In the days before credit cards, before microwave machines, before The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast across the night TV screens, bread was a dime, pop a nickel or less, and my grandfather worked for a mill in the Canadian great northwest.
Years ago, I would visit my grandfather in his Richmond, B.C., apartment. We would sit and play cards and watch the planes as they came in for landing.
He was a quiet man but one day he wanted to talk about money and the fact that even though he had worked driving forklift in the sawmills, he had been able to put some money away.
Our family never talked about money much as I was growing up. I remember my dad sitting at the kitchen table and balancing his chequebook to ensure my parents could make ends meet. There were no credit cards in those days so if you didn’t have enough money in the bank, your cheques would bounce.
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Things are much different today. Credit cards are common and almost seen as a necessity for new high school graduates. “No money, no problem,” is a common perception in a society where instant gratification overrides the need for saving and self discipline.
Every generation of every family has a different relationship with money. We learn from our families and our parents the meaning of money and how we should use it.
We’re conditioned by a lack or an abundance of cash in our families, by societal and economic circumstances, even by the monetary habits of acquaintances. We can become hoarders or spenders of money, generous, needy or stingy, grateful, complacent or demanding of cash. We can learn to make money, give money and/or lose money.
Yet in the underlying psyche of most people is the fear that there’s never enough money. Why is that?
Even as our fortune increases, there never seems to be enough. We think that if we just had a little more, we would be happy.
But would we be? When is enough money simply enough?
For most people, our relationship with money permeates everything, from how hard we will work in our jobs to our preferences. In many cases, our relationship with money influences our relationships with family and friends.
Some people can stress out about family spending patterns and others strive to keep up with the Joneses. Both patterns affect who we are and how we act around others.
Occasionally you might come across someone who doesn’t seem concerned about money in the least. They’re not striving to make more money. They don’t seem worried about their bills. They’re generous despite the fact you know they probably don’t have more than a couple of pennies to rub together. These people often seem genuinely happy with what they have and with their life in general.
Our culture has told us we need money to be happy, and it’s true that if we don’t have enough money to pay our basic life expenses, our money concerns can be overwhelming.
In my book Profit Yourself Healthy, I address the fact that business leaders are under considerable stress if their businesses aren’t providing enough profit to pay the bills. And I explain what needs to be done to fix those issues.
Having money doesn’t equate to being happy. In fact, an undue fixation on money – whether we’re rich or poor – leads to an aspiration in our lives that can never be satisfied.
Genuinely happy people will tell you that to think less about money we need to focus more on those other things we say are important but don’t give enough attention to, including our relationships, our friends and families, our faith, and those things that are intrinsically beautiful.
If you want to feel richer, start giving more of what you do have to the needy. And that reminds me of the Persian proverb: “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc.
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