It is not uncommon to see or hear people we know to make life decisions based on our relationship with money. Even when one is unhappy with their environment, they may not have the courage to make any moves or changes because they fear the impact on their financial well-being.
We enjoy seeing our investments grow but lose many nights of sleep when the opposite occurs. If we find our lives saddled with debt or see our peers living a more lavish life, we may feel that we are not enough.
Money has a huge role in our quest to feel enough or be happy. The reason I want to talk about this is that we must not use money as the measurement of our progress in life. It should not be the reason we feel inadequate or terrible.
Read: Can Money Buy Happiness?
Our Relationship With Money
People seek belonging, acceptance, and validation from the people around them. We want to feel that we belong to something, to a certain group or culture. When it comes to our relationship with money, the same pattern and need to be seen as ‘normal’ can also be easily observed.
When we see others around us dress well and drive expensive cars, we tend to assign them to the ‘successful group’ and think ‘they are doing well in life’. But statistics have told us that people who earn a high income can also deal with money issues and seek debt management programs from AKPK (Agensi Kaunseling & Pengurusan Kredit). On the other hand, not all middle- or low-income earners are terrible money managers.
Comparing what we have to what others have can lead us to an endless chase of happiness based on what other people are doing. It takes away our focus on how well we are doing.
Have you been telling yourself: “If I have X amount of income, I will be able to do this or feel happier”?
This thinking puts money in the driver’s seat behind every decision we make and that money is the only enabler for us to do anything.
When we give more power to money, it will take it and eventually become the lens through which we make most, if not all, of our life decisions. We must break this pattern and take back control. It starts with redefining the relationship we have with our money.
Doing this early is important. If we do not confront this relationship with money early, it may cause us to tie our self-worth to our net worth, which means if you don’t feel you are as rich as me, you will convince yourself to believe that you are not as good as me, and this may blind you from seeing your true potential.
Money is not unimportant. Don’t get me wrong. It is important, but it should not be more important than our sense of self or cause us to lose our sense of self.
Money shouldn’t be why we cannot prioritise caring for others or stop us from feeling happy. Money is the car that gets us to our desired destination; it is not the driver itself. You are.
To regain control, the driver must know where he or she wants to go. But many times, we don’t have a clear idea of what our goal is. You don’t have to feel bad or guilty if this is you.
We haven’t been taught how to think about our goals. I think we need to first find out what we value most.
Understanding what we treasure the most can help us discover what we want to make happen. If your core value is your family, you may find ways to use your money to help your family live a better life or protect your family’s financial security.
If your core value is health, you can learn how to use your money to help you live healthier. I think it makes little sense to use our money on things we don’t value as much because this will deprive us of our life satisfaction. They may give us a short boost in happiness, but they may not be as sustainable as when we use our money on things that truly matter more to us.
Determining our core values and things we hold dear will help us shift the steering wheel into our own hands and help us focus on how to utilize our money to live the type of life we want.
Those Who Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail
This will help us find out how to manage our money accordingly and create a spending plan to help us keep our money in the right place. This financial plan would have had a say in where we wanted our money to go and what we wanted it to do for us, not the other way around.
Also, in our quest to have a constructive relationship with money, we must first determine what kind of relationship we have with it now. What would a mutually supportive relationship look like?
It makes sense to conduct an initial assessment to determine how much money we need to live the best life we want. From there, we can then find out what things would need some tweaking to create the kind of future we’d love to have.
When our relationship with money is healthy, our financial well-being can improve. We will be more at peace with ourselves and our money.
We can live better today. Wishing you a great 2023 by starting with a refresh on your relationship with money.
About the Author
Kevin Neoh works with people to transform their relationship with money and support them to use their money to live a meaningful life. He is a CFP professional and a certified member of Financial Planning Association Malaysia (FPAM). Kevin can be contacted at www.kevinneoh.my.