I saw this one book End Financial Stress NOW: Immediate Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook by Emily Guy Birken during the first Big Bad Wolf online sale last year in November – and of course, I was immediately hooked!
I would say that’s one of the best RM10 purchases of mine, ever! The book explains the basic concept of personal finance like I’m 5, so I got my aha moments here and there throughout the book. Finally, I can put names to things. Recommended for a beginner like me.
The first chapter starts with the meaning of money beyond as a medium of exchange. Quoting the author:
… money takes on the philosophical, psychological, emotional, and moral meanings that we assign to it, which are hardly universal. Often it is these assigned meanings that direct our choices rather than the deep thought or the rational cost-benefit analyses that are necessary to come to the best decision.
That’s why it is helpful to recognize and be aware of the meaning that we give to money in our life. These belief systems often play big roles that affect our financial decisions.
MEANINGS OF MONEY
These are some of the common meanings people often associate with regarding money. I will just touch on each briefly.
1. MONEY IS RESPECT
This is the bitter truth – people with money get respected more. Just imagine the possibility if we’re to utilize money and respect in positive ways?
The downside would be those who live beyond their means, biar papa asal bergaya. Another, #AntaraDuaDarjat. If you dress money, i.e. appear to be wealthy, people treat you better. This is why some people got entertained, while others got ignored, in high-end shops. Heck, maybe we’re also guilty of this.
2. MONEY IS SECURITY
Money provides us a sense of safety. How can it not? With money, we can get shelter, food, and necessities. Money can cover us in the event of emergencies. It gives us peace of mind that we don’t have to worry about our income not being enough. In other words, financial security.
Apparently, it can be bad too. Individuals who believe money is security might be afraid to spend money to improve their lives or get out of their comfort zone, e.g. start a business, to maintain the sense of safety they feel.
3. MONEY IS FREEDOM
Aka financial freedom. Money allows us to live life in our own terms. If we’re not happy working at our workplace, it gives us the opportunity to leave. Just imagine if you don’t have to work for a living, what would you do? … That’s financial freedom.
Unfortunately, it can also lead to irrational financial behaviors, includng tendency to skim cepat kaya, gambling, indebtness and even hoarding.
4. MONEY IS SUCCESS
Money is an indicator of success. If a business is blooming with profit, the business is successful. If a professional is earning well, he/she is successful. If anyone is making good money, he/she is successful.
The problem is we can be workaholics that chase money at the expense of health, relationships, and worst, life.
5. MONEY IS LOVE
For instance, being able to take care of our loved ones and provide for them financially. Another, being able to help others in need.
However, we can be chasing money to provide for our loved ones financially but then become too busy to be with them. Or, we equate love with money that we keep on giving money to the wrong ‘loved one’ that we end being used for money #sugardaddy hehe.
6. MONEY IS TIME
I am often conflicted between these two – to spend more money, or, to spend more time. For example, we can spend less money by not eating out and cooking ourselves, but we will have to spend more time going grocery shopping, preparing our food, cooking and cleaning.
The other way round can also be an issue. My personal example would be I drive to work instead of using public transport because the latter takes just too much time. But owning and maintaining a car is expensive.
7. MONEY IS A SOURCE OF SHAME
I personally find it odd that money can be considered a source of shame. Then I understand when I read the book because oh well – I, just a few months back, was ashamed of my financial state. As I shared in my post comparing my relationship with money before and now, I used to be uncomfortable and embarrassed whenever the topic of money came up in my conversation with friends. Besides being a source of shame, it’s also a source of anxiety.
Utilizing this belief, it can be a source of motivation. The way it does to me.
WHAT MONEY MEANS TO ME
The author shares a fun exercise for us to identify the emotional meaning of money to us.
What would you do with $1 million?
The goal of this exercise is to access our gut reaction to the idea of sudden wealth. Answer the question quicly and without thinking too hard about it.
So what would you do if you suddenly received RM1 million? (changed the dollar sign because… #supportlokal lol)
My answer is: I would buy my mom’s dream house.
I’m actually surprised with my own answer. But there’s nothing else that I really want right now (okay that’s a lie, of course, I want so many other things also but priority) more than getting my mom’s dream house.
Let’s dig into what my response means about my money beliefs. The author teaches a great way to do this by using the Five Whys tool.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Ask ‘why?’ starting from our response to the RM1 million question to get to the emotional root of our money preferences. It doesn’t need to take five whys though, can be less than that.
So here are my whys.
If I had RM1 million, the first thing I would buy would be my mom’s dream house.
- Why? Because it’s my mom’s dream house.
- Why? Because it’s my mom’s dream.
- Why? Because it’s my mom??
Okay it didn’t take so many whys for me.
Verdict: I love my mom.
I honestly didn’t expect my dominant belief system about money would be ‘money is love’. But looking back at my spendings, I guess yes. Money spent on my family is often top two of my largest chuck of expenses every month.
Anyway, I can relate to every meaning of money above in one way or another.
WHAT MONEY MEANS TO YOU
To avoid any misunderstanding, I must clarify that my whys are so simplistic. It might not be that straightforward for you. Here’s an excerpt and example from the book.
So what would you do if you suddenly received RM1 million?
Go figure it out.