We all have a relationship with money whether we know it or not. This relationship determines how we think, speak and act about money. It also impacts relationships. We have all witnessed how relationships can be stressed and hurt when financial affairs are perceived by one side or the other to be unfair; how communication breaks down; how resentment can burn deeply… This relationship will show up everywhere in our lives, from our investment decision making, spending and saving habits, the estate planning process to how much we give away and the choices we make.
As I have mentioned in my earlier newsletters my work has allowed me to closely observe how deeply our relationship with money and wealth can positively and negatively affect every aspect of our lives ― mostly without our conscious awareness. Last time I wrote about unbalanced relationships with money; today I would like to focus on healthier aspects of our relationship with it.
In an ideal scenario, having a healthy and balanced relationship with money means having a conscious and purposeful relationship with it that is satisfying and not overly stressful. One that makes us feel safe and secure regardless of how much money we have in the bank, how many assets we own, or how successful our investments.
Our financial relationship today stems from our childhood. This is the time we begin to develop our narratives about money. They include our beliefs about it, which then drive our financial behaviors, mostly without us being aware of it. These narratives are shaped by our experiences, the beliefs we develop around money and wealth, and our family’s attitudes.
Our money narratives can include statements or thoughts like: ‘self-worth equals net worth’, ‘money is power’, ‘wealth will make me happier’, ‘money will solve my problems’, ‘money is to be saved, not spent’, etc. Therefore, when we develop a healthy relationship with it, our money narratives change. But how do we know if we have a healthy relationship with money?
Here are a few hallmarks:
- Being free of emotional attachment to money. One example of it is when we lose money we do not experience extreme emotions such as anxiety, panic or depression. A story that illustrates this is Mr. Soichiro Honda, the owner of Honda Motor’s. One day Mr. Honda came to work and saw his factory in flames. He realized that the notes and sketches of the new motor engine they were developing were burnt by the fire. When he was asked how he felt about his loss, he said that he did not feel any different, and that he had the opportunity to recreate his model in an improved way. He didn’t have a negative emotional reaction regarding the loss of his factory, the new motor engine invention or the consequent financial loss from the fire. He showed no emotional attachment.
- Recognizing that money is just money. Money is just a piece of paper, it’s an object, and everything we associate or relate to it is the meaning we give or attach to it. For example, the understanding that money is neither good nor bad, it can go either way depending upon the meaning that we give to it and the choices we make as a result. To demonstrate this concept, I ask people in my workshops to take a one dollar bill and tear it up. Then I ask them to do the same with a $10 bill, and then with a $100 bill. People’s response in each case tells a lot about their relationship with money and the degree of their emotional attachment to it. Almost everyone has a strong reaction when challenged to do this!
- Free of feeling ‘more is never enough’. This feeling touches upon our primary human fears of survival, safety, security, greed, power and more.
To sum up, it is only through understanding our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about money and wealth, that we can develop a balanced integration between our minds and emotions, and experience a healthy relationship with money and wealth. When doing so, we rise above greed, power or control, and above obsessions to acquire more and the self serving reasons that make us do so.
Once we are free of our emotional attachment to money, we are truly free to use it in any way we choose – investing it, spending it, giving it away or a balance of all of these. It also frees us to become more involved in helping others, becoming “philanthropists,” in the truest sense – ‘lovers of mankind.’
More about the latter in the next newsletter!