According to the Networks Financial Institute Indiana State University, only a quarter of Americans feel well-informed about managing household finances. Why is this?
Perhaps it’s because, in the western world, the subject of money is considered taboo—it’s private and not open for discussion. Instead, we see our relationship with money as a reflection on ourselves, and often pretend that we’re more on top of our finances than we are. Therefore, we when we actually do need help, we’re reluctant to ask for it, leaving us alone in the dark.
Money cuts across a lot of boundaries. There are layers of meaning within our relationship with it. There are those who overspend, those who under spend, those who gamble, those who debt, those who chase after it, those who are satisfied with very little, and those who simply work hard, pay their bills, save, invest and give the remainder away. A major motivation for crime and violence is money; a major source of arguments among married couples is money; a major factor in career choice is money. What happened to settling our differences, marrying for love and following one’s passion? What happened to learning for learning’s sake, following our convictions because we believe in something, getting involved because we are passionate about something?
Having has replaced being as our primary value. We mistakenly believe once we have “enough” that then we’ll take time to be. This presupposes that there is such thing as security. Alan Watts in his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity wrote “What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”
Being uncertain and taking risks allow us to learn more quickly and on a deeper level. Always playing it safe results in a limited range of experiences. What is the point to life if not to expand our range of experiences, stretch our imagination, and touch the lives of a wide variety of people? A rich life is not a safe life. A rich life is one that is lived on the razor’s edge, a life full of amazing stories and opportunities, which cannot be found in the comfort of our well-furnished living rooms.
Money and self-deception go hand-in hand, especially when there is too much or too little of it. Too much money and one can get trapped in protecting the possessions it buys. Too little and one can get trapped in the perpetual pursuit of more.
Money is supposed to be fluid. It flows in and flows out in a steady stream. It doesn’t have hard sharp edges that can cut, but many of us often treat it that way. Money is only passing through. It’s not staying or moving in. It’s a guest, a tourist who is taking in the sights, and then moving on. We are nothing more than a host. We can invite it in, feed it, and offer it our attention, but we cannot grab it or cling to it or lock it away. It needs fresh air. It is not meant to be hoarded. That is done from fear. Instead, we need to respect its need for freedom and let it breath.
Money, by itself, is lifeless and dead. We bring it to live, give it meaning and energy. We transfer it from place to place, sending it into the world to travel and circulate. If we don’t touch it or move it, it remains invisible and without power, except perhaps to comfort the owner with a false sense of security. Or worse the fear of someday losing it.
Money has the power of making us react to it. It can also hold us hostage, if we give it that power. Our relationship to our money reflects our relationship to the world. It is simply a metaphor for how safe we feel. On a survival level, money can bring us to our knees. This brings most of us into an unnatural attachment to it. We become dependent on it for our security, and this blocks us from truly experiencing life. We are too focused on protecting ourselves that we miss out on the spontaneous gifts around us.
There was a book written a few years ago called The Instant Millionaire about a young man whose dream is to get rich, but like most of us, he has no idea how to accomplish this. He dislikes his job and the people he works with; he never has enough money, and wishes he could do something else with his life.
The author, Mark Fisher, tells the story of a man who meets with a millionaire and learns the secrets of his success. It is these secrets which are what make the book so valuable.
Many of us can relate to the feeling of being trapped by a situation. What we don’t realize is that we hold the key to unlocking our own prison. Who do you think put us in there in the first place? However, it often requires the insight and wisdom of another who has unlocked their own prison door for us to feel confident that we can unlock our own.
On the surface, this is the story is about one man’s search for success, but actually it is a metaphor about how the principles for success are all around us, all we have to do is to turn our attention in their direction and we can changes our lives forever. In other words, all the tools we need in order to accomplish great things are right in front of us, and have been there all along, waiting for us to recognize them. The first step is acknowledging we need help. The second step is following through and finding someone to guide us. Third and finally, it’s a matter of putting into practice what we learn and sticking with it. Soon, we’ll be well on our way to having mastery over our finances and our lives.