Money is…

Photo by images_of_money

How would you complete that sentence?


If just contemplating that causes the hair on the back of your neck to stand up on end, then maybe it’s time to explore the wallet a little more deeply.

Being ethical and authentic with money

Somehow, I seemed to inherit a wariness of money. Yes, I know it’s the ’ love of money that’s the root of all evil,’ not money itself, but the wariness still lurks. I worked on it of course and have found a place of tolerant cohabitation with cash and the apparently more abundant, and infinitely more puzzling, virtual version.

I find it enormously helpful to think of money as a flow of energy. This approach seems to reduce my stress around managing money as well as reminding me how best to use it. Money as energy flows into and out of our lives. It can be used to do work, it can be stored and it can be spent. We can draw it into our lives by doing work of some kind, or by exchanging other forms of energy for it e.g. selling something we own or offering a service to others.

For me, finding meaning in all of these activities and deriving some joy, rather than stress, from it all is the key to managing money ethically, authentically and sustainably. We can find meaning by behaving in a way with money that is true to our values and how we perceive ourselves – who we believe we are. This assumes we’re happy with who we believe we are and we might not be, of course. But then maybe that’s one of the purposes of money – to highlight this for us. For example, stealing someone else’s money might be in alignment with my self-identity as a thief, but I might not like that image I have of myself. Similarly, I might think of myself as being miserly and not be happy with my lack of generosity with money and the fact  that it has an adverse effect on my relationships with others. So, the first things to tackle are these beliefs.  Who am I with money? How does my behaviour reflect that?

Knowing where we are

What I’ve observed is that many of my clients have some money concerns when they start working with me. Not that they necessarily think that they don’t have enough, but what I’ve noticed is that most don’t actually know in detail how much money they have or how it’s spent and that this is what causes the concern – fear of the unknown. I was in a similar situation in the days before I downshifted. I would claim that I simply didn’t have the time or energy to know in detail where I stood financially and that this wasn’t a problem. If I’d been very honest with myself, though, I would’ve told you that actually I was afraid to know in case how I was behaving with money wasn’t sustainable or sensible.

What are the benefits of keeping abreast of our financial situation?:

  • We face the fear of not knowing and usually the fear then dissipates.
  • We gain the information we need to make financial decisions e.g. In what ways can I cut my costs? How much debt do I have and what can I afford to pay off? Where do I feel out of my depth and what do I need professional help with?
  • We can plan for the future, whether that involves, upshifting (increasing our earnings or working more), sideshifting (deriving an income in a different or additional way) or downshifting (working less or decreasing our earnings.)

It seems to help, also, to be able to distinguish between the assets in our lives (those things, material or less tangible that hold their value) and the liabilities (those that don’t or feel like a burden).

For someone living a sustainable lifestyle, an asset might be:

  • Property, sustainable transport e.g. a bike, good quality walking shoes or a small low energy car, ethical investments.
  • Self improvement, personal or spiritual development, training.
  • Skills that support self sufficiency e.g. food growing, handicrafts.
  • Skills that improve our ability to serve, to be employed, to contribute meaningfully to our community.
  • Measures that support wellbeing e.g. access and knowledge on wholesome food, natural remedies, fitness regimes.

A liability, on the other hand, may well support an important function in our lives, for example, taking out a loan to buy a car to get to work, but it doesn’t hold its value or support our long term  sustainability or wellbeing. The loan is a liability and so is the car in the sense that it loses its value and requires continual input in order to keep running. Luxurious holidays might be another example of a liability in that they can drain our personal and global resources in a way that is out of proportion to the long term benefits received. Buying clothing for reasons of fashion or keeping up with the Joneses would be other examples. These might not be regarded as liabilities in strict financial accounting terms. However, from a sustainable living perspective, these kinds of acquisitions support our ego identities, rather than our wellbeing, our forever discontented ‘internal consumer’ rather than our joyful ‘resilient inner champion.’

When I consider money as energy, the compass of authenticity points to:

– my intentions when giving and receiving and
– my awareness of my current situation and behaviour around money.

What is my financial situation?
How do I feel about that?
What do I plan to do about it?
What are acceptable ways of earning money for me?
What are acceptable ways of spending it?

By distinguishing between the  ‘assets and liabilities’ in our lives in this way and coming clean about our intentions with it, I believe we can find a more rewarding and meaningful relationship with money.

So, money is…?

Suggested further Reading:

Slow Money Principles:


2 Responses to Money is…

  1. Alison Clayton-Smith July 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Another really interesting post, Sally. In fact, I’m printing this one and the ‘living within your means’ posts off to do some reflection around. Just reading this one has got me noting down this week what I’m spending my cash on. I definitely have a ‘guilt’ thing about earning and spending money. I’ve never been one to want to earn lots of money and have never quite felt in the past that I deserved what I earned (apart from when I worked in social care, when I felt I earned every penny!)

    I like the idea of thinking about assets and liabilities. Because I’ve been shifting what I do to earn money, I earn less by choice. I tend to trust that it will work out (it does usually) but I’ve recognised that that leaves me feeling less confident about making the changes. So, being more proactive will, I expect, help me have greater confidence to change.

  2. Sally July 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Alison – It seems to me that both are important – the willingness to trust and being proactive.

    What you say about working in social care has reminded me of a conversation I had with my oldest son just after he’d had his appendix out as an emergency operation. It was his first stay in hospital and his first (hopefully his only!) medical emergency. He asked me why it was that footballers earn so much more than Doctors and Nurses. Not an easy one to explain to a child is it?

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