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You Don’t Need Money

4 November 2009 No Comment

Money is an important and inescapable part of our lives. Each of us has a relationship with money, and I’ve personally found much freedom by getting clear about that relationship. Clarifying the role of money in our lives is, I believe, a crucial step to finding peace.

At the core of this is realising – you don’t need money!

Master or Servant?

You can’t eat or drink it, you can’t build houses with it (not sensible ones, anyway!) and it’s not very effective for clothing. While we may need some of the things we can buy with it – money is, of itself,  pretty paper, coins or numbers in a computer system.

Yet I hear many people say, ‘I need money.’

Some risk their lives for it, some commit suicide over it – and some are willing to cheat and kill for it. It’s the centre of many conflicts in business and family relationships and most people spend half their lives working for it, in jobs they hate.

So what’s the big deal?

Why do so many of us believe we need it, and so many behave as though they are the servant of money rather then the master of it?

Money is a great invention – one of the greatest inventions of mankind – but I think we just forgot that great inventions are supposed to be a service to us – not the other way around.

Money is actually pretty useful!

It’s not impossible to live outside the entire money system – but few people ever achieve it, or want to, for that matter.

Close your eyes and relax for a few moments.

Imagine looking in the places where you keep cash (wallet? purse? pocket? under the bed?). Imagine all your cash has disappeared and in each place you look there is nothing. You check your bank account and the number you see is zero! It’s all gone as some invisible force has wiped out all traces of any money you had in your possession.

What’s your reaction?

Apart from being confused about how it could have happened, were you worried, nervous, panicked, angry? Or maybe relieved?

If you were completely indifferent – congratulations! You’ve probably reached enlightenment!

We don’t need it .. but it sure is handy!

If I delve into my distant memory of 7 years of studying economics, business and accounting I recall two main things we use money for.

1   Means of exchange

Which basically means I can go into any store and hand over cash and get stuff back, like food, clothes, TVs. More likely I’ll issue an instruction to my bank to take some numbers off my our bank statement and into the retailer’s account.

Money makes life very easy to obtain the variety of things we need to live plus a vast range of things we don’t need but can be great to have. Of course, many things we buy or desire serve little purpose and hold us down – but that’s a topic for another day.

It’s a common language I have with anyone offering goods or services so saves a lot of time and trouble. Try paying for your $126 purchases at the supermarket check-out with an original Van Gogh painting and my guess is you’ll discover just how universal money is as a language – and how we’ve shut out alternative methods of exchange!

Money is a way to meet needs for freedom, flexibility, variety and ease.

I find it useful to remind myself that I can meet these needs in other ways – just that I choose money because of it’s convenience.

Having money is useless and it’s only useful when I pass it on. In other words I need to give it away in order for it to serve me in any way. I like to see myself as a channel through which it flows – it comes to me for services I’m providing and I pass it on for services provided.

If I’m a wide channel then money can flow without any pressure building up.

2   Measure of value …

… of things

Money itself only has value when it’s exchanged and because it’s divided into nice neat units it gives some measure of value of what it’s exchanged for.

It’s easy to lose sight, though, that value is essentially qualitative and rarely translates easily into a number. The market system goes some way to provide some reassurance that price = value, but it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

How I value things is uniquely personal depending on many things – and it changes frequently. If I’m thirsty – a bottle of water has a huge value to me and virtually none if I’m not. A fast sports car has no value to me at all despite it’s price tag because there’s no place to park it where I live. This blog means a lot to me and I’m willing to pay to keep it running.  I’m not earning enough yet from affiliate programmes to even cover the domain and hosting costs – but that’s ok as it has value to me beyond money.

I try to keep focus on the qualitative elements of value and not get too sucked into the whole pricing game. Of course, the less money flowing to me, the more I have to take care about my choices – but again it is about choice.

… of people

One of the unfortunate side effects of using money as value measure is that many apply the same thinking to human beings.

It seems commonplace, though rarely explicitly stated, that people with high salaries and/or wealth are valued more highly than those without. If I apply this thinking to how highly I value myself then it’s very damaging to my self esteem – to say nothing of the further damage it does it when I apply it to those around me.

I think we’ve mixed up the value of people with the value of the contribution they make to the world. Every human being has the same value – irrespective of the circumstances they were born into. It just can’t be turned into a monetary amount without creating a very screwed up world. One where people can be ‘collateral damage’, ‘lower class’ or ‘human resources’ to mention a few terms that come to mind.

I want to value all human beings equally, and at the same time value differently how each contributes to the world. We don’t all add the same value through what we do and how we live our lives. That’s down to many factors and almost impossible to measure objectively. Attaching a monetary value to it is an incredibly narrow attempt to do it.

I refuse to measure the value of anyone based on their spending power.

What I try to do is treat money like a vote.

If I appreciate something I’ve received (goods, services etc..) then I gladly vote with my money as an encouragement to continue doing what they’re doing.  And when receiving money I try to see that as one way of encouraging me. It’s not the only measure, and not necessarily the most important one. But I do like to have money flowing in and out as it gives me a strong sign that I’m doing something meaningful to me and to others.

Money certainly can’t make you happy, but a conscious relationship with it can put it in its place and bring a lot of peace, joy and freedom.

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