One of the points Suze Orman brings up in her book Women & Money is that money matters. Money, she says, makes a fundamental difference in our happiness and our lives and to pretend that it doesn’t is a great big lie. In fact, she says it might might be the source of dysfunction in our relationship with money.
We’ve all heard a million cliches, both Christian and otherwise, about money being unimportant.
Money can’t make you happy. Money isn’t the most important thing. You can’t buy happiness. It’s the free things in life that count. No one ever said on their death bed, wish I had spent more time at work. The root of all evil is the love of money. The widow gave her last mite, that’s how much she loved God. You can’t take it with you. Don’t be such a Scrooge. Don’t be so money-hungry or greedy. You can’t out-give God. She’ll give you the shirt off her back. She was so selfless.
Orman takes a bold approach to this kind of logic – it’s flat-out wrong and if we could get rid of these guilty feelings about money then we might be able to develop a healthy relationship with money and stop being so irresponsible about it.
Everyone who lives needs money, she says. To pretend otherwise, is dishonest. The relationship we have with our money is an extension of the relationship we have with ourselves. If we are irresponsible about taking care of our money, we are irresponsible about taking care of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves then someone, our adult children, will eventually have to take care of us.
When are constantly taking care of others’ needs financially, at the cost of our own financial needs it’s a poor financial decision, she says. There is no wiggle room about this for Orman.
She very matter-of-factly states, nothing more directly affects your happiness than money.
She has a great list of ways the money is unimportant theory is a lie: health, love, and respect – can’t have any of them without money, she says.
Health – if you get sick you must have money. If your family gets sick you must have money. Can you be happy without health? Not as happy as you would be if you had health or could afford to obtain health. Insurance costs money, doctors costs money, prescriptions cost money – you must have money to maintain a healthy life.
Love – Imagine staying in a relationship solely for love, because you have the money to stay or go. Imagine knowing that if you die those you love will be taken care of because you were responsible with money and didn’t leave them with financial burdens.
Respect – You can’t respect yourself if your financial life is out of control. You can’t teach your children to respect you if you don’t respect yourself enough to take care of yourself financially. You certainly can’t teach your children to live within their means and live responsible disciplined lives if you don’t do those things.
Reading this chapter in Women & Money was intense for me. I have a lot of money guilt, I think. I’m always deeply affected by all of those Christian cliches about money. At the same time I’ve discovered that what Orman is saying is true, money may not be able to buy health or happiness, but it sure would be a lot easier to pursue if an illness didn’t bankrupt you.
It would be nice not to burden my children with my poor financial decisions. It would be great to send my children out into the world both able to make a living and able to wisely manage money. It would be great if I had older relatives who had paid more attention to their own money matters so I didn’t have to spend so much of my energy worrying about them so much.
I would be delighted if when my daughter graduates from college she felt it within her grasp and within her rights to pursue money without guilt. After all, she’s an American and we’re all about the profit, right? Well, apparently some of us women, still need to work on that.