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My Dysfunctional Relationship with Money

Updated: Apr 23

I have met many wealthy people over the years. I am not sure any of them were financially free. The strange thing is the more money people have, the more they seem to worry. About keeping it and managing it. They obsess about either not spending it or losing it. The paradox is some of the happiest people I know come from modest means. We all are seeking happiness, and yet it remains one of the most elusive pursuits of modern life.

I will never forget the first time I became aware of the burden of wealth. I was meeting a business partner for breakfast. When I arrived at the restaurant, he was meeting with a very well-heeled chap. You know the type, well groomed, well dressed and well put together. He wore a fancy, diamond encrusted Rolex watch. The kind of guy who walks into a room and everyone notices. I imagine he was a ladies man in his youth. Today, he was a grumpy Gus.

I sat down at the table, and they exchanged a few words. When the well-heeled man left, I asked my partner about this guy. My partner told me his friend was unhappy about managing his money. His friend was anxious about people wanting his money. I was a thirty-something, and this fellow was gray-haired and likely close to retirement. My business partner said something I never forgot. "Yeah, the more money you have, the more you have to work to keep it."

Money’s a Tool

I have traveled a long and windy financial road. I have had lots of money and no money. Both extremes are stressful. Having lots of money provides more options. We work hard to make and save money and then later in life we stress about keeping it.

I love making money and spending it. A few times I gave myself permission to spend on an extravagant vacation. It was liberating.

I suddenly saw money for what it was, a tool. I realized money only had the power I gave it. It was like a light bulb went off in my head, and now the world made sense.

Money is not real. It is a figment of our imagination. Unless we attach "value" to it, it is only paper. It is the emotional attachment I have to what I can do with money that makes it valuable. It is also what makes it stressful, worrisome and makes me anxious.

I have had a tense, confusing and occasionally healthy relationship with money. If I were "married" to money, I would likely say it is a dysfunctional relationship. I have a range of emotions about money. From feeling ecstatic about the power of money to meet my needs, desires and live my dream. To sometimes it seems like money enslaves me. Trying to keep it, manage it and spend it is crazy some days.

Some days I question if am I managing my money or is it managing me? I get so attached and enslaved to it. Making it, saving it, spending it, investing it, managing it and dreaming about what I can do with more of it.

The Uncomfortable Truth

There is a part of me that wants to stop writing now. Yet, my biggest lessons around my relationship with money come from spending it. Here is the uncomfortable truth. I can be reckless with money. I love what I can do with money. These days I am most interested in how I can use money to start businesses and work less. The only real purpose of money is to support my lifestyle, otherwise why bother?

Why have a relationship with money if I cannot enjoy it? It makes no sense to pursue something that causes me constant stress, anxiety and worry. I wouldn't put up with constant stress, anxiety and worry from people. Why would I allow money to do that to me? I get rid of that which causes me stress and anxiety. I have enjoyed making money and spending money. For some reason, I am more anxious about holding onto money than spending it.

I know some of it has to do with burying my entire family. I've seen the frailty of life and experienced enough grief. I know the fleeting nature of life has shaped how I view money. Money is a tool that allows me to enjoy life.

I am not sure how my relationship with money will end. I can say that my "relationship status" with money is best described as "It's complicated."

Since getting to know Brad Ferguson, I have examined my relationship with money. I am less stressed. And I am working on building a healthy relationship with money. That said, I am confident that my relationship with money will continue to be complicated.

At least now I have a friend I can talk to about my complicated relationship with money.

Enough talking about money. I am going to go and use some of it to enjoy my life. Later.

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