Money. It seems to make the world go around or at the very least it goes around the world. It gets many of us out of bed every day in our search to acquire more of it. Somehow it allows us to do the things we want to do. In an ideal world we’d all be doing the things that felt like our purpose and great value would automatically flow. However, in case you haven’t already figured it out, the world is not a perfect place and often life just seems to boil down to having to acquire money and getting to big dreams later. Even if we are in the flow and doing “our thing”, money will end up being a way in which we end up measuring our success: Colin Slade’s decision to walk away from the All Blacks for $800,000 a year to play rugby in France is testimony to that.
As we look at ourselves and how we are motivated we realise that our understanding of what money is to us, is very important. Our concepts of money are also important at a social and political level. Vast numbers of us live in poverty or close to it. More than 1 billion people live in deep poverty, “destitution”, living on less than $1.25 a day. 50% of us live on less than $2.50 a day and 80% less than $10 and 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. And the poverty is not solely located in the developing world. 2.5 Million Australians, 45 Million Americans and 80 Million Europeans live in poverty. For these people it’s not a matter of trying to figure out perfect career paths and living your passion. Its quite simply survival.
Clearly there is a lot at play here and much that our political leaders need to and are attempting to do through the World Bank and UN. Their aim’s are not purely altruistic either: The less people in poverty, the less help they will need and the less likely they are to be engaged in domestic terrorism (at best).
I’m also not here today to solve world. The purpose of this blog is to ensure we all appreciate the very important nature of money in our lives. Our beliefs around money have a very big impact on how we feel about money, which in turn has a massive impact on what we do about money. Understanding this cycle and how it kicks around is not only fabulous individually but is also incredibly useful as we start thinking about building supportive financial services. The poverty angle is just to shine some light on the scale of the issue.
We know that money is important to us based on how agitated and upset we get about money. It really is a physical manifestation of who we are. As the currency of life, I have come to believe that it’s can be there to teach us about ourselves. Its not there just to be spent. It can be a fabulous teacher to you. You’re the one who goes out and works for money. You’re the one who gets paid each month and decides whether you save, spend, or waste it. If you don’t have the money that you want in your life, that feeling is not there to tell you to want less. Perhaps there’s a message there for you about why you are going without and how you value yourself. When we view money as a teacher some great insights can be revealed. If money represents our value and we shy away from money, perhaps we can question why we’re afraid of discovery, getting after our purpose in life and being highly valued. Our feelings about money are very worthwhile paying attention to.
The truth about money is this: There’s nothing complicated about money. What’s complicated is the relationship that we have with our money. What makes it complicated is when we care more about the things that money can buy than we do about money itself. There’s a constant threat that we define ourselves to others by how we look, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the homes we live in. We let these things define us to others.
But if we felt great simply because we had more money in the bank than clothes in the closet, if we got more pleasure out of saving than we did spending, if you understand you define who you are, that money will never define who you are, then your relationship with yourself and life really can start to change powerfully.
All of this is very important to understand for those of us in the business of building innovative banking solutions. If we believe that our company’s success is predicated on our customers success, and that their success is saving money and not living a life with a pile of debt, but rather in achieving their savings goals, then ensuring people have great beliefs about money will be fundamental.
The first point therefore is this. We all should investigate our own beliefs around money and our relationship with money if we want to have any chance of getting ahead with it. If you don’t – that’s fine too, there are plenty of other people lining up to get ahead. I’ve got started on this path and once I did things started to get a whole lot easier, once I started getting curious about what I was feeling and doing as a result of those money feelings. Once we start looking at how we think about money, and how that thinking affects our relationship with money which in turn has a massive impact on how much or how little of it we have, we start to get empowered to do great things with the insights.
The second point is for those that want to leverage this insight for how to build businesses around money. As we start to drill into financial literacy, we know that it’s not just knowing about what to do that is important. Lots of people know that it’s better to get a cheaper term loan than to crank up a large credit card debt, but what do they do? They crank up large credit card debt. Why? Because getting structured about it would involve admitting defeat or some other deep issue that is much easier to ignore whilst they build a perception around their friends that they are in control of life based on what they are wearing.
As with so many things in life it boils down to what we do, not what we think. Though what we believe, impacts what we think, which impacts what we do and then how we feel and the cycle perpetuates. All of this means that if we want people to save for their futures, pay debt off, then we need to do more than just provide them the simple tools to do these things. We must first work on ensuring they have empowering beliefs around money and begin reinforcing the correct behaviours around the actions so that they feel good.
If we don’t, then the old habits will prevail.