“A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.”
– Jonathan Swift
Not Just the Rich
Slavery to mammon isn’t the prerogative of the rich, much as us poor folks would like to think it is. For every CEO ready to step over their dead mother on their way to their next million there’s at least one ditch digger ready to throw their coworkers under the bus to keep their own job.
Labour leaders often remind us that rich capitalists bargain with their surpluses while the poor bargain with the bread from their tables, so, in one sense, the poor really do risk more by taking a stand against slavery to money. The result is a mutually destructive tango of greed and fear between the goals of the financially independent and the subsistence needs of the financially dependent.
How might we turn all this around? Rich and poor alike can start by deciding that money won’t rule our lives.
What money slavery looks like
Slavery to money isn’t just evident in the lengths some will pursue to hang on to what they have or to acquire more than they need. Let’s just say that money might have a little too much control over you when you:
- buy a house only because that’s what “responsible adults” are supposed to do
- spend the bulk of your life working at jobs you hate to afford said house
- grant special deference to the wealthy, believing that those with money are somehow better
- buy what’s in style instead of what you really want to wear
- buy something that’s on sale even though you don’t need it, convinced that the markdown will somehow enrich your bank account
- when you hear someone going on about how much they spent on something unnecessary, you feel envy for their resources as opposed to concern about their wastefulness
Escaping money slavery means taking a good hard look at what we have and deciding we’ll make it work for us, but this is only a first step. We also have to become aware of all the little prods and pokes in our lives that attempt to throw us off balance and make us prostrate ourselves to the money god all over again. We need to be conscious of where those messages are coming from (some of them are whispering away in our own heads) so that we can question and refute them. Here are just a few examples of money-god propaganda:
- If you buy this product or service, your life will improve. We don’t know anyone for whom this has happened, so you’ll have to take our word for it.
- All your friends have one. Why don’t you?
- Why are you playing your saxophone when there’s money to be made?
- Sure, your job is mind-numbing, exhausting, and pointless, but you just have to bite the bullet.
- Why are you friends with people who can’t afford to have you over for dinner?
- We don’t have enough and it’s your fault.
- An artist will never make as much money as an accountant.
- Why are you such a cheapskate?
Some tips for proactive financial freedom:
- Don’t just sit back and expect money to come to you and stay.
- Do place limits on what you’re willing to do to earn money.
- Get off the beaten path and use your imagination to create work you love.
- The best way to double your money is to fold it in half and stick it back in your pocket.
- Spend only on things that have value for you.
- Avoid debt.
- Try to make every dollar do the work of ten.
- If you want to build wealth for freedom and independence pay special attention to how every penny is invested, but don’t be afraid of a little risk.
The gist of it all? Money rules us when we sacrifice our highest callings to it, and we rule it by putting it to work in the service of our highest callings.
However little you possess, your money is yours to govern in the interests of your own enlightenment. See this as a divine right, and act accordingly.
[Another pick from Voice readers. First published on July 5th, I like how this article has both some practical advice and meshes it with critical questions toward the society that requires that advice.]