See Money as the Options Creator

See Money as the Options Creator

How do you see money?

When we think about money, and how we view it, many of us see money in one of three ways: too little, too much, and ‘I dunno, I don’t think about it much’. None of these categories is particularly helpful. In this article, I’ll call these categories ‘desperate’ ‘bored’ and ‘no idea’.

I’d like to propose a better way of thinking about money: as an option creator.

Let’s look at each of these categories in turn.

Desperate

You’re struggling to pay your bills, and you are up to your eyeballs in debt. You can barely concentrate any further than what is happening directly in front of you. The future is so terrifying, you don’t want to think that far ahead. It’s a deep, dark and dank down here. It’s not impossible to get out, but it can be very difficult. In desperate land, winning the lottery seems like the answer to all your problems, and you cannot imagine the wealthy being unhappy.

Bored

You have money. A lot of money. So much, in fact, that you may not be sure what to do with it all. You seek to continue to make more money, and work hard to achieve this goal, although if you stopped to think about it, you’re not really sure why. You fear losing the money you have gained. You’re living in a nice neighbourhood, and spend more money keeping to same standard of living as your neighbours, without recognising how much you have. In this phase, you may have lots of money, but you have grown used to it. It is unlikely to bring you any joy.

No idea

Money? What, you? You hardly ever think about it. I mean, you work a job, you live a nice lifestyle, you spend whatever you want. Cash, credit, what’s the difference? You’ve hardly ever looked at your bank balance. If anyone ever mentions money, you laugh it off. You take a ‘money comes in, money goes out’ approach. After all, life’s too short to worry about something as boring as finance, right? It’ll all work out fine.

All three of these modes are not that great a place to be. Being in desperate mode is an awfully stressful experience. Bored mode means you have too much and don’t know how to effectively use it. No idea mode is fine until life eventually kicks you in the teeth.

So how should we see money?

Money as an option creator

In the modern world, money gives you options. I encourage you to see money as working for you, to enable you to create choices and options in your life. How does this work in practice? Let me explain.

At its most basic stage, money enables you to pay your bills and live. As you progress, beginning to save and invest, you can begin to gain some measure of safety: an emergency fund provides you with funds if you lose your job, for example. So these are your basic options: living and a little security. But money goes further than this.

If you pay even a minimal amount of attention to your finances (i.e., you’re don’t take a ‘no idea’ attitude),you can make small savings grow through the magic of compound interest. If you choose some good investments (see index funds), you can make your money grow over time, giving you options in the intermediate and long term future. This is the next level. Saving and investing means you are building options for your future self.

Let’s take it a step further. As you can continue to save, invest and make good choices, there’s a good chance that you will end up with enough money. What actually is ‘enough money’ is a personal choice, but I would argue it’s not being rich. It’s being able to make decisions that are not motivated purely by money. At this stage, you have enough funds that if you want to change jobs, start a business, or take a six month trip around the world, you can do it. If you want to start a charity and in other ways positively change the lives of others, you can do it.

Building options

This is the power of money. This is how I suggest you see it. Not as something you’re desperate for, not as something you have too much of and are bored by, and not as something that will look after itself. If you see money as an option builder, it will work for you, not control you.

You will also be able to see when you have enough, and you won’t seek money for its own sake. Most importantly, it can help you build a better life, your own life, led by your own options and choices. And ultimately, that’s what I think finance is all about.

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