Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Money or Your Mojo

We humans have a very strange relationship with money.

We don’t talk about how much we earn. We lie about how much we spend. We judge other people for not having enough. We judge other people for having too much. Some people spend all their time thinking about it. Some people refuse to think about it. We feel bad if we don’t have more. And we always feel like we should have more.

Money is a big source of relationship strife, too. According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, about 30% of couples say finances cause the most stress in their relationship, followed distantly by intimacy (11%), their children (9%) and their in-laws (4%).

That’s a lot of power for a flimsy piece of green paper.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with money, and I realized that the two of us could use some therapy. I imagine our session would go something like this:

Therapist: So, why are you here today?

Money: She totally ignores me, except when she needs something. And then she’s angry at me if I’m not there for her.

Therapist: Is this true?

Me: Yes, yes it is. I want Money around when there is something I need, but other than that, I don’t really care for him. In fact, I dislike him!

Money: That really hurts my feelings.

Therapist: Why don’t you like Money?

Me: Well, I’m not supposed to like Money. I’m supposed to care about making the world a better place. Everyone knows you can’t have both… you have to choose one or the other.

Therapist: Who said you have to choose?

Me: I don’t know. I guess I just have that belief that it’s either my money or my mojo.

Money: You really know how to hurt a guy.

Therapist: What if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have both Money and Mojo?

Money: Maybe if you treat me like a partner instead of this hot-and-cold, back-and-forth, one-sided relationship we’ve had, we could do beautiful things together.

Me: Really? Is that possible? We could actually work together towards a common goal?

Therapist: How should I know? This is your imaginary therapy session.

So, I started thinking about what Money said, and I realized he was right. We have so many assumptions and perceptions about money, most of which were formed subconsciously, long ago. What if we didn’t give money so much… value? What if we thought of money like we think about the other necessities in life that we’re grateful to have, such as electricity, running water, or heat? You never hear anybody say, “I need more electricity!” or “My running water isn’t enough for me!” or “That person has way too much heat. Who does he think he is?!” Of course not. When it comes to those resources, we take just what we need. Sure, it’s valuable because it makes our lives more comfortable, and we feel badly for those who don’t have it, but we don’t have any excess energy on it.

Can we approach money the same way? What would happen if we used what we needed, were grateful for what we had, and shared what we could?

You know the old saying, “Money is the root of all evil. I don’t think that’s true. The saying should go, “Our notions of money are the root of all evil.” If we stop looking at money as evil, if we stop connecting money with fear, if we stop putting anger and resentment towards money, I’m willing to bet our financial outlooks will change for the better.

The next time you’re feeling anxious about your funds, take a deep breath, smile, and give Money a hug. Get rid of all your preconceived notions about Money. Give the poor guy a chance. Start fresh. Remind yourself that you and Money are partners, and although you will have your ups and downs, you’re in this relationship for the long haul.

What’s that other old saying? “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Let’s start using honey to catch money… and see how our fiscal future unfolds.