“What is true about money?” A flippant answer to this question might be something like, “That I ought to have more of it.”
Going a little deeper, however, we can come up with a list of characteristics, truisms if you will, to describe what money is and is not. Some of the following Money Truisms come from the late Dick Wagner, CFP, whose pondering about the nature of money is shared in his book, Financial Planning 3.0, released in 2016, just six months before his unexpected passing.
- Money is the most powerful and pervasive secular force on the planet; it touches and shapes everything.
- Money skills are 21st Century survival skills. Modern humans can’t thrive without them.
- Money skills do not come naturally. Money is a strictly human creation that does not exist in nature. Therefore, using it well must be taught and learned. Most societies don’t do this teaching very well.
- Talking about money is a 21st century taboo. While it’s acceptable to talk about money in general terms, talking about your money and what you think, feel, and believe about it is a societal taboo.
- Money is a social agreement; it is what you and I agree it is. Being a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value and sometimes, a standard of deferred payment are all functions of money, not definitions. At the core money is what two people, a community, or a political state say it is. Case in point: cryptocurrency.
- Money is neither good nor bad, it just “is.” Money can be used for good or used for evil, but at its core it is neutral. It’s the emotions and beliefs we associate with money that lead us to label it.
- Money requires fundamental integrity, laws, and government. Money does not function well in a corrupt system. It requires an environment of trust and honesty in everything from reliable weights and measures to secure banking.
- Money requires healthy concepts of wealth and wealth building. Money alone does not equal wealth, which can include one’s time, quality of mind, and state of being.
- Money is worthless when stored. Money bought Ebenezer Scrooge nothing; he lived in poverty. Money requires contexts of reciprocity and exchange. Until it is spent or given, it does nothing.
- Nothing is more intimate than money, including sexual intimacy. People are more likely to discuss their sexuality than the intimate details of their finances. In addition, what we spend money on clearly reflects our authentic values.
- Money itself cannot provide security. Security is an inside job, an emotional state. No amount of money in the bank can provide that.
- Money does not bring happiness, though the absence of it can bring unhappiness. Money spent properly can add happiness to our lives, but without money there is little chance of obtaining happiness.
- Money cannot give us meaning, but it’s necessary in our quest for meaning.
- Money contains elemental paradoxes. It can enable or constrain our sense of worth or importance, induce selfishness or enable generosity, express our best and worst qualities.
- Everybody is weird about money. We all sometimes use money in ways that may seem illogical or contradictory, or that harm our own wellbeing. At the same time, every financial behavior makes perfect sense when we understand the belief or money script behind it.
These Money Truisms are not the same as money scripts. They are some of money’s essential elements, separate from our beliefs and emotions around it. Pondering them may be useful to help you better understand your own relationship with money.