If you have ever done something or gone somewhere you did not want to, just because you have paid for the tickets and could not get your money back, then you have been a slave to money.
What is your relationship to money? Is money your comfort, your god, your friend, your master, servant, lover?
In a sense money does ‘talk’.
In English, Japanese, Taiwanese or French, two simple words ‘How much?’ and an open wallet can get you round most of the world. In a capitalist system we need money to function and a big part of you is the way you handle, control, manage, lose, fritter, invest, eat, burn, love, hate or worry about money.
The things money can buy have probably defined your experience of holidays, birthdays, Christmas; alongside which reside some of your most deep seated memories, and values. For example, were you brought up to ‘get your money’s worth’? What happens now when you fail to get value for money–do you end up feeling cheated or ‘ripped off’?
Think about the things money symbolises to you. When you were a child, what were the conditions of pocket money? Did money bring you joy and happiness, love, entrapment, resentment or fear?
As an adult, what is your definition of waste or extravagance? I have friends at either end of the scale when it comes to grocery shopping. One buys a lot of sausages and cheap mince and prides herself on her economy; the other spares no expense and buys exotic fruit, fresh salmon and expensive, lean cuts of meats without exception. Her argument is you can buy a lot of quality food for the price of a triple heart by-pass or a mobility scooter!
What does prosperity mean to you? Some financial advisers advocate that you save $3.50 a day (the cost of a cup of coffee) so you can reap the benefits of compounding interest and retire in moderation years later. I was inclined to agree with this advice until the day I realised that having the disposable cash and time to enjoy a bought coffee a day was prosperity. It was neither a wasted opportunity to save, nor an extravagance.
Money means different things to different people, and it can buy us experiences that are unique to us.
A friend of mine told me her dream was to buy a brand new Porsche. Bridget had worked out she could afford it if she added the loan to her mortgage and paid it off over 25 years. Being financially savvy she knew the real cost of the car but said it was something she just wanted to do in her lifetime so the expense would be worth it. When I found out she had not yet driven one we arranged a test drive. We had only been driving five minutes when I asked her if the car ‘did it for her? Was it worth it?’ She replied, ‘I don’t know, I think I might sooner have six months skiing in Aspen.’
We discussed how she would feel returning to the workplace in order to pay for it. She told me she would not have a problem owning a better car than the General Manager but she would find it difficult going back to the boring job she had. To her that car was a metaphor for the excitement that she otherwise lacked in her life. Buying it would have provided the biggest adrenalin rush, after that it would have been down hill all the way. What she really wanted to do was break out and test her self-belief. Fortunately she realised in time that a car repayment plan was not the answer.