For Love, Not Money

“I commit to nurturing a gratifying relationship with money.”

In the twittersphere, I saw this seemingly noble resolution dart by last week.  I subverted my urge to question it in under 140 characters, but with no such limit here, I’d like to engage this notion that I believe to be fundamentally flawed and potentially dangerous in our quest for personal and financial harmony.

I’m sure this blogger/tweeter, a self-described expert on women’s financial dealings, is well-intended, even when she invites you to “Love your money, love your life,” on her home page.  Reading through her prescriptions, I have no doubt we share many personal financial philosophies; indeed, it is not my intent to start a feud or initiate a personal attack, but instead to take issue with this philosophy I’ve often seen at work in many forums, even if I’m to be accused of merely mincing words.

Money is not something worthy of our love and affection, nor is it a suitable partner in relationship.

Relationship is—or at least should be—reserved for people and love is the currency of relationship.  Money when personified is given too much credit; it becomes an end instead of a means.  Of course, it often is the object of our love, admiration and respect.  Possibly we think that if we address it properly, it will find us worthy of financial favor and bless us with…more?  But not unlike other inappropriate relationships, a love of money often devolves into fantasy, obsession, lust and eventually infidelity.

Your primary relationships in life—your significant other or spouse, your children, your parents and siblings, your friends, your co-workers and co-laborers in service—can’t compete with money.  This is because genuine relationship requires give and take and money appears on its surface only to give, without argument, criticism or judgment. It’s no wonder, then, that with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce over half of those splits cite financial disputes as their origin.  It’s no wonder children manipulate their parents for money and parents cut children out of wills.  It’s no wonder siblings ostracize one another over inheritance, that business partnerships collapse and non-profit initiatives are scarred by financial scandal.  When given an opportunity to compete with people for relationship, money wins.

Therefore, we must never allow money to compete with or for relationship. 

This also appears to be in keeping with money’s design, even in its most primitive form.  The long-held presumption was that money came about as a wildcard in the realm of trade.  Let’s say we’re part of an economy based on the barter system; I’m a farmer who makes dairy products and you’re the village tailor.  You’d like some cheese, but my wife is also gifted with the needle, so I have no need for your services.  You’re out of luck.  Enter money.  You give me money for cheese, and I can use the money to pay the blacksmith for some much needed horseshoes.

This theory has been called into question, though.  Some economists argue that while this may sound logical, actual examples of the barter wildcard are nonexistent.  They claim that money was used more as an I.O.U.  You have something I need, but I have no way to compensate you, so money serves instead as a marker of what is owed—debt, effectively.  While the meaning or importance of money’s origin could be argued, one thing is clear in either of these cases: money was designed to enhance relationship, not stand as its replacement.

And that is no different today.  While money may serve very poorly as the object of our adoration, it is quite effective as a tool for its expression.  Certainly, in suggesting money is not worthy of our love, I by no means intend to imply that it is inherently bad or evil, just neutral.  As my friend and co-author, Jim Stovall, puts so nicely, “Nothing can take the place of money in the things that money does, but outside of the scope where money is useful, it has no value.”

Mincing words?  I think not.  Words are powerful.  Our words express and even inform our beliefs, and we act on what we believe.  What we believe about money will impact what we do for and with it.  But if I’m starting to sound a bit too gray, fuzzy, squishy or philosophical for you, consider these more pragmatic reasons to further entertain my plea:  Those who have put money in its rightful place—out of their hearts and in their bank accounts, investments, homes, educations, businesses and service initiatives—tend to acquire more of it, spending less paying attorneys and compensating ex-spouses, ex-children, ex-friends, ex-business partners, ex-everything.  And lastly, a philosophy grounded in falsehood is eventually destined to fail.  Reason enough to reconsider yours?