Part of our problem with talking about money is the emotions and judgements that get stirred up. If you don’t have enough of it thinking about money may make you angry, jealous, or make you feel like you aren’t in control of your life. There are those who think money is the root of all evil and prefer to avoid it as much as possible. Others may believe that the key to happiness in life is just being able to finally get enough money to fill in the blank.
However peeling back all of that emotional baggage, at the root of it money is simply a tool, no more, no less. It is a tool that allows us to convert our labor into goods and services we want. Before money this process was (and is still) achieved through bartering. “I’ll work my garden and grow these vegetables and exchange them for the eggs your chickens laid.” The benefits of using money over bartering are numerous. A few of them include:
- Store value over time – I can exchange my money for eggs three months from now instead of today. Money, conveniently, doesn’t rot like my veggies will.
- Facilitate multi-party transactions – I have vegetables and want eggs, but the person with eggs wants his wheel repaired and the wheel repair person is interested in vegetables. Without money coordinating this exchange of goods so everyone is happy is a logistical nightmare.
In today’s economy things are a lot more complex than in the example above, so I find it helpful to think of money as described in the book Your Money Or Your Life. This book teaches us to think of money as our life force, meaning we convert our time and energy and labor into money which we then use to spend on whatever we want. The book encourages us to calculate our after-tax, take-home wage and then convert the purchase price of things into hours of work. If my take-home pay is $20/hour, buying those AirPods means an additional 8 hours of sitting at work. Is that worth it? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but the important thing is to recognize the tradeoff being made in that purchase decision.
Like any tool, money can be misused by those who don’t have the right skills. In the hands of someone with knowledge and experience this tool can be used to make beautiful things. I know which category I’d like to be in. Will you take the time to learn how to use this tool wisly?