When describing my attitude towards money I once said ” I know how to make my money work smarter for me”. Recently I got pondering; is this really true? Can your money be smarter than someone else’s; implying that their money is somehow dumb or stupid? The answer is of course is no, money is money; it is neither smart nor dumb. It is our own attitude towards managing that money that is either smart or dumb.
How we manage our money today depends to a large extent on the households we grew up in, our culture and then as we grow older, the learnings we acquire. I grew up in a household made up of two individuals with very different money personalities. This led to a lot of intense discussions about who spent what, where etc. Being from a culture where money is still quite a taboo subject, I was never explicitly instructed on how to manage it, but frequently told that I was stupid with my money. I could never quite figure out why though, because I gave most of my earnings away. It wasn’t like I was wasting it on myself.
I remember my dad telling me one time that I needed to be a bit more selfish. This at a time when I was financially supporting them at significant personal cost. What was he on about? Did he want me to stop sending money home? I just didn’t understand. In my mid thirties, after being paired up with a frugal bean counter (accountant for those who don’t know the term), I learned some of the basics of money management. These helped me get my finances under control. Tenets such as spending less than your earn, delayed gratification, not buying something unless you had the money to pay for it, paying all your bills on time so there were no late payments or penalties and most importantly tracking all your incoming and outgoing money, finally sunk in. To a great extent, I felt that I finally had a sense of being in control of my life and my destiny. Still my family kept saying I was not clever enough with my money. At the same time, I would often get passed on loan requests from extended family which I felt compelled to honour as I somehow felt it was my duty to keep giving. I still found it very difficult to spend any money on myself. Part of me was puzzled by this because I found this overwhelming compulsion to give contrary to rational thought. It was almost as if I didn’t deserve to spend that hard earned money on myself.
The realisation has finally dawned on me that this compulsive giving was linked to that feeling of ” I am not enough” I talked about in a previous post (Power of Words). I gave and gave in the hope of seeking validation from others. As long as I looked externally for my sense of self worth, I failed to find it. Not only that, the giving, which in it self was noble, was at times bordering on stupid; which was probably the reason for my family’s criticisms.
I had never thought that finding myself would change my attitude towards money, but it has. I still continue to give; however, now I am careful to take into consideration whether I am giving because I want approval from someone or the intention to give comes from deep within my heart and I truly want to help that person. And guess what? My family now tells me I am very selfish………