My husband and I once got into a mild argument over finances. It started with calculating costs for a trip east with friends to see a football game. It ended with a tally of summer bills and how on earth they would ever get paid.
This happens in countless households. Money – or lack of it – is one of the big things people worry about, argue about and sacrifice quality of life for. It’s one of the biggest contributors to conflict and instability in otherwise healthy relationships.
We both work and yet face mounting bills and an attitude of scarcity from time to time. Although the bills always get paid, budget discussions can cause hours of turmoil and hard feelings long before the credit card bill comes due.
There’s nothing in the world more misunderstood than money. People crave it. They work for it, are willing to kill for it and die for it. They mythologize it, demonize it and fight wars over it. They blame it for their relationship problems and believe that their life would be better if they had more of it.
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Some hoard it and fret over spending it, while others can’t hang onto it no matter how hard they try. No wonder it seems constantly at the forefront of anxiety issues.
Most people think of money like a magic wand that can solve all their problems, giving them lasting happiness and well-being. This leads to a deep superstition where money is concerned, and results in bizarre beliefs and baffling behaviours.
In the Dark Ages, people believed disease was caused by bad smells. They wore perfume and carried small bunches of flowers to protect against disease. We now know that plague isn’t caused by bad smells – it’s caused by tiny bacteria. But if you were to tell that to a medieval person, they’d look at you like you were crazy.
While it’s easy to be amused by our ancestors’ misguided beliefs, it raises some essential questions about our attitude towards money:
- What are the things we now ‘know’ to be true that result in unnecessary misery, suffering and death because they’re based on misguided beliefs?
- What are the things we accept as fact that our descendants will laugh about, in much the same way we smile at our ancestors’ belief in disease being transmitted by bad smells?
You might say, “Well if I lived in medieval times and someone made a good case for the idea that disease is transmitted by invisible beasts, I’d believe it!”
But would you?
When people feel insecure, they make poor decisions. When people feel a sense of security and well-being, they make better decisions.
In the same way that our ancestors’ incorrect assumptions about the spread of illness led to unfounded fears and counterproductive behaviours, our society’s assumptions about money and the source of security, well-being and peace of mind lead to a plethora of life-damaging consequences. They include fraud; robbery and theft; anxiety; money-worries and fear; relationship problems and divorce; toxic stress; under-performance at work; and workaholism and burnout.
Government and privately-run corporations are not immune. Just look at the toll when bad investments are made or certain cost-cutting measures are taken on a project that later costs even more to finish or repair.
When it comes to money, there’s plenty to fight about. If you want to have a more well-balanced attitude about money, consider viewing it like a pet. Take care of it, play with it and generally feel good about it, and you may well discover that there’s more of it around to create with.
Alternatively, you can ignore your finances, feel stressed about them or pretend it’s not important, and find that money evades you every time.
How you feel about money will determine your long-term relationship with it. So the next time you’re caught up in an argument over cash flow, focus on how to create and enjoy more of it.
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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