Beyond Finance has been honored to work with one of the leading resources about mental health, Psychology Today. One aspect of mental health that made them curious to explore was “the emotional side of money,” or as Beyond Finance client therapist and founder of the Financial Therapy Clinical Institute, Nathan Astle, CFT-I, says, “The Human Side of Money.

We are thrilled to announce that Nathan will be writing a monthly column for Psychology Today on that topic! This month, he will discuss how we moralize financial struggles and overwhelming personal debt.

The article is posted below, but if you want to read the original post, bookmark his column and return each month for more life-changing money management tips.


  • Almost 37% of U.S. adults have more credit card debt than money in an emergency savings account. 
  • Many moralize personal debt as “good” or “bad,” so they have difficulty discussing it with others.
  • There is a critical need for holistic financial therapy to become the starting point for people to deconstruct and destigmatize financial stories. 
  • Debt is no longer just a financial problem but a mental health problem. 

If you have recently purchased gas, groceries, or anything else, you have experienced what many people face daily–financial stress and the emotional toll it can take on our lives. 

Many people who struggle with debt believe financial wellness is a thing of the past. However, attaining that goal would be easier by addressing the emotional component connected to debt. How does debt make someone feel? And do they ever understand how to utilize those feelings to move beyond debt? It’s what I call “the human side of money.”

Another question is how people feel when they talk about their debt. That sensitive conversation can create feelings from shame to responsibility, defeat to success. 

Consider this: When did someone say they met their savings goal last? Even money “wins” appear distasteful to some, making difficult financial situations even harder to discuss. The primary problem with discussing debt is how we have moralized the issue.

Labeling some forms of debt as “worthy” and others as “selfish” does not make space for the nuance inherently perceived in our financial situations. Life happens, and sometimes, it hurts. What about someone who racked up credit card debt because they care for a loved one who has gotten sick? How about the person whose car breaks down and needs it the next day to get to work? 

According to a recent Bankrate survey, almost 37% of U.S. adults have more credit card debt than money in an emergency savings account. Discussing personal debt is not widely acceptable, considering how many adults nationwide have part of the $1.13 trillion of endemic credit card debt. Most Americans struggle with it, yet money is almost taboo because of its personal nature. 

Is that credit card debt more worth it because it was necessary? It’s still debt, and that’s the crooked path I hope to make straight each day I discuss debt with anyone. Debt is common. It was decades ago, and it’s undoubtedly familiar now. So why can’t we be honest with ourselves and alleviate some of the volatile emotions that come with it?

Talking about credit card debt can create feelings of shame. Yet, there should also be a sense of familiarity to it. A 2023 WalletHub study found 572 million credit card accounts in the U.S., and 84% of Americans have at least one card in their wallet. 

What Credit Card Shows Consumers

Credit card debt and the emotional side of money

When considering the emotional side of money, credit card debt is perceived as reckless shopping or mismanaged budgeting. What happens when life feels out of control? We seek professional help or counsel. The same should be true of our financial lives. Seeking help can be difficult because many therapists can’t fully engage in financial conversations or have adequate training in money-related topics. 

The need for holistic financial therapy should be the starting point for people to deconstruct financial stories, and it is critical. A financial therapist can be instrumental in helping others work through their financial challenges and beliefs. Money plays a huge role in our day-to-day functioning, yet the belief that it is taboo can be damaging–usually to those with that opinion. 

Nathan Astle, CFT-I

Too often, financial therapists encounter black-and-white beliefs about debt that people internalize into their self-worth. Cultural messages about what debt means usually lead to feelings of isolation because there aren’t many places to talk openly and honestly about debt and its effect on our lives.

Professional support is an excellent option for helping deconstruct money beliefs; however, many therapists are not trained in financial dynamics and how they affect our psychological perceptions. In fact, as a group, therapists tend to have their own money-avoidant beliefs that often lead to avoiding direct financial conversations with their clients.

Financial professionals may be more comfortable discussing money. Still, most do not have adequate training in the “people” side of the work, which involves processing beliefs that impact psychological well-being. 

Over the past few years, financial therapists have begun addressing this need in the overlapping fields of money and mental health, even though the number of trained financial therapy practitioners remains very low. 

Mental health professionals need to step directly into these often uncomfortable but necessary conversations around the meaning of money and debt. Patients must understand how those define the process of intentional mental health and financial decisions. 

Debt is a reality in most of our lives. It can significantly impact how we see ourselves and engage with others. Finding the courage to discuss this stigmatized topic can be difficult, but the discussion can relieve much of the shame connected to our many money stories. 

You aren’t alone in your debt or financial stress. When discussing the emotional side of money, we say, “Debt is something you have, not something you are.” Learn to discuss debt in healthy ways to release the burden of shame or guilt related to accruing it.

 A cardinal rule in therapy is “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Labeling those money issues and speaking them out loud is vital to mental health. Financial healing is only possible if we collectively learn to discuss the hard things and find others who will.