How to frame the fact that life isn't about money

Written by
Peter Dunn

Although my entire professional life revolves around money, my core message rarely has anything to do with money. My purpose is to try to convince people that money doesn't matter, but that doesn't mean you can waste it. That's a tough message. Generally when you disregard something, you end up devaluing it. If I spend too much time explaining that life isn't about money, then naturally the brain starts to justify poor financial decision-making. It's a complicated conundrum, how can someone properly disregard money to live a purposeful life, all while being a good steward of money?

An example or two is warranted. If your child was on the other side of the country and was severely injured, then obviously you are going to do whatever you can to get to his/her bedside as quickly as possible. This would be done with an absolute, and justified, disregard for money. Clearly a negative event can help us quickly see the divergence that exists between a good use of money and a waste of money. But let's examine a positive event and the confusion it causes. If you were to take a trip to Disneyland with your family while ignoring its hypothetical unaffordability, then you are most likely making a mistake. Creating memories is important, so why would this example of disregarding money be any different than the first example? Because if you can't objectively afford the trip, then you are creating negative future events based solely on your willful disregard for money.

Sometimes our disregard for money is justified, but other times we make poor decisions based on a seemingly similar disregard. Our willful and incorrect disregard for money, as justified by a search for pleasure and/or entertainment, can often lead to trouble. If you misread this, then will you undoubtedly think that I'm the biggest Ebenezer Buzzkill on the planet. Alas further explanation is needed. I believe that you earn the right to not care.

If you spend $500 per month on dining out, yet you have zero debt and don't incur new debt based on this dining habit, then on some level you have earned the right to not care about spending money on food. Although if you spend $500 per month on dining out despite your consumer debt, lack of college funds for your children, and a lack of emergency fund, then your disregard is wanton and foolish. Twenty first century society has convinced us that this example is simply splitting hairs, but it isn't splitting hairs. Here's the crazy part: one person in my example made life about money and the other did not. It's not who you think. The person that probably justified their decision by exclaiming that life isn't about money (the person in debt) actually ended up making life about money. This person's willful disregard for reality will create financial problems.

Life isn't about money. When you are pissed and/or stressed over a financial situation then you are convinced that things are hard because your life is consumed with money issues. This is absolutely and undeniably frustrating. The solution seems like you should disregard financial sensibility in order to prove that money doesn't matter to you. On a very small level, this makes sense. But unfortunately this a bad idea in totality. You can't spend your way to success. And you can't spend your way to not caring.

There's popular phraseology circulating today in which people express that they "give zero (cares)." Except "cares" isn't "cares." A more colorful word is used in the place of "cares." The phrase means that you simply don't care what people think about you or your decisions. Not caring about something can be an amazingly liberating feeling. However I think you have to earn the right to "give zero (cares)." Life is about money, if you make it about money. But the craziest thing is that you make it about money when you try to ignore it when you shouldn't. Earn the right to "give zero (cares)."

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