Everyone attempts to maximise their happiness and fulfilment in life. Regardless of what experiences help you achieve this, spending 40+ hours a week working generally does not help and takes up time that you would prefer to spend elsewhere.
Getting to a financial position that allows you to spend less time working and more time living with purpose, then, is a goal most of us should share. Let me tell you that it is possible for you to achieve financial freedom if you desire it enough. There are ways to get there if you spend the time required to understand them.
However, whether you realise it or not, you may be preventing yourself from improving your financial position if you hold one of the beliefs below.
1. Money is evil
If you think money is evil, you will never try accumulating more than average amounts of it.
If this is one of your attitudes, you are likely to get an average-paying job, stay away from debt, and save only enough to get by. You probably don’t associate with people who have a lot of money, and you can expect to work for most of your life.
Having this attitude will hold you back from enjoying life as much as you could otherwise. If your attitude is strong enough, you could consider retirement savings as evil. How dare someone have $1 million saved up? Money is power and power corrupts!
The thing is, although you don’t consider yourself evil, you have never admitted to yourself that money is important enough to you that you sacrifice most of your life working to get it — so how can money itself be evil?
Perhaps you don’t actually think money itself is evil but…
2. The desire for money is evil
If this is you, you hate to see someone striving to earn more money. Or perhaps you specifically hate it when someone dares to try to get more money than average. Another case of ‘Money is power and power corrupts!’
If this is you, you are unlikely to ever take a public action that could signal a desire for greater-than-average wealth. This might be because you think other people share your attitude and you don’t want to be seen as “evil”. We tend to keep the company of those people similar to us, so your close circle of acquaintances might actually share that view.
You will probably work for most of your life if you hold this attitude, because that’s what the average person does. You might have the desire to build a business and put money into investments so that you can eventually work less and spend more time with your family and friends. But you won’t do that with this attitude, because building a business or investing might be seen as too much desire for wealth. Working less than 40 hours a week because you can afford it, or hiring a cleaner or gardener to free up some of your time might all be outside of your reach.
Money is a tool. That is it. It is simply a means of exchange. We used to trade items, like four sheep for one cow, but if you were the owner of the cow and the owner of the sheep didn’t want your cow, then what? Instead, you sell your cow for 100 gold coins to someone who wants it then you exchange your 100 gold coins for the four sheep. In a similar way, you exchange your time and skills (labour) for money, then use that money to buy what you actually want.
Since money has this influence, having it is a means of power. More money is more power. But power itself is not evil either. It is the intention behind the accumulation of power that tells you whether or not the act is morally okay.
Money affords you independence — the ability to not be influenced by others. Power isn’t just used to control circumstances, it can be used to stop people or circumstances from controlling you. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote on this topic:
“Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr
3. Rich people are greedy
If you hold this attitude then, just as with the ‘the desire for money is evil’, you are unlikely to ever take a public action that could signal a desire for wealth. Additionally, you are likely to prevent yourself from ever becoming wealthy for fear that someone with a similar attitude to you will think you’re greedy.
The issue with greed is that it is a selfish desire. However, doing things to benefit yourself is not a bad thing. We evolved to be that way, so that we avoid things that cause us pain (potentially threatening to our lives) and do things that provide us with pleasure (to enable our existence and to pass on our genes). Being selfish is only a bad thing when the act is done “exclusively for oneself” or “without regard for others”1. And unless you’re stealing from someone or you are achieving wealth through immoral practices then there’s nothing morally wrong with what you’re doing.
Furthermore, a capitalist society like ours actually rewards you for providing value to others. You rarely hand your money over to anyone unless you get something in return — something of equal or greater value than the money you’re handing over. So starting a business that provides value to others and eventually puts you in a financial position where you can work less and spend more time with family? Good on you! You provided so much value to society that you can afford to work less!
4. Money is everything
It is possible to love money too much.
If the desire for wealth pushes you to spend the vast majority of your time working to increase your financial position, you are never going to have time left over to spend on the more important things in life. The things that improve your health or provide you with happiness and fulfilment.
Since money is so important to this type of person, they will usually have a lot of it. But often, this will come at the expense of their personal life, their relationships with others, or their health.
Money is a means of exchange, it is a means to an ends, it is power to help you live the life you want to live. It is not the end goal. Understand what you want to get out of life, plan how you are going to get there, and use money to help you — don’t accumulate money for itself.