Money Mindset: Success, Greed, and Your Soul

For the Love of Money

Over the past few months, I have been thinking an awful lot about the complexities and more “abstract” points about money and its place in my life (and yours too). Our money mindset, if you will. After all it’s really such a huge part of everyone’s life. Let me try my best to explain what it is that’s going through my mind. Perhaps you have thought similarly or maybe not. In any case, think just for a bit about the following and humor me.

When your money mindset becomes an obsession, it isn't healthy. Your peace of mind and success is about more than just money.

I’ve come to the conclusion that money is the most talked about and thought of subject in life, not today specifically, but in summation of all the days of our lives. We talk about earning it, spending it, saving it, giving it away, winning it, losing it, investing it, and wanting it. We think we need more of it, deserve it, and we are usually jealous of those who have lots of it. We dream about it, or perhaps have nightmares about it, we scheme about it and some even steal it. Money it so very important in our lives even though we know that there are many other things that we should devote just as much attention to everyday.

Money Awareness

As a child, when you are small you almost have no awareness or understanding about money. My earliest recollections of money was probably when I was around 4 or 5 years old and I got some “money” as a birthday present and was told I could buy myself whatever I wanted! I had no idea what money really meant. I didn’t know how much my family had, how they got money or whether I was rich or poor or somewhere in between. And guess what. My ignorance was really bliss at that time. I didn’t think about it too much on that birthday, but it was the first time that I knew that money had any value. Up until that day, I thought Mom and Dad provided everything I ever could want or need. I didn’t realize that I was dependent on “money” for the “things” I had or might want to have.

After that awakening, the thing that happened to me is what I call the development of “the money mindset”. That’s when I or you start to learn about all the things that money is involved with each day. You go grocery shopping with Mom and you discover that when you want something you have to pay for it. There are things you want and you may not have the money to get. As you grow you realize that some of your friends have more things than you do, they have nicer family cars, clothing, toys, and even take vacations that you and your family aren’t able to do. And that involves money.

It’s a layering process, all the time building up your money mindset as you grow into the person you eventually will become. I won’t go through the laundry list of what I learned day to day, I’m sure you have had similar experiences and now that you are thinking about it, it is all coming back to you. It’s just that when you’re an adult, you don’t often take the time to think of how you got the mindset you have today from your experiences long ago.

Is Money a Requirement for Your Definition of Success?

As a person who writes about personal finance and someone who has spent years buying, selling, and investing money, you may think I believe in defining myself in terms of money. I may, but I often wonder why? After all, does money make me a good person? Certainly, a charitable person who gives money to a good cause is a good person. I take care of my family with my money. Isn’t that good?

There is much passion in people that seem to equate money and goodness. I think about goodness differently than in just money terms. I think of goodness and my personal success differently, and not as a be all, end all thing. I know I need money. I also know that my success in life doesn’t require money. There are more important ways to define my value other than money. Do you believe that too?

So now more than 50 years have passed by for me and we fast forward and arrive in the world of 2016.

Have you ever watched the TV show Shark Tank? I do and I am always amazed at how the participants on the show are all about the money. They ask the sharks for money—from tens of thousands of dollars to sometimes millions—so they can build their ideas and products. They do that because…? They feel like their valuable ideas are a benefit to mankind? We all know they can make a lot of money if they can develop their ideas and that will make them…a better person? …a richer person? And then there are the Sharks. Mr. Wonderful is a good example. He uses his money to invest in someone else’s ideas and products and asks the big question. “How will I get my money back?” That’s what he says and what he thinks on every show.

And then there’s the current big story we have to hear about every day, or at least until Election Day in November. That is the money that surrounds the presidential election process. There’s the campaign funding, in obscene numbers of millions of dollars. The “foundations” of both major candidates that are being questioned about how money is raised and what it’s spent on is foremost in our thoughts. The candidates’ own personal finances, their income taxes, and their net worth are debated daily. There’s a great phrase “net worth”. As if their value and worth can be defined in dollars and cents when we consider them for the presidency. Their real value and values seem to be a distant second or third in what we talk about and consider. Will the wealthiest one be the next one that is the biggest success, President of the United States?

Greed,  the Worst of the “4 Letter Words”?

Are people ever satisfied with what they have? Do they always want and need more? Does bigger and better define everyone? It does seem that the evidence shows that this is the rule rather than the exception. There are people who spend almost all of their waking hours on the task of building up their wealth beyond what rationally is enough to live well and comfortably. Their goal is accumulation and more accumulation at almost any principal and cost. That’s the Bernie Madoff, Enron Corporation, Wells Fargo or other such white collar names that we have come to know. That is their philosophy and modus operandi. I can’t respect anyone who feels that money is that important that it has to be obtained by hurting others, even if the others were blindly motivated by greed themselves when they got involved with a master of deception.

So you may now think, well this personal finance blogger is somewhat of a hypocrite. After all, he’s constantly writing about money and telling us how important it is. He advises us with ways to earn and accumulate it. He, even in his retirement, focuses on it. Guilty. I am. I can’t deny it. But here’s the thing about all of that. I do have a consciousness about it. I didn’t ever strive to retire at age 25 or 30. I didn’t ever think that having more was an automatic ticket to sainthood. I never tried to outdo the Joneses just so that I’d win! I’m not a millionaire or a billionaire nor will I ever be one. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family and my dad didn’t give me money to start a business so I could be “a real success”.

A Little Bit of Soul

To me, having a soul is more important than the any exact amount of money that some say defines them. I fully understand that money matters, it’s just a question of how much. I haven’t lived exactly the way I have always wanted to, but I really feel that as I have aged I can see things a lot more clearly that I used to see them. So I write this personal finance blog for my own reasons. It’s not going to make me rich in money terms. It does however make me feel richer in other ways. If anyone benefits from what I write and it helps them do better in their personal finances, I feel like I have been successful.

If that happens perhaps they can do the same for someone else in some way that will help make another person feel successful and valued. If that happens, then it’s all really worth it. I may never know if any of that happens, but I hope it will. And that hope means more than money to me.

How much does money mean to you? Does it signify your value and worth as a person if you have money? Do you feel that you’re a success or a failure because of or in spite of your finances?

16 Comments

  1. My relationship with money has certainly changed over the years. For the early part it represented a bit of fear (not having a plan) and a constant chase (looking to earn more) I realize today is just a tool, and if used properly can enhance happiness, but doesn’t define my value or success.

    1. It seems to me, Brian, that the challenges of raising a family and having a good marriage are a good way to gauge your successes in life. I agree that you need money to make that happen, but there’s the question that I’ve dealt with myself about pursuing money and sacrificing family time. It’s a regret that I have had. Hopefully it won’t affect others that way.

  2. Great post, Gary. We’ve really had to work hard in this area. For a long time we had money on too much of a pedestal. Now we understand that we only want more to reduce its’ hold on our lives via debt. We want to be able to do what we feel called to do without money being a factor, but it’s no longer the driving force in our lives. Woohoo!

  3. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    To some degree, I think money is like food…you need enough to be healthy and secure, but too much and you run the risk of being either unhealthy or wasteful. The problem is…how much is enough for security? It’s a little harder to determine. I strive for a healthy relationship with both.

  4. I like that you’re writing about this topic, Gary. It’s important to reflect on our values.

    I grew up in an apartment complex surrounded by apartment complexes. I thought everyone who owned a home really owned something. I had no idea that the bank or the mortgage company really owned it.

    Like Brian, I realize money is just a tool. When most others who sold property in NY around the time we did, sunk their profits into a larger mortgage, we bought a home with cash. That was our initial taste of freedom. That’s what having enough means to me, freedom.

  5. TJ

    “Having a soul is more important than the any exact amount of money that some say defines them”

    Well said, Gary. Money buys freedom, it should not define a person. I view money as a tool to be used to live a more fulfilling life (or to reach X, Y or Z goal to be more simplistic about it). It’s one of many tools though. Money alone will never be enough.

  6. Rajkumar@income tax refund

    Great post mate, I must say this post actually gave me a view on your mind set about money. Of course I used to dream a lot about making billions and buying expensive things. But in real life, it would be possible only if you are dedicated, talented. One important thing which I learnt is, money can’t buy happiness. But it can give us comforts. Instead of running after money, one should consider following their passion.

    Thanks for the post. Keep writing great stuff.

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