From Our Print Archives

Money Management Is for OTs, Too!

Vol. 24 •Issue 12 • Page 7
Supervision for Skillbuilding

Money Management Is for OTs, Too!

Q: I've worked in a hospital for 12 years. I have seen many patients struggle with money. Now, I am struggling myself. Between a student loan and gas increases,

I can barely pay bills. What can I do?

A: First, try to stay calm. You need to stay clear just to do the math correctly. And you need to be creative and strong willed to identify and change behavior patterns.

Money matters create stress for everyone. You are not alone. The majority of American adults feel they won't have enough to live on after they retire. They can't save enough and many are in credit card debt for thousands and thousands of dollars.

Professional money counselors can help reduce credit card payments and debt, others mortgages.

Money is probably the most life-influencing material we have. And, oddly, few are taught about using and conserving it. People are taught not how to grow, but how to blow their money. If money were food, it would be fried carbohydrates!

But with prices going up, we need to figure out the money conundrum. As a rule, we aren't going to get rich on OT monies. We need to learn to be realistic about what we can afford and learn to save up rather than use credit. When you buy with credit cards and pay just the minimum payment, you end up paying for objects for years.

You need to find out where your money goes. Get a small notebook, or better a small datebook. For two or three weeks that are typical to your lifestyle, record every single cent you spend, whether cash, check or credit card. Don't monitor yourself yet unless you are thinking about charging something you can't afford to pay off all at once. You don't want to end up more upset by increasing your debt.

There are two ways to save money. You can put part of your paycheck directly into a savings or investment account. The easiest way is to have money taken out of your paycheck before you get it.

It takes more discipline, but you can also save money by not spending it. If you can make it a game for yourself, however, it isn't so bad.

Analyze your money notebook to see where you are spending money that is not absolutely necessary. Are you spending $12 a week on takeout coffee? Do you eat out frequently? Order a $7 glass of wine when you do? Are you into expensive clothes and shoes? Learn to put some of that money aside.

I have antique teapots that I put money in. Every time I come home, I empty my pockets of small bills and change. If you make this a habit, you'll have several hundred dollars extra in just a couple of months. One client who followed this method hid $20 bills in books. She saved $4000 in six months!

I was talking to an older woman recently about the financial crunch. She grinned and said she was glad she grew up poor. "I've known how to tighten my belt all my life and know I will always be able to manage. I think it is unfair that parents or schools don't teach children about money. Just like they are obese because they don't learn about food, they are impoverished by not knowing how to control money."

I've believed for years that we should have courses in school on money. We should be encouraged to talk to each other about it and to share ideas and methods for using it better. After all, money management is a major life occupation!

Jane Sorensen, PhD, OTR, ND, practiced in OT over 32 years and wellness for 25 years in private practice. She currently has a supervisory and consulting practice. She has written A Therapist's Tales ( and was ADVANCE editor E.J. Brown's co-author for A Guide to Early Intervention ( You can reach her at 212-744-5836 or


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