There is no shortage of practical information in cyberspace about money management. Spend less than you earn; save at least ten percent of your net income; give a tithe or ten percent to your church or charity of choice; buy low, sell high.
There are also surveys to determine how financially fit you are; you can even check your financial well-being score. Since I am a “do it” kind of girl, I appreciate the practical supports that are available. They give me a barometer to gauge my financial health…at least, on the surface.
I’ve come to learn that when dealing with money…and experiencing true financial freedom, a deep dive beyond the shore of the “right things to do” to the abyss of our motivations is required.
Since my early teens, I’ve worked everywhere from New York City business offices to Fotomat (dating myself, again) to the ever-present McDonald’s. (Really, who hasn’t worked at McDonald’s?) I learned from watching my parents and older siblings the importance of a good work ethic and the value of earning my own money.
By the time I started college, I was used to a regular flow of money that I could spend as I pleased. As many students did at the time, I worked an on-campus job to keep my diet of French fries steady.
It was sometime during my freshman year that my father sent an envelope to me in the mail. Inside was a green plastic card with my name on it (middle initial and all) and a note that read, “For emergencies. Use frugally!”
I admit. I didn’t recognize the power that was in my hands. I tossed the card on my desk. I almost forgot about it until the following week when my friends invited me to go to the mall. That began a season of spending that could never be categorized as “frugal.” I remember that I suddenly had multiple jeans and t-shirt "emergencies"!
After two months, I got the call…and had the talk. That carefree relationship that I had with money turned into a burdensome millstone around my neck. I had a repayment schedule that taught me among other things to avoid debt like the plague.
My story is not uncommon. But it doesn’t end there.
Yes, I learned the value of using debt wisely and I tend to still live rather frugally. However, it is my attitude about money that shifted in that season of my life. I began a money journey with a vacillating view that money is either friend or foe, good or evil, depending on how much of it I had available to me.
In reality, it is neither. It is a tool. A resource to be used in the process of living. It is powerful because of how it can be used. But it is neutral. It takes on the character and fulfills the purposes of the person using it.
In our culture, money has been condemned as the reason for breaking up friendships, causing strife among family members and is one of the top three reasons quoted by divorced couples. In fact, couples that disagree about money only once a month are over 30% more likely to divorce, according to research statistics.
I propose that the issue is not money itself…it’s how each person values it. It’s said that loving money is the root of wickedness, not just the money alone. It’s a conundrum, I know. How do I utilize this resource that carries so much power in our culture without being seduced by it?
The answer: Know thyself!
In other words, become self-aware and examine your money attitudes. Make adjustments to ensure that your attitudes and actions are congruent.
Begin by asking yourself the hard questions around money matters: Am I a saver or a spender? Do I enjoy paying bills or do I feel like bills intrude on my lifestyle? How do I feel when I see a rising or falling balance in my account? Do I feel more valuable or less so? Do I feel guilty? Do I value delayed gratification or do I run into debt due to a “have it now” attitude? What are my true values?
These are not easy to answer, I know. However, it is only through knowing where I stand with money am I able to relate to it and others in an open and healthy way. Thereby, building genuine wealth that transcends my assets.
My goal is to consistently experience true financial freedom, which is about having money without it having me. With a balanced attitude about this resource, I don’t strive or fret about my wants. My needs are met. I don’t always get it right. But I am working on it. I am a work in progress. Progress is the optimal word!
Where are you on your money journey?
Until next time…