Do you have Misplaced Money Values?

I believe the single biggest hurdle to accumulating wealth is a person’s values related to money.  I also believe money values are an indicator of a person’s level of comfort and happiness with money.  In other words, it’s very hard to make, manage and enjoy money, if someone has personal values that conflict with the reality of wealth.

Something for Nothing (“They owe it to me.”)

The world doesn't owe someone a living.

Image by Alex E. Proimos

There are millions of people who believe the world owes them a living.  And, it is ruining their lives every day.  I’m not talking about people who are desperate and need a helping hand.  I’m talking about people who have an attitude that they are due something and they spend their lives trying to collect.

I have a friend who is a master at working the system.  He used to get a free lunch by claiming they messed up his order at fast food restaurants.  And, he would leave me on job sites to work by myself, while he drove the truck around.  He once got a great job with the city, but he soon suffered a mysterious back injury and went out on disability.  That was about 20 years ago and he still doesn’t work.

My friend now lives in an old trailer out in the desert, because he can afford to live there on disability.  And, he is mostly alone, because everyone else is busy working and raising their families.  He rides around in a Rascal because he is too obese to walk.  Who has he really outsmarted?

It’s easy to get something for nothing, but it will cost your integrity.

Blue Collar Ideals (“I work hard for money.”)

My dad was an Engineer and he wore a white shirt and a tie to work.  I also wore white shirts and ties, before the new corporate uniform became Dockers and golf shirts.  But, I have strong blue collar values passed on to me by my parents.  And, I was proud of those values, even though they seem outdated now.  There are few things more rewarding to me than a job well done.  But, I realized early in my life that it’s hard to make a living on laborer’s wages.

There was a time in America when hard work and loyalty was enough to ensure a long and prosperous career.  But, those times have long since passed.  The new corporate reality is that everyone is a free-agent and jobs rarely last an entire career.  Companies are more concerned with headcount and the bottom line than with the welfare of employees and their families.

The lesson I learned was to never place false limits on my pay.  I honestly believed I only deserved a certain level of income and I later found out I was worth a lot more.  It was a huge mistake that cost me tens of thousands of dollars and kept my family living in poverty.  Within one year of realizing I was underpaid by 40%, I was making it.  My income has climbed steadily since.

Income is based on the value you produce, not on how hard you work.

Money is Bad (“It’s the root of all evil.”)

I went to Catholic school and I was taught the love of money was the root of all evil.  I was also told it was harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.  At the time, I accepted these teachings and I never questioned them.  Now that I’m a little bit wiser, I know religious organizations are some of the richest entities on the planet.  If it’s not a sin for the church to be wealthy, why is it a sin for us?

Money is inanimate and it has no properties of good or evil.  People are good or evil and the size of their bank account has no direct correlation to their conscience.  The temptation of a rich man to cheat others to become richer is no different from the temptation of a poor man to steal a TV.  It’s the choice of good or evil that matters, not the amount of money involved.

Do you believe having more money could make you better person?  Do you think it would be wrong to have more money than you deserve?  Do you think you could find a purpose for the extra money that would help others?  There is no right answer for everyone.  There is only the obvious fact that money doesn’t make the person.

Most of the taxes and charitable donations come from the wealthy.
Most of the criminal activity is perpetrated by the impoverished.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that personal values shape behavior, whether someone is aware of this or not.  The best way to enjoy a happy and prosperous life is to make sure your money values are aligned with your financial goals.

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”


Recommended Reading

Bruce Bucks – Pay More for What you Love
Out of Your Rut – Is Money your Obstacle or your Opportunity
First Generation White Collar – How do you Begin your Day?

This post was featured on the Carnival of Personal Finance over at Funny About Money.  This week, my article was selected as a Editor’s Choice and I am truly honored.  Check it out.

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18 comments to Do you have Misplaced Money Values?

  • Bret- thanks for the link love below I really appreciate it. I appreciated our conversation at the meeting as well. You inspired me to stay true to who I am as a blogger.

    I have had to work hard at everything I have ever accomplished. I have never been extremely talented at any particular thing and hard work is what got me through it all. What you said about how it has changed to what you produce is completely true. I must still work hard, but at the end of the day I must have something to show for my hard work.

    Thanks again!

    • Matt,

      I really enjoy talking to everyone at the blogger meetup and I am thankful Len put it together. It’s nice to be able bounce ideas off of others who are striving toward the same goals.

      This year, my goal is to actually make some money from this blog. It has been a low priority in the past, but it is now one of my written goals for 2011. I have done the hard work and I believe I am producing value for my readers. I have always considered this blog a long-term investment and now I hope it pays off.

  • Bret, this is one fine post and I loved reading every part of it especially the anecdotes (your friend for example..)

    I have one observation regarding Catholic teachings. The love of money being the root of all evil implies stepping on everybody around you and harming them in the process (materially, physically, emotionally) for the sole purpose of increasing your material wealth (money).

    The Church is the largest charitable organization in the world and its wealth cannot be measured by the value placed on art for example. The Vatican publishes a yearly balance sheet that can be reviewed by the public…

    Again, great post.
    BeatingTheIndex recently posted..Warren Buffet on Gold InvestingMy Profile

    • Mich,

      Thanks a bunch for your kind words. I think the real examples of financial problems I see in my life (my friends and co-workers) leave the biggest impression on me and that is why I share them in my posts. The difficult part is to not identify or embarrass anyone.

      Being raised a Catholic, I am conflicted about the mission of the church. I’m well aware of all the good they do, because I have a fine Catholic education. On the other hand, sometimes it seems like they are taking pennies from widows to buy gold statues.

      I have seen pictures of our bishop’s house and I can tell you it is considerably more extravagant than I would have imagined. Many of the local mega-pastors eat at the finest reaturants in our area and routinely spend $1,500 on a dinner. They also fly around in private jets and live in mansions.

      It’s definitely not my place to cast judgement on the church or the clergy. But, I’m not sure Jesus would approve of the excessive commercialization of his teachings. At least, that’s my personal opinion.

      • Bret,

        you will always see the good and the bad in humans whether they are part of a church or not. That’s the downside of having humans in any position of power, many of them will fall to various temptations at various degrees. As a whole, I still find the Church doing great considering it survived 2000 years which is a testament to divine sponsorship?

  • Great post Bret! First time visiting your blog and loved this thought-provoking post.

    In my opinion, poverty is a sin. Think about it, everywhere nature is in abundance. Oceans, canyons, sunshine… I think that was the law of nature.

    Living in poverty should be an exception not the rule.
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    • Thanks for stopping by for a visit.

      I also think poverty is a shame and I hate to see people suffering without the basic necessities we take for granted. I was watching a special on Dhaka, Bangladesh and people were dying by the thousands, just from water-borne illness. But, the population is growing so fast, the infrastructure can’t keep up.

      My question is how would you solve this problem?

      Throughout history, there have always been the rich and the poor and there has never been any practical way to change this. Communism didn’t work, because there wasn’t much incentive to produce for others. So, they all wound up poor. Capitalism is great for people who are motivated, but the strong take advantage of the weak.

      Does anyone have a practical solution to poverty?

  • Wow that is a deep question.

    I wish I had a practical solution to poverty. Like you mentioned, infrastructure is a major problem. One of the things that makes developed countries have some much prosperity is that their infrastructure is built, cities, highways, roads, utilities, and government structure.

    But with a third world country I think the structure should be built in layers. Water first, then farms for food. But it all takes time and there is no easy answer to who builds the infra structure and when. How does the government pay for it and then there is the skilled workers problem to build all at the same time.

    Maybe we are in the process of solving the problem right now through globalization, one world economy also equals one world problems.

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    • Keith,

      One promising solution I have seen from the Gates Foundation is to lower the child and infant mortality rate. That’s why they have been all over measles, malaria, AIDS and water-borne illnesses in developing countries.

      According to their mission statements, lowering the mortality rate reduces the number of children families have, which increases the standard of living for the whole family. In developed countries, where the mortality rate is very low, couples usually have one or two children. This reduces the demands on education, infrastructure and medical care.

      It will be interesting to see what kind of progress they will make. They have already eradicated measles in Africa and are now working on malaria. I hope they succeed, because past attempts, such as the World Bank, have failed miserably to reduce world poverty.

  • Great and succinct article about how what we have been raised to feel and believe affect our financial lives.

  • Rose

    Hmm, I saw several people I know in your example of those who like to beat the system, and you’re right…they have all ended up not really living. One couple comes to mind immediately, and though they are middle-aged, and always broke (living in his parents’ camping trailer in the middle of nowhere), they don’t seem unhappy. In fact, they seem perfectly content to just milk any system they can catch on to, and their sense of ‘you owe me,’ with EVERYONE (but especially his parents) drives me crazy. Unfortunately, the gentleman is an in-law, so we’re subject to his sense of entitlement from time-to-time. I just cannot understand it…and I wonder, if he feels the same about us? Ah well, I’ll ponder it another time; I’ve got work to do. 😉 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by Rose.

      I have always wondered what makes some people industrious and others opportunistic. Many times, I see people with these opposite traits coming from the same family. So, I don’t think this is passed down from their parents. Maybe, some experience in their life triggers it and it continues to grow as it is rewarded.

      As you said, they don’t seem unhappy with their lifestyle. In fact, they fancy themselves as quite clever, even superior to others who work hard. In any case, I feel sorry for them. I don’t think they have any idea how good it feels to accomplish something wonderful through hard work.

  • The rule of law i think is the most crucial to eradicating poverty. Friends of mine who work on food security cite lawlessness in africa as the major barrier. Why would you work hard to grow your fields when someone with an ak will just take it at the end of the season? From on ecconomic point of view the introduction of 30 year leases in Europe enabled peasents to invest in they’re field and get a return. Much like intelectual property laws enabled the industrial revolution.

    Sorry about the rant. Being rich isn’t a sin, making money in a sinful way is a sin

    • You are correct that being rich isn’t a sin. In fact, it can be a blessing. Think about how many jobs were created by people like Gates, Buffett, Bell, Edison, Carnegie, Ford, Hewlett, Packard, Watson, Moore and others. Think about the taxes paid and the donations to charities which benefited the impoverished.

      Unless someone cheats others for financial gain, their contribution should be recognized for the benefits provided to the world.

      • I forgot about Dell, Jobs and Wozniac. America and the rest of the world would be a very different place without all of these entrepreneurs and inventors.

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