What is money? What does it represent? What is it’s significance in transactions…
I remember listening to the song Holy Grail by Jay-Z and being amazed at the line “all that money in one night, $30mil for one fight”. Absolutely mindblown as to how this was possible, I decided to dig a little deeper only to find that this same Mike Tyson, filed for bankruptcy at some point during his career. I couldn’t understand how that was a thing, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I could make that much money and lose it all. Makes no sense to me whatsoever. This made me question a lot about money itself because a great deal of our actions and motivations in life have an underlying need and desire to acquire it. But what’s the point in acquiring it when the fundamental issue lies in our ability to manage it?
Let’s dig a little bit deeper. Consider for a moment your attitude towards money. How does it exist to you in your life? What is it to you? What is your relationship to it?
If you really look at it, perceptions of money are more crucial than our ability to generate it, especially when our brains are wired in a way that prevents us from being financially sensible. I’ve seen and heard countless stories of people making above average income yet somehow the still manage to be riddled with debt and hanging on the precipice of financial ruin. This has helped me realize that what you consume or have doesn’t matter if at the end of the day you have nothing to show for it. But I’m big on understanding things, and I’d like to understand the space between receiving abundance and financial ruin. Where is the disconnect between earnings and the harvest supposed to follow? Clearly there’s need for optimization. We need to explore a better framework than the one we currently have for understanding money. Unfortunately, this framework is taught in personal finance (which not many think is important because we all like to believe we know) but somehow conveniently left out in formal education.
So back to my original questions, what is money? What does it represent What is it’s significance in transactions?
WHAT IS MONEY?
Money is defined as a medium of exchange. It is a tool, an instrument that facilitates the sale or purchase between parties. But that doesn’t say much as to what money actually represents. Another way to look at it however, is that it is an expression of value. You perceived the value to be worth the amount of money you just handed over.
Therefore Money = Value.
This is important because often we give money a moral significance, we often hear it said that people who have gained tremendous wealth “got lucky” or “took advantage of someone else to gain” Instead of asking ourselves what value was created in order for said individual to amass such wealth? And honestly I totally get where all of that would come from but let’s put that aside for a moment and remember:
Money = Value.
Just for a moment or two, put aside whatever moral significance or personal bias you’ve assigned to money. It is not evil, nor does it make one vile. All it is is a tool, a key that unlocks limitless potential, energy. I could give the example of scammers & yahoo boys, but when we think about it, it has less to do with money and everything to do with the morals of the individual setting up the scam. It’s about morals! Money simply opens your options and broadens your horizons. The choices you make with that money has to do with your personal and moral dispositions and not much else.
So back to it, Money = Value.
How does this change the life of an average Nigerian? Or citizen of any country living below reasonable and humane living standards, paycheck to paycheck and running from debt?
Money equals value changes nothing for that individual except maybe making them see money in a different light, but what about actionable advice?
PRODUCTION & CONSUMPTION
What is your relationship with money?
Does money come as quickly as it goes? What is the relationship between your income and your expenses? How much do you produce as opposed to your consumption? Money will come in because you’ve produced value, in the traditional sense we trade labor aka a job for money. This money you have earned from your job, will leave when you’ve consumed something, for example you purchase a subscription, you buy a house or a car etc. The networth of an individual is determined by their relationship between production and consumption. So what part of the production/consumption relationship do you think is at fault in the issue of poor finances?
Consider yourself for a moment, think about all the money that has entered and left your life, how much of that do you still have in possession today? How much did you invest? Which part of your relationship do you feel is imbalanced and needs improving? The right answer is both.
But for most the biggest issue lies in the consumption. When you have a paycheck that is way above the standard of living and you still find a way to spend it all, your relationship with consuming needs to be fixed ASAP before you even think of your relationship with production. Production means nothing when you have a problem with consumption.
I find that for most, we’d rather engage in the endless toil of daily labour, the rat race and hustle culture which is an endless, self defeating & pointless pursuit, designed to break you and steal your morale. My only hangup with the concept is that the entirety of it villanizes a job excluding the fact that there are those who love their jobs and have other aspirations for their lives apart from their careers. But the real rat race is living constantly one paycheck away from broke. Living on the financial edge, hanging one thread from financial ruin. The thing is the more responsibilities you have, the more dangerous that relationship becomes. Any unexpected circumstance can throw your entire financial position into turmoil. Let’s say your one who enjoys your job. Consider the mental consequences of living in a state of financial instability. Your job is no longer an option, it’s a necessity to keep funding your lifestyle and paying of debt. Your life begins to lack lustre and the things you own end up owning you. That’s no way to live life.
What is the silver lining?
It doesnt have to continue like that, all you need to do is make a choice to change things and I’m going to outline some basic first steps anyone can take to do this.
1. Draw Your Awareness To Money
You can start by journalling your monthly expenses by category (housing, transportation, food, utilities, entertainment etc). It’s about understanding yourself as a consumer, and I know the topic of personal finances can evoke some cognitive biases namely the ostrich effect (in behavioral psychology), which is our tendency to want to avoid negative financial information. But you know what? Just do it.
2. Take Control & Responsibility
Now that you know you know your monthly expenses by category, it’s time to use that information to create a budget. Decide each month how much you’re going to spend on each category and stick to it. Systematically find what you consume and find ways to minimize the cost and ultimately live below your means. Its Important you live a lifestyle that still enables you to save and invest in some form or the other. Another thing to note before you decide to invest, is the importance of keeping an emergency/opportunity fund with 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved.
Why would or do we choose to live a lifestyle we cant afford?
Initially I struggled understanding our humanity and the foolishness as well as sheer stupidity that encapsulates our beings, but with time, learning and the help of some behavioral psychology concepts, I’ve come to terms with it and as a result I’ve come to understand why we would choose to harm our wellbeing by choosing to live lives that we can’t afford and don’t logically make sense. I’ve outlined a few of these biases below:
1. The Ostrich Effect
Our tendency to want to avoid negative information.
2. Hyperbolic Discounting
The tendency to favor short term rewards as opposed to greater rewards in the future.
3. Social Proof
The tendency to think and act like others around us think and act aka Keeping up with the Joneses.
Consuming in itself isn’t a bad thing, we literally are designed to consume. I think the fundamental issues are awareness, understanding and balance. What is your awareness and perception of who you are as a consumer? Do you care more about looking like you have money or actually having money? Are you choosing the rat race over your greater life dreams, goals and ambitions? It’s fun to talk about money and about living life lavish but what does it matter to you when your relationship to having money means that you lose it whilst having to work nonstop in order to find that lifestyle?
We are in an age where I would say that anyone who is interested in acquiring money can do so with ease if they so desire and are so inclined to put in the work. There are several personalities that have emerged who break down step by step what one needs to do on this journey. Proven tactics and strategies for improving the consumption side of the equation mainly because on average it’s easier to decrease your consumption than increase your production and that’s what seems to have worked for most. As a result of this, many frugal communities have emerged with the philosophies of long run investment, living frugally, saving and investing early to retire early. But for those who are not of that speed, the key is to utilize production at mass scale. Remember:
Money = Value
All you need to do now is find a problem, create a solution for said problem & sell the solution to the market at scale, the entrepreneurial route.
A successful business at scale is able to give and produce a large amount of value to society such that the production side of that equation grows exponentially in comparison to a standard job. It would be wise to note that this route is not for everyone nor should it be attempted by everyone.
UTILIZING YOUR SKILLSET
Take time out to reflect on your capabilities and explore the directions your capabilities allow you to pursue. Increasing your production can manifest itself in different ways. The key is to create value on mass scale. Understand your skillset and how much the market would pay for it because ultimately, you need to provide relative value to the market in some shape or form in order to earn from it. Whether the market wants what you have produced will largely be determined after you’ve released what you’ve produced. You will need to understand yourself as a producer and remember: large scale value equals large scale money. The emergence of the internet has been revolutionary and as such no one can really come up with excuses as to why the cannot either decrease their consumption or increase their production to improve their financial position.
Bring awareness to self as a consumer and fix your consumption.
Understand the cognitive biases you have in relation to money.
Produce to maximize value to society through work or entrepreneurship.
This framework will change your life if you have a vested interest in making money. I hope I’ve been able to bring to light some things we haven’t been taught about money or that we’ve forgotten and I hope I’ve been able to inspire you to make some needed changes. Until next time!
Yours truly, Chalya.