Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Money Awareness

I do not pretend to be an expert on financial matters, budgeting, digging out of a money crisis or giving investment advice. I leave that to people trained and with real expertise in money management, investing, banking and financial risk-taking. Schools of business, departments of economics, money managers use the tools of statistics and science to help people make, budget and spend money.

Ann and I have a financial advisor who has been enormously help in using and managing our finances and deciding on investments. We pay a tax accountant to prepare our returns. We are fortunate enough to have the means to pay for such services. They are a good investment bringing a level of certainty in areas where confusion, lack of knowledge and experience prevailed.

We are in a time of financial turmoil. People need expert help with handling their finances. I do, however, have some ideas about attitudes about money for people that are rich or poor, troubled or at ease with their money. These are areas of consciousness, awareness and even mental health that may help people look at their money in a different light. The first one may be a surprise

Making Other People Rich

What a silly idea, you say. I have to pay my bills, take care of my family and myself. Why should I worry about making other people rich? No one is standing around trying to make me rich. In fact, most businesses are trying to make me poor by charging high prices, interest rates and taxes. The mortgage failures, stock scandals and pension cancellations are all about taking as much money as possible from people like me to make business leaders rich at our expense. You bet I don’t think about making other people rich.

Enriching others is not an economic principle; it is an attitude toward life. It goes along with having a generous heart and enjoying a prosperity consciousness. The old saying “the more you give, the more you get” falls into the category of making others rich.

We actually make other people rich when we pay our bills. Lots of people benefit from our willingness or the necessity of paying our bills. When we buy a tank full of gas we make others rich. The employees at the filling station, the truck drivers that deliver the gas to the station, the workers at the refinery, the oil company, the stock holders, the ship crews that carry the crude oil from foreign lands, the oil drillers, the owners of the oil wells and so on. The same chain goes on in the food, clothing, communications and all industries that we depend on and enjoy. We may argue that some people in that chain are paid minimum wage while others take home enormous profits. That inequity is certainly true. However, when we pay our bills we provide money for many people in our society and they are enriched by our actions of paying the bills. When we see those positive results of spending our money, our consciousness and attitudes may change.

Instead of seeing the bill-paying as a problem, we could see it as a way of enriching others, of helping other people live and indeed prosper. I am writing about an attitude of heart and mind, a way of looking at how we spend our money. Instead of hoarding our money and trying to spend the least amount we can on what we buy, we can see that whatever we buy not only helps others but also makes other people rich. It also trains our minds to be prosperous.

In 1995, Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts burned to the ground. “…the CEO and owner of the family run business decided to continue to pay his thousands of idled workers for a full six months! It was a decision that ended up bankrupting the three-generation-old company, but Aaron Feuerstein, the CEO and owner, says: ‘Maybe on paper our company is worthless to Wall Street, but I can tell you it's worth more’” He saw that paying his employees was his moral duty. He may not have put it this way but he was making his employees rich rather than impoverishing them.

Making other people rich works on me also. I can feel generous and giving. I also may take more responsibility about what I choose to buy.

A way to put this into practice to is watch what we think and say when we have to make a choice about buying something. To make it personal, I have enough money to buy an expensive Mercedes. I am tempted to say to myself and others, “I can’t afford a Mercedes.” The fact of the matter is that I am quite able to buy the car but I choose not to spend my money on that particular car. I do not choose to go into debt or spend my savings for that purchase. Prosperity consciousness acknowledges the truth that I have the money needed for the car, I can afford it. I have choice in the matter. I choose not to spend my money on that car.

Many people give up their lives for their money. Men and women are willing to work 24/7 to earn more income or make their company more profitable with the hope of big stock options upon retirement or when leaving the company. Physical health is harmed, families are broken and relationships shattered.

A woman friend said to her husband, who after retiring twice took on another high-paying job involving extensive traveling, “How much is enough? We have two homes, two new cars, our children have finished school, and we have plenty of money to live on. How much is enough?”

Certainly this man is making others rich by creating jobs and spending money. It seems he is making himself poor by recklessly working.

The willingness to make others rich involves making one’s self financially stable, yet taking responsibility for how the money is spent and its effect on one’s self.

To reiterate, making others rich is not an economic theory. It is a way of looking at money and one’s self. It relates to our character and consciousness. It is an attitude toward life.

Poverty Consciousness

A man standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool on a hot, sunny day holding a bag full of money says, “When it comes to money my therapist says I have separation anxiety.”

Many things hamper the state of mind that wants to make other people rich. The fear of not having enough money is a major one. Now that the American economy is deeply troubled, many people have lost homes, incomes, investments and pensions. The ogre of not having enough is real for more people today than in the last fifty years.

Hard times make us have even more poverty consciousness than usual. Some people think the most valuable part of a product is the price. They can be spotted if the first thing they talk about is the price. Of course, they know there are other things to be aware of beside the price in buying a product. But the poverty consciousness mindset sees price as the first thing to be noticed when examining a product.

Of course we do not want to pay top dollar for most things. We do want to get the best price for anything we buy. That is only responsible shopping. But I am talking about an attitude of mind that sees and mentions price first that reveals the mind of poverty awareness. That view clouds all other values in choosing a product.

I am around people who will bargain for a lower price, always looking for the cheapest and grousing about how expensive things are. I often wonder if they are paranoid in some way. Do they think the world is out to cheat, rob and steal from them? Yes, some people are out there trying to do that. But there is no evidence that everyone is trying to cheat.

Then there are the folks who become hysterical about getting parking tickets. Letters to the editor are often complaints from people who believe they have been unduly wronged because they got a ticket. They have parked too long at a parking meter or in the two-hour zone. Speeding tickets get the most scorn. Yet the truth is that we have all parked over the allotted time and driven over the speed limit hundreds of times and never been cited. We should be grateful that we have not been caught before and that we have beaten the odds as often as we have. In addition, one can see that paying the ticket contributes to the city’s coffers.

We all hate to pay taxes. No matter what the bills are from the federal, state or local governments, we do not like to pay them. Governments waste money, politicians steal, contractors cheat on government contracts, or the police are corrupt. Some of these will always be true. That has been part of government from the earliest moments in history.

Yet we want the government to protect us on the streets and around the world, we want safe transportation, good health care, assistance as we age and pensions when we retire. We just don’t want to pay for them. That is poverty consciousness.

We should pay our taxes and traffic tickets with gratitude for all the benefits we get from our elected officials; that is prosperity consciousness.

That view of money affects our willingness to give to charity. All of the great religions of the world urge followers to give generously to those in need. Many will complain that administration costs and salaries are too high in many churches, synagogues, and helping organizations. That is the excuse they give for giving little or nothing to charity. Usually this is the sign of an ungenerous heart.

In the next section of this paper I will talk about prosperity consciousness and look at bargaining in third world countries and at giving to beggars.

Prosperity Consciousness

If one can rise above poverty consciousness and look at money in a different way, the problems we face in a declined economy can be handled in a more constructive way.

I have already mentioned that we can take responsibility for our spending by the simple method of saying, “I choose not to spend my money on a new stove.” That is quite different from saying, “I cannot afford a new stove.” It is a matter of awareness of how our words affect our choices. When I say I choose to spend my money on a new stove, I control my money. If I say I can’t afford a new stove, my money controls me. Try it a few times and see how it feels to have power over our money.

Taking control of our money begins by being thankful for the money we have. Thank God, the universe, the higher power, the economy, capitalism or just plain luck. The universal notion of gratitude for whatever we have, especially our money, shines light on what we have. It helps us see our money as a useful and necessary part of our life for which we are responsible. We can look at our money and then decide how we are going to use it. We can be realistic about what we have, how much is coming in and how much we have to live on, pay our bills and plan for the future. It is a matter of mind, not cash.

We also can look at our money as a gift to us. Yes, I know, many readers will say, “I earned every cent that I have.” Yet we earn money on interest, on profits, receive gifts and inheritances where we have not worked for that money. The money came to us freely. Yes, most of us do a certain amount of work and we get a salary. That is money we earn. Some of us do work that brings in a lot of money and some that bring in a lot less. An English teacher works many hours a day grading papers. A language or math teacher works fewer hours a day for roughly the same pay. A laborer in construction makes far less money than a football player and faces hard physical work and physical danger. These inequities are part of life in a capitalistic society. When we are thankful for the gift of money that we have we are embarked on prosperity consciousness.

When we are thankful for the gift of our money, we can more easily make the distinction between what we want and what we need. We see that most of us have enough money to live well as long as we are realistic about what we need as opposed to what we want.

Knowing yourself is absolutely basic to prosperity consciousness. Learning to know one’s self is a life-long task. We learn, we know, we forget, we re-learn, forget again and often do get to know ourselves, but it will never be a perfect knowing. But in that quest for self-knowledge we learn to know what is important to ourselves, what our basic values are, what truly makes us happy and content.

There is trial and error along the way. Getting that new car may be so exciting and important to us. When we get it, we are happy and content for a while. Then we want new hubcaps, a new radio, and we get them and then we still are not content. Having sex, getting married, having children, a house and new stuff for the kitchen will make us happy. We get the right job and all the things we think will make us happy. But often they don’t. We think there is something missing. Maybe making more money will help, so we work 24/7. Nope.

Some people try to find joy in being trendy and chic. The newest handbag, dress, outfit, hairstyle or tattoo. These are the searches for self-discovery that reflect poverty consciousness and hurl us into debt.

The quest for the eternal values is the key to personal happiness and a prosperity consciousness. Goofy and out of touch as this sounds, these are the values that move us toward knowing ourselves and offering us values by which we can enjoy life.

What are they? The same old stuff we all already know and basically reject. Love, peace, forgiveness, justice, healing and mercy. Yes, it does sound preachy, moralistic and airy-fairy. These principles come out of the great religious and philosophical traditions of the people on the planet earth. Lives rooted in these values are the route to self-awareness and a life of concern and generosity toward others.

I am sure that many people with different values can live fulfilled lives. But when people are unhappy, broke and resentful, I suggest looking at the basic values of human life to find ways toward a better and more authentic life.

People whose values are rooted in love, peace, forgiveness, justice, healing and mercy have certain characteristics or lack of them. They seldom exhibit a sense of entitlement because of their wealth, position or talents. They are not grandiose, making exaggerated claims and plans about the wonderful things they have done or will do in the future. They never worry about “what the neighbors will say.” They are happy with who they are and how they behave.

People with basic values of generosity give generously to charity, give money to beggars if moved to do so sometimes – all the time. They also refrain from bargaining with street vendors in third world countries even though it is the custom to do so. (OK. I’ll admit these are pet peeves of mine.)

I believe that people with basic values rooted deep in themselves will have a generous heart. They are willing to share their wealth with others. They pick up the tab in a restaurant, buy wasteful cut flowers for their loved ones, are careful about money but not worried about it. One expression I have used earlier sums up a healthy attitude about money. My money does not control me, I control my money.


Anonymous Fred Fenton said...

You write "I do not choose to go into debt or spend my savings for that purchase." My dad, who was a family doctor, would have loved that. Dad purchased boxes full of Thoreau's "Walden" and gave copies to patients he believed were ruining their health by worrying about money.

Dad urged them to read Thoreau's first chapter "Economy" with "the same devotion my wife reads the Bible." His favorite quote from that chapter was:
"...and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run." This he repeated endlessly to his patients. He said it should be printed in red ink on every time contract.

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