According to social learning theory, our attitude toward money is learned behavior that is passed from generation to generation.
Money hoarders live by the phrase “but I might need it someday” and resist spending, sometimes to their detriment. Overspenders view possessions as central to their identity, or see spending as a quick fix to create a mood change. We all probably can place ourselves somewhere along this continuum. It’s worthwhile to do some self-searching to understand our attitudes toward money and how they affect our happiness.
Money is a far more emotional topic than most people realize. The great American economist and journalist, Sylvia Porter, wrote, “Money never remains just coins and pieces of paper. It is constantly changing into the comforts of daily life. Money can be translated into the beauty of living, a support in misfortune, an education, or future security. It can also be translated into a source of bitterness.”
Unless we deal with our unconscious attitudes toward money, we will almost certainly sabotage our financial success and stability.
Many beliefs do not stand up to rational analysis. For example, we may believe that it’s greedy to want more money, even if we are struggling. Or we may believe we are simply not the type of person who could become wealthy. Perhaps we think that money corrupts, and we are at risk of being taken for a ride, or becoming immoral, or disliked by our friends and family.
It may be worth taking a moment to uncover your money beliefs. Can you think of examples to disprove them?
Richard Templar, author of The Rules of Wealth, points out that money is neither good nor evil, but simply a means to an end. It can help us accomplish our goals and dreams. We often make all sorts of judgements about people who have made money, Templar says, yet money is just a payment given in exchange for clever thinking and hard work. “You aren’t given money by a committee who examine whether you deserve it or not, and whether you have been good enough or not,” he writes.
He suggests viewing money as a friend, not an enemy. After all, we have to deal with money almost every day: Buy a cappuccino or save a couple of dollars? How much to budget for a new car or house? Without money, life as we know it would disintegrate. So it becomes easier to see money in a neutral way, as a tool that facilitates life.
However, Templar warns that many people believe that more money would solve all their problems. Having money won’t make all your relationships flow smoothly not by a long shot, he writes. It won’t protect you from disease. It may buy you better medical care after the event, but it won’t protect you.
“The more you see money as a solution, the greater the chance that you are missing the point entirely,” he writes. “Money will not make you happier, thinner or more popular with decent people. Money does not deliver lasting, meaningful peace of mind.” He states that we need to find the cure to our problems first and then find a way of funding that cure. “It is the oil that smoothes the wheels. It isn’t the engine.”
We can all make more money without losing sleep, compromising our principles, neglecting our families, losing our sense of humor or our ability to have fun. It is possible to have money and have a life, to be ethical and rich, to earn a lot and be a thoroughly nice person. It just sometimes seems that it isn’t. This is all part of debunking our personal money myths.
Furnham, Adrian. The Psychology of Money. Routledge: 1998.
Templar, Richard. The Rules of Wealth. Reuters Prentice Hall: 2007.