The Humanity of Money

by Sep 1, 2017Cornerstone content, Money

Home » Living Money » Money » The Humanity of Money

Money interacts with you on many different levels.
It plays to the psychologist, the accountant and the technician in you.
These conversations form the basis of your relationship with money
and lead to your personal and financial freedom.

When was the last time you had a money-free day during which you had no contact with money whatsoever?

Its not that easy, is it? Possibly when you were hiking and camping in a highland wilderness, but even then things were ticking over back home. Your salary might be payable if you are taking paid holiday. You might still be using and paying for gas or electricity, a fixed-line telephone, house and contents insurance back home. Alternatively, you might have to go all the way back to infancy if camping is not your style.

Otherwise, its business as usual and money, in the words of the song, does make the world go round. It seems as though money and the air that you breathe have much in common. They get taken for granted because they are so much a part of our daily lives. When they run out it gets painful.

However, whilst air has one role only in your life, money plays many different roles. Whilst air interacts with us on a purely physiological level, money interacts with you on many different levels. It plays to the psychologist, the accountant and the technician in you.

Money’s roles

Money is first and foremost a means of transaction, one that replaced the barter economy all those generations ago. To that end, it is the oil of your everyday life. You have countless ways to pay today including cash, cards, internet banking and new methods such as Paypal and ApplePay. However you pay, the basic equation exists. You work to earn money and you use that money to pay for your life(style).

You use money to value and compare. When you visit a supermarket you probably have due regard to those labels that tell you the price per unit. This allows you to compare the relative prices of value of one brand to another, irrespective of size.

In mediaeval times, and in some parts of the world today, you might store and value your wealth in cattle. Its more common today, of course, to use financial products to store your wealth. At least it won’t be taken by rustlers, become ill or die, even if it is vulnerable to other risks.

Emotional money

Money used in these ways will speak to the accountant in you. However, the psychologist in you is constantly looking over your shoulder, plucking away at your strongest emotions. It is triggering the fear and greed responses in you all the time. The psychologist is always forcing you to consider if you are spending too much. Its getting you worried about your neighbour’s comments or tempting you to spend more to be one up on your neighbour. Or it is triggering deep shame when your credit card fails to work in a shop, irrespective of whether its your fault, the shopkeeper’s technology or the card issuer’s poor admin.

The psychologist in you really gets to work when you are in buying mode. It pushes you into satisfying your wants, rather than just your needs. It pushes logic out of the back door, leaving the field free for your feelings to make the buying decision. Then, when you have second thoughts it wheels out your thinking brain to explore the logic of the purchase. You buy in feeling, rationalise in thinking, as any sales professional will tell you.

A proxy for your ego and compassion

You might find yourself using money as a proxy for your ego. Your ego wants you to be loved and admired. It wants you to be part of a community and it often takes this to extremes. Money is your ego’s weapon of choice to defend you from criticism or to enhance your standing in the community.

On the other hand, you might see and use money as a tool for good.  It is a great help in supporting your causes or those less advantaged than you. And you probably do this quietly and with compassion – which is the other side of the egotism coin.

Childhood experiences, adult habits

Your early childhood experiences , especially painful experiences, will probably still determine your behaviour around money, and hence your life. Were you shamed by money, for instance when you had insufficient pocket money to keep up with the new fashion or craze? You probably still act around money in a way that prevents you ever experiencing that shame again, however unlikely. And because money and life go hand in glove, that outdated attitude may be preventing you living life to the full.

Children have financial principles drilled into them. They are often taught, for instance, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. In other words they should grasp what is there for the taking because its worth more than a potentially better offer in the future. Their adult mindset may now be locked into living entirely in the present without thought for the future.

Ultimately, these lessons can turn into habits, even a way of life. They become a destructive barrier when they are outdated and no longer relevant to your situation. Along with those emotions of fear, shame and greed, they prevent you leading a wholehearted, fulfilled life. If you live by the bird in the hand you may never plan for the future and later find yourself with nothing to your name.

Learning money

Financial illiteracy is often blamed for many of the world’s ills. It is often cited as a contributing factor to today’s unprecedented levels of personal debt. Pushy lenders are also blamed for taking advantage of this illiteracy.
You do need some understanding of interest rates, taxation, asset allocation, debt repayment methods and the like. The financial technician in you might be interested in this, or might run a mile from such complexities.

As you learn about money, don’t forget that money itself can be one of your greatest teachers if you let it. Money in its many roles is constantly interacting with the accountant, the psychologist and the technician in you. It has valuable lessons to teach you about your self, your personal integrity, your motivation, your relationships and your own humanity. Your feelings around money often allow you to see your own humanity in a new and revealing light. This is why the psychologist in you is probably the most important part of you when it comes to money. It recognises and reacts to the human side of money and determines that all important relationship to money.

Your relationship with money

The ways we talk about money reflects our ambivalent attitude to money. The list of synonyms for money is long and ranges from the simple descriptive (a ‘fiver’ for a five pound or dollar note) through the rather more obscure (a ‘rock’ for a million dollars, popularised by Tony Soprano in the TV series The Sopranos). Some expressions reflect a degree of contempt for money (a shitload of money, filthy lucre), whilst others (bread, dough from the Cockney rhyming slang ‘bread and honey, money’) reflect the more benevolent side of money.

Given the language it is reasonable to assume that our general antipathy towards money and a reluctance to speak its true name has spawned these many, many alternative names for money. As money plays such a prominent and varied role in our life this is strange

At its heart it indicates that you have a relationship with money and its not a particularly good relationship. As with human relationships you generally want to keep these on the level and in good order. Its a good idea to treat money as a family member, a personality in its own right. This forces you to accept there is a relationship between you and your money. Once you accept that you can take steps to manage and develop the relationship.

The Living Money Blog

In this section of the blog we will help you to identify the many and varied roles of money in your life. We will help you to manage these roles in such a way that you build a strong and constructive relationship with your money.
This is one of the most important themes in this blog. It has close links with the ‘Me’ and the ‘Resources’ themes and will refer back to them frequently.