I see everything through a money lens. I realize most people don’t. The notion of excluding money from everyday thinking is unrealistic to me. Unless we live off the grid and grow our own food, then money may be considered trivial. In the real world, money is the medium through which we manage our standard of living. Ignoring the role it plays in life is downright naïve. We exchange money for everything: food, shelter, clothing, electricity, heat, transportation. Most people shun money topics, or think it’s too boring to talk about. Reality is, money is the undercurrent of life. People say they don’t care about money. They say they want to ski all day or go fishing but they still have to buy the skiing gear and fishing rods.
This post is about how money is intimately interlaced into every area of life and why it’s critical to pay attention to monetary affairs.
Emotional Connections to Money
The emotional attachments to money are endless. Money represents so many things. To name a few, safety, freedom, respect, reward, power, an identity. It’s also a ticket to dreams, and a symbol for love, hope, and promises.
It allows us to be able to take care of our children.
It’s a cause for worry, stress, and depression.
It justifies anger, envy, and jealousy.
It destroys relationships and marriages.
It breeds insecurity and contempt.
It clouds judgment, triggering rash decisions, or dangerous behavior.
Money can be a motivator to earn a wage to achieve self-sufficiency.
And it allows us to have choices.
Related Post: Acknowledge Your Money Behavior
Money creates social barriers of inclusion and exclusion. This has been a hot topic. The Haves are predisposed to advantages that they take for granted. Despite the availability of education, opportunities are often hoarded by an executive’s children. Existing connections or nepotism allow for easy hiring with a cleared path for promotions. The cycle of inclusion perpetuates through the networking that opens the doors for well-to-do sons and daughters but keeps doors closed for the Have-Nots.
Money brings us together or separates us. Loyalties change depending on the flow of money. Parents dole out money to gain their children’s affection, and then use it as a weapon to express dissatisfaction. Family members anticipating inheritances often behave accordingly.
It can be a force of manipulation or a motive for murder. I’m a fan of the Investigation Discovery Network. The depth of the investigations is fascinating. One common theme of exposing murder perpetrator are the victim’s or suspect’s financial situation. Often, recently purchased insurance policies with high payouts raise suspicion. Frequent credit card transactions in high dollar amounts also lead investigators to obsessive spending that may have caused relationship rifts. Some of the suspects engage in outlandish behavior soon after their victim has been discovered. In Menendez brothers’ case, the boys were out buying gold Rolex watches and Porsches in the aftermath of their parents’ deaths.
Sometimes it’s a cause for resentment, if someone becomes forced into having to take over financial responsibilities. This is a familiar experience for some young adults, especially males. Without being prepared for fatherhood, the pressure to provide for a family may come too soon.
It can feed addictions, such as shopping, drugs, or hoarding.
Money situations cause trauma. Parental abandonment, death, or job loss can unhinge a family’s financial stability and dire results can be immediate. One day the family is living comfortably, the next week, they’re uprooted to lesser surroundings. These incidences scar people for life.
Money can be an aphrodisiac. It’s how women size up men sometimes, isn’t it? The old tribal tradition of marrying a daughter off to a man of means still has value.
For women, sometimes their choice of a spouse determines their social and financial security. Women may find it easy to disconnect from money issues because, in society, it’s not tied to their identity. Women tend to use beauty as a currency in exchange for their ability to have wealth. Other attributes that women exchange for wealth are health, fertility, nurturance, and ability to be the main caretaker. Women are conditioned to believe that they should convert their domestic skills into financial security or they risk losing their feminine appeal.
This trade-off results in a swap of virtues and beliefs for economic security. Think about how this permeates the foundation of society. Female-based roles going to back to Leave It to Beaver portray and validate those beliefs.
Daughters who were never taught about money are severely underserved. All these theories cause inequality in the workplace to persist and social inequalities such as unequal pay based on gender.
In this way, women are perceived to be dependent, needy, and vulnerable. Even when women take charge of their lives with a career and become an equal family breadwinner, there is a strong contradiction in the family roles—working mom or stay-at-home mom? Women even work against each other. Working moms criticize stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home moms criticize working moms. No one wins.
What a contrast to how money and men are perceived. For men, their manhood and identity are attached to their financial aptitude. Men buy expensive gifts to prove their worth; women use money to bond and create relationships. While men use money to show power, women will downplay financial differences to enhance connections. In their quest for money, it is not unusual for men to put their finances first and family second.
These social perceptions put too many expectations on men and not enough on women. Men are expected to bear the financial burdens and make the financial decisions. Women are taught not to be concerned with their financial status.
But what happens when that doesn’t work according to plan? It would be very convenient to know, as a young woman, that someone will take care of you. That would offer a guaranteed life promise. But, when men abandon their end of the deal, women are left with a lack of alternatives or worse, with nothing. By not setting up the alternatives early on, before the tidal wave of divorce, medical problems, abandonment, or the demands of a large family comes crashing down, women are left with the fear of finding themselves homeless and alone. Many are in fear of going broke or not having enough money to retire.
Women’s financial independence should be a central element to their sense of identity, not an accident.
Money measures the value of our time. Behavior can vary when an action is associated with value relative to a monetary amount. A highly paid employee may be motivated to live up to the expectation based on their salary. Conversely, have you ever noticed how slowly low-wage employees move when waiting on customers? They don’t look very enthusiastic. That’s because they’re getting paid next to nothing, projecting their value of worth to the hourly wage associated with a mundane activity. Expected money in the form of a year-end bonus can be a monetary “carrot” timely noted to manipulate behavior.
How Money Changes Behavior
The simple suggestion of money or viewing money, even when not owned, alters physical reactions. A Yale study reported in 2009 showed that subjects were more sensitive to pain and social rejection when not exposed to money. These were only reminders of money, not owning it outright. And yet it produced these results.
Further, the studies have shown altered behavior and lack of sympathetic qualities. People with more in the honeypot are actually tone-deaf to compassion.
Wealth causes unethical behavior, as if the world revolves around them. Affluence clouds moral behavior, where wealthy individuals may display a Me-First, self-serving attitude. Affluenza is the term assigned to this self-indulgent inclination. Defined as an unhealthy psychological state that exists among the affluent, it gives rise to extreme materialism and consumerism.
The perception of advantage causes aggressive behavior, as proven in a study of Monopoly playing. One of two players was given double the amount of money at the start of the game, clearly setting an advantage. The player with more money immediately began displaying aggressive behavior such as banging their pieces around the board and taunting their less-resourced opponent. Flaunting behavior, even when the game was rigged in their favor, confirms the impact that money has on human beliefs. A simple game with play money was enough to elicit inconsiderate behavior on the part of the well-off player.
Lack of money has been shown to affect mental functioning, by as much as nine or ten IQ points. Farmers were tested before their harvest, when they were desperate for money, and after their crops were harvested, when they enjoyed the fruits of their labor. They performed blatantly worse in the period before the harvest.
A former manager of mine displayed these attitudes to a T. When the firm paid good bonuses, he strutted around like a peacock and treated others condescendingly. When the firm didn’t do well, he walked around sheepishly, as if the financial success of the company was a reason to act differently toward others from one day to the next.
I personally have noticed that people in powerful high-earning positions show less manners in conversation, frequently interrupting, speaking loudly and aggressively, and dismissing others’ thoughts.
Other interesting facts revolve around non-verbal cues. Less wealthy individuals were better at recognizing facial expressions. This is thought to indicate heightened awareness of perceived environmental threats. That by experiencing lack, there are more outside dangers to worry about.
Money has influence over people. Those with money are revered, as if it determines good character. Political lobbying is a great example. The billionaires of the world get their way by paying the lawmakers. Charitable giving is another form of influence. Having a building named after you feeds the power junkies. Rich people paying substantial sums to colleges influence the admission process for their children.
I’m all for being frugal, but there’s a point where lack of money is painful and sucks the joy out of life. There’s no dignity in bitterness and misery. In that vein, I can testify that money offers unequivocal satisfaction and everyone should know the feeling of accomplishment that comes with self-sufficiency. Anything above a comfortable standard of living should be considered a side dish of extra dressing, but nonetheless worth pursuing. Financial neighborhoods vary but I believe every one of us should work toward reaching their version of opulence.
I am frequently reminded that money allows the enjoyment of small pleasures, maybe ones that we didn’t know we were missing. While I was lying prone for my monthly massage, my masseuse rolling over the speed bumps in my shoulders, I dream of a daily massage routine. While I’m in that quiet room, the face pillow eclipsing my view of the real world, I can dream of anything I want. I could save the monthly membership fee and live out the monk-like frugality touted by the Internet’s money rebels. But I owe myself some pampering and deserve a small delight now and then.
As confident hands push energy through the knots in my neck, I feel reinvigorated in a way that can’t be self-replicated. Knowing that I can care for myself in this way bolsters my morale. Similarly, having an aesthetician smooth creams, gels, and toners over my skin reinforces my satisfaction with life.
Before I could afford these treatments, my life was void of these small luxuries and I often felt drained and lowly.
Even having the ability to buy small conveniences rouses personal happiness. That being true, cleaning services and landscaping businesses will be around forever. Add to the list shopping for groceries and other random errand services.
Money opens up the world to you. Despite the social nuances and inequalities, it creates opportunities that are there for the taking. No one is shut out from improving on what they have. We may not all become billionaires, but life’s pleasures require less mad money than realized. While you are laying down your financial plan, don’t forget what is always free in life