Most people think about money in the form of goods and services. It’s the good stuff you use to buy groceries, book vacations and pay your bills. Everyone wishes they had more of it, but no one ever has enough.
I think that’s a rather simplistic view of money. And it’s a view that keeps most of us stuck in the struggling middle class.
What if I told you viewing money differently could change your financial destiny?
Here are four better ways to look at money.
1. Money is Value
We live in a strange world where Facebook (which doesn’t have any physical products) is worth more than McDonald’s — which feeds 70 million customers a day (one percent of the world’s population).
If you think about it intuitively — this makes no sense. How could something usually viewed as online entertainment be more valuable than food, drink and Happy Meals?
And think about how some people suddenly become millionaires when their company goes for an IPO, while the rest of us work just as hard at our jobs — yet just scrape by every month.
Seems like a terribly unfair world right?
Yes — it’ll seem unfair if you think money should be proportionate to effort.
But the thing about money is it follows value. Save a few exceptions (like corrupt politicians and overpaid bankers), how much something or someone is valued is usually proportional to how useful it is to people. That’s why Mark Z and Facebook are worth billions: more people use Facebook than eat McDonald’s.
So if you want a lot of money (not by becoming a corrupt politician), find a way to bring lots of value to lots of people.
2. Money is Leverage (not Evil)
Some people say that money is the root* of all evil.
That’s the kind of thinking that clouds people’s judgement, makes them unprepared to handle money, and consequently keeps them struggling financially.
But let’s learn from rich people. Unlike middle-class earners, millionaires don’t get emotional about money. They view money differently — as a tool to be used for their needs. As leverage.
Ever heard the saying below?
“Poor people think money is to be spent; rich people think money is to be invested.”
Money is the easiest tool you can leverage in life to make it better. (Other things like time, energy and influence are much harder to control). If you keep investing money in the right things, you can keep improving your life.
Use it wisely.
3. Money is Choice; Choice Can Lead to Happiness
I recently resigned from a pretty nice job, and said no to a six-figure USD counter-offer — because I thought I would be happier in my new job.
I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this to illustrate a point.
When you reach a certain point of financial stability, i.e. you know how much money you need; you have sufficient emergency savings in the bank; and your debt is manageable — you have more control over your life.
Contrast this to a situation where you’re struggling to pay your rent and have huge credit card debt. Now, you have a lot less control and a lot more unhappiness. You work jobs you hate to pay off debt, you have to use crappy public transportation, and when your cousin comes to visit — you struggle to buy her a nice dinner.
The more money you have, the more choices you have in life.
Of course, many people use money to make poor choices and end up badly too.
But if you make the right choices — you get to become happier.
4. Money is Freedom
A lot of people say they want to be rich.
But what I think everyone really wants is to be free.
Because if you go beyond the banal things most people have on their If-I-Were-Rich lists (e.g. big house, nice car, and exotic vacations) — somewhere high on the list are more important things like time with my family, meaningful work, and good health.
Yet, people often trade exactly those important things for the less-important ones. Like the rich businessman who buys a mansion — yet works so hard he hardly sees his children. Or the high-powered lawyer who parties with rich clients every night — yet has major health problems by the time he’s 30.
Material comforts are nice to have. But material things should not be the end goal.
Instead, I think freedom needs to be the end goal. Freedom from meaningless work. Freedom from debt and disease. And freedom from toxic people, separation, and loneliness.
If you position your desires properly — money could help free you from all the above. But you need to know your end goal.
* * * * * * * *
It’s not easy to think of money as anything other than currency to buy things. I totally understand. When I used to be broke, I thought exactly the same way too.
But somehow along the path to financial security, I realized how we view money is just as important as what we do with it. Have poor views about money — and you’ll never be in control of your finances.
But if you want to own money — bring value to people. When you have money, leverage and control it to keep improving your life — not spend it on meaningless things.
And ultimately, remember that money itself is not the end goal. It’s just another stepping stone on the path to freedom.
*The real saying from the Bible is “…the love of money is the root of all evil.” Money itself is not evil; it’s lusting after it that makes people do bad things.
Pic at Pexels.
This post first appeared on mr-stingy’s column at iMoney.