Why A Philosophy of Money?
Isn’t this a blog about saving money, making money and investing money; what’s philosophy got to do with that? Well, everything. A philosophy of money is what drives wise money management. How you think about money, shapes what you do with it. Why is that some save all their life and never spend or enjoy any of it? Why do others overspend and never seem to be able to save a penny? It all comes back to your philosophy of money. And everyone has one!
So What is Money?
Think about it? A few pieces of plastic or metal, maybe just a number on a screen that our society gives value to. Once aluminium was the most precious metal and diamonds were just worthless rocks. We give value to things that intrinsically have little real value at all. That’s not to say that money isn’t real, nor that it isn’t able to do some amazing things. Our world turns on money and you can’t live without it. But we need to realize that money is just a thing, an object our society gives value to and nothing more. A simple tool to allow us to trade goods and services.
Money is More Powerful Than It’s Value
Money is powerful, far more powerful than simply what it is or what it can buy. Many people have an inordinate love of money. More than would like to admit it. This is why hundreds of thousands of people are duped every year by get rich quick schemes. This is why lotto generates millions and why some of you may have landed on a blog like this one. It causes some to steal and others to lie on their tax return to just eek out a little bit more. It keeps people up at night, while others check their portfolio and bank accounts multiple times a day (like it’s really going to have changed!). It causes arguments and divorce. It starts wars and fuels them. Those who don’t have it want more of it and those that have plenty want more too! Crazy, isn’t it? Why does money have such a power over people? It’s got far more power than just a thing, even a valuable thing should have.
Why Money Has Power
Money’s power is rooted not in it’s intrinsic value but in what it promises. Innate to every human are desires for happiness and security, love and recognition, power and control. It’s these desires that give money it’s power. Deep down many of us believe or at least live like money can meet these desires. The degree to which we believe that is the same degree to which money will have power and control over us. So our philosophy of money is really about how we think money will meet our deepest desires.
Money and Happiness
This is what every advertiser the world over would have you believe, money will make you happy. Money will give you the latest toys, the best holidays, the prettiest partners. You want to be happy in retirement, then get more money. More money = more happiness and we all want happiness. But does money really make you happy and satisfied? More particularly, if you had a thousand more dollars than you have now, will you be happier? Ten thousand? One Hundred thousand? There are some pretty miserable rich people. Truth is, money doesn’t add to happiness at all. It can change your standard of living, but not your joy in living. Contentedness is what we should be aiming for. Contentedness can be had at any bank balance. But you’ll never be content if you think more money is the answer to happiness.
Money and Security
This is the other main reason people value money more than they should. Money promises security. It will look after you in old age, rescue you in times of trouble. You need a nest egg, you need a security buffer. But how much do you need, really? This drive for security drives us to bigger and bigger sums. Ask anyone how much they need in retirement and it will always be a figure just beyond their reach. So what one person thinks is sufficient is not nearly enough for the next. Do you see the folly in this. Here in Australia we’re all looked after by a great social security system. In reality, none of us need much money for security at all. Even if you get sick or lose your job, our most basic needs will be met and more! So stop thinking that money offers you security, it doesn’t. Money won’t look after you in your old age, people will. It’s not more money you need, maybe aim for more friends!
Money and Control
Some of us are control freaks. We want to be in control over our lives and money seems to offer us control. With money you can decide where you live, what job you take and your standard of living. Money promises freedom and protection if things going wrong. But this promise of control is really just an illusion. Truth is our lives are often out of our hands? Do you decide if you get sick or not? Someone else will likely decide which job you have or when you get fired. You can’t really control others with your money. And the greatest equalizer of all is death. Money is no help there and you can’t take it with you. Money gives you the illusion of control. Sure you might be able to afford to live in a seemingly nicer suburb, but who cares? Though you can’t control your life with your money, money can control your life. The drive to have more of it can rule over you. It will lead to fights with your partner, penny pinching, a drive to do more than you should that in the end will rob you of the most important things in life. So let go, face life with an open hand and enjoy the adventure, whatever comes.
Money and Identity
We all want to be appreciated and loved. We want to feel good about ourselves and have others love us too. Again money promises this to some. With money comes honour and recognition. Who doesn’t want to go to their reunion in a flashy car, boasting a six figure income and a house in a well to do suburb. Having money offers the promise of an ego boost and the more of it you have the more recognition and status you will get. This is why some people live beyond their means and most of us are keeping up with the proverbial Jones. Bigger houses, latest phones, nicest cars. We want to at least have as much as the next person, whoever they are. That costs money, lots of it! But of course it’s all a lie. People don’t love us more or think of us more highly the more we have. The people who love us most don’t care at all how much we’re worth. Our value is not in our things or our money, but in our person hood. Our humanity and personality is what makes us unique. So ditch having the latest stuff and be yourself, you don’t need a cent to do that!
Money and Power
Money promises power. The more you have the greater your influence. The higher up the chain you go, the more control you have over those below. Power is a huge driver in our world. We want to be the boss and money is the tool to give it to you. Although, the problem is, there’s always someone above you, always someone richer than you are. This is tree with noone at the top. So once you start climbing you can never stop. At the end, it’s a wasted life. More than that, money won’t give you real power, the influence it gives is more akin to manipulation. Sure you can get someone to do something, but real power is when people follow you willingly. You can’t buy that, it comes with a depth of character, with integrity, servanthood, trustworthiness, sacrifice, care and compassion. None of which you can buy!
So What is The Answer?
It’s clear that money can’t deliver on any of your greatest desires. It’s power over you should be starting to dissipate. It’s not as important or as needed as you thought. It won’t make you happy, you don’t need it for security, it can’t give you control or get you power or status or love. So if it’s not money, what is the answer? See the problem with the human heart is that it will find something. If it can’t find something better to replace money it will revert back to it, despite knowing all this. If you want to make wise decisions with your money you need to find the answer to these desires in a better place. Of course philosophers offer no answer here. And you need to work it out for yourself. For me, it’s in my faith in Jesus Christ. He offers me security even beyond death, He gives me a joy that’s not dependent on people or circumstances, He is in control so I can let go, He loves me irrespective of what other people think, He rules by serving, so I can serve too. From this foundation I can then enjoy other relationships, like those with my family and friends without asking them to meet all these desires, which would be too much for them. And money is put in its place. A thing, a helpful thing, a useful thing. Something I can use to serve and bless others and enjoy with others. Now you need to work this out for yourself, but make sure that you put money in it’s place. This is the necessary step to a healthy philosophy of money.
Freedom To Use Money Wisely
If money is no longer the means to these desires then it will no longer have an inordinate power over you. This frees you up to make wise choices with your money. You can save to an end, not to get something it can never give you. You can spend wisely without trying to get your status from it. You can give without fear of being left alone. Until you get to this point you will be a slave to money and unable to use it wisely. You will either save too much or spend too much. A balanced and healthy approach to money flows from a healthy philosophy of money. I’d hate to fuel a life you will later regret. So go and explore the rest of this site, save, invest, give, enjoy life and be content. That would be a wise choice!