the University of Southern California and had accepted the university’s offer to lecture on psychology for the Department of Defense at American military bases in Holland, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. Per my request, my paychecks were to be deposited into my checking account every month.

As I moved through Europe, I wrote checks at the PXs and banks on the military bases to cover my living expenses and sent checks back to Los Angeles to cover my home mortgage payment and other bills. At the end of six weeks abroad, I tried to cash a check for $50 at a PX in Belgium and was told that the check was no good. Soon afterward, bounced checks from all over Europe began to catch up with me. I called the payroll department at USC to find out what had happened and was told that due to an administrative oversight, my contract had not been processed, and I was not on the payroll. They promised to look into the matter and rectify the situation immediately. I had enough money in a savings account to cover my bills for two months, but two months later, my checks were still bouncing because the payroll error had not been corrected. As a result, I called my parents and borrowed money from them.

As the weeks passed and USC failed to untangle the bureaucratic red tape, my money anxiety began to grow. I kept a logbook of every dollar I spent and all the checks that had bounced. I was blacklisted, had no credit line in Europe or the U.S., and felt powerless. Since I had very little cash, I rarely went out in the evenings and spent a lot of time wondering how I had allowed myself to get into such a financial fix. While I kept telling myself that the problem was only temporary and that I would laugh about it someday, I was anxious and depressed. One of my journal entries from that time reads: “My world has fallen off its axis. I have felt frightened and lonely before but never like this. What has happened to the sense of well being I’ve had all of my life? Everything stable and certain in my life is in flux. Without money, how vulnerable am I? What does money mean to me? I will never let money do this to me again.”

The university finally straightened out its financial error, but I knew that I would never forget the financial and psychological impact of that year in Europe. When I returned to Los Angeles, I enrolled in graduate courses in finance and read books about money. Although I found countless books about money and investing, there was very little information about how people feel about money and how feelings and attitudes influence the way people handle their money. I felt there should be information and services available to others who might be experiencing money problems both individually and in relationships.

My money problems in Europe were due to the fact that while I was solvent on paper, I was cash poor. For years I had invested all of my money in real estate and had no liquidity for emergencies. After taking a number of financial courses, I was ready to diversify my investments and sought the help of an investment adviser who worked for a major financial institution. Throughout my first meeting with him, I felt he was only trying to persuade me to buy the products he was selling. I walked away certain that he didn’t understand how I felt about my money--that I was looking for investments that would not only reap profits but would leave me content, secure, and comfortable. He appeared very well intentioned but placed my money in investments that left me uneasy. At first, I attributed my anxious feelings to the new experience of investing in unknown areas. In retrospect, I realize my discomfort was due to the fact that he had not taken the time to get to know me--what I was all about and which investments would give me peace of mind.

Subsequently, I developed the Moneymax® Profile, the cornerstone of financial psychology. It is based on a one-page questionnaire that determines attitudes on 13 financial traits that influence money behavior and investment decisions. Using the Moneymax® Profile, I surveyed a large segment of the American population to determine how people think about and deal with money. The results of that national survey divide Americans into 9 distinct money styles, and those styles form the basis of my book, Your Money Personality: What It Is and How You Can Profit from It.

Today my company, Financial Psychology Corporation, markets the Moneymax® Profile for use in major corporations and financial service companies. I have also used the profile in my private practice to help clients change self-sabotaging money styles into styles that are more productive and enriching.

The reason financial psychology has become the focus of my life is simple. The frustration I have felt in my search for financial fulfillment is what I have seen in many others. Money is a worthless and meaningless commodity unless you know how to make the best use of it. That knowledge begins with self-awareness and understanding how you can become your greatest financial asset.

If you would like more information about Dr. Kathleen Gurney’s book, Your Money Personality: What It Is and How You Can Profit from It or want to discover your unique money personality by taking the Moneymax® Profile, visit Dr. Gurney’s Web site:



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