We live in a world where money makes things happen. But money isn’t good or bad, it’s simply a tool—that can be used for good or wasteful or downright harmful reasons. It can lift you up and provide freedom or enslave you and create misery.
Like the lottery winner who is suddenly burdened with decisions and pressures they were never equipped to handle. The result? Typically frivolous spending, relatives springing out of the woodwork with their hands out and every variety of scam artist looking to part them from what should be a positive life-changing event.
Most of us are fortunate enough to live in a society where you can—with hard work, some luck and resilience—make money and create a stable life. You view money as a tool, a means to feed your family, educate your children and provide a stream of income in retirement. But there are those that have taken the idea of “enough” to extremes beyond logic or reason, while others remain stuck in a cycle of poverty and want.
Money was invented as a medium of exchange for goods and services, not as a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Pulling out your wallet and handing over some cash is much easier than trying to figure out how many pounds of coffee a goat is worth.
Living in peace with your money is all about your values. The adage about “he who dies with the most tools wins” is obnoxious and patently untrue. I have never spoken with a person in a nursing home who cared one bit about the balance in their accounts or how many Renoirs are on their wall. They care about the footprint they are leaving behind, the relationships, experiences and love in their lives. They talk about regrets of not devoting more time with those they love. No one wishes they spent more time in the office.
In a world where the line between “need” and “want” has been blurred beyond recognition, it is difficult to define values. No one NEEDS a 110-inch Ultra HDTV. But it makes sports fans and movie lovers salivate at the prospect of hangin’ that baby on the wall and it only costs $40,000. Gotta have it—right now.
Leading a values-based life around money means you look beyond your circumstances and raise the viewpoint more globally to your vision of long-term success. The richest guy in a sinking boat will drown just as quickly as the guy rowing it. Civilizations self-destructed because of callous greed and the focus on accumulating more money, power and influence to the detriment of society as a whole. How can one be a member of society and yet strive to be a society of one?
Earning money is important for your sense of self and accomplishment and the ability to provide for your family. But money is not a goal nor is it a value. It provides choices, independence, security and mobility. Values cling closely to the concept of relationships, love, and self-fulfillment. Creating true financial success begins with knowing your values and aligning them with your behavior. Money, as a weapon of want, can only lead to emotional violence and self-destruction.
Money IS better than poverty. But money, for its own sake, can lead to a poverty of values.