What is Money?

There is belief in this country that the only way to get rich or to amass enough wealth to be truly happy is to have a large amount of monthly cash flow. A multitude of books on the shelves at Borders propel this horrible myth. The reality is…money itself doesn’t make anyone happy.
I can say this with a high degree of certainty because I know what money is. It is essentially paper with different numbers on it. The paper itself is value less. The value of the dollar is derived from everyone agreeing as to what that dollar represents. For example: a dollar bill, at your local 7/11 equals a candy bar. The store keeper will take that dollar bill and exchange it for something (an employee’s time, another candy bar, electricity etc.)
You see the dollar itself is really only a holding point. It is a note. It means someone owes you something. And you get to make the decision who owes you. The store keeper owes you a candy bar for your dollar.
Another myth is that having money makes someone a bad person… or an unhappy person. For the same reasons as above, this statement is not true. People become greedy because they are feeding a need (not necessarily a positive need). It could be the need for power, fame, attention, etc. The dollar bills themselves are meaningless to the individual, however, it is the value they represent that makes the greedy person feel powerful. The ability to buy someone’s time, the ability to exchange their bills for control over something else. It could be a car, a house, or a yacht. So money itself is not bad, rather the desires of the owner of the dollar can be bad or good.
Wealth and happiness are relative terms to each person. What makes me happy is spending time with family and friends. It could be just hanging out at their house having a couple beers and a burger. For some people hanging out is just not fun- it doesn’t excite them. They need to be off climbing a mountain or searching for lost treasury. A rich/happy life to them might be climbing every mountain in the western hemisphere.
The amount of money I may need to accumulate to live my lifestyle will be different than everyone else’s. The value I put on my dollars will also be different. I may not be willing to exchange my dollars for the same items. I may believe that a dollar is too much for a candy bar and I would rather save a couple dollars to buy a pound of meat to bring over to my friends house to BBQ.
The problem is most people don’t look at life (or money) this way. They tend to compare themselves to their friends, family or some other picture of what “the perfect life” is. Put another way, they judge themselves against their friends, family, movie stars, etc. Rather than identify what their core values are and judge their own lives at how close they are aligning what they spend their dollars on with the values they have. Most Americans, actually, most people in the world typically look at money and how much they have relative to others, rather than how well they are doing living a life that is congruent with their beliefs… a life that truly makes them happy. Most people get so focused on masking pain that they have through poor relationships with parents, family and friends with the desire for money. They believe that money is some miraculous invention that will somehow heal all wounds. That it will somehow make them a better person, a better husband, a better wife, a better friend. They say things like, “if I could have a million dollars I would buy every one of my friends a new car.” But for now they will skip their kids soccer game, they will miss anniversaries, they will not put near as much time or effort into their marriage as they did when they where courting their lover. All in the name of “in the future I will be better off because I have more money.”
We all know this is hogwash. It doesn’t pan out. The amount of divorces is our best evidence of this fallacy. Marriage wouldn’t be better if couples had more money. They would be better if they (a) understood the balance that it takes to live together, (b) that marriage takes a level of commitment, not just mentally and physically, but of time, (c) that raising a family is an honor, and (d) that being a Dad or a Mom should be a joyous gift.
I have single clients that believe that because they don’t have two incomes, they need to spend more money on their kids. From what I have witnessed, single parent homes spoil their kids with monetary things more than two parent homes. The answer to a single family home is not better and more toys, it is more quality time. That doesn’t mean better vacations, it means less television; more time with the kids on their homework; and making every game even if it means living in a smaller home.
If each of us used each other as a measuring stick, we would look back at ourselves and see a person losing the race. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone, our guidepost should be our belief structure and how we carry this out in our daily living. And how we spend our dollars should relate directly back to our core beliefs.

3 Responses to “What is Money?”

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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