Why You Hate Money

Everybody loves money. They love to spend it, they love the way it makes them feel safe, they love the freedom it buys and the security it provides. There are, of course, exceptions to this emotion.

Exception 1: You Don’t Have Enough

Even though you make five times as much as you used to, you still don’t have an emergency account, you still can’t afford private college for your kids, you still put your vacations on plastic. You make more and you spend more, which negates the magical thinking, “if I only made X, this would be better.” But unless you are not meeting basic human needs, like missing one of your three squares, more will not make it better, just bigger.

Exception 2: It Makes You Feel Stupid

Whether or not you enjoy the process, you know how to make money. If you are lucky or thoughtful (or both) you enjoy how to make money. Then you have a pile of money and are faced with standard deviation and 529 accounts and P/E ratios and Roth conversions and you don’t understand much if any of the transactional features of your money so you just do nothing. If you haven’t managed to accumulate a pile, that fact alone makes you feel stupid. Or if someone else earns more, that makes you feel stupid. It can even make you feel so stupid you then begin to think that paying attention to it is petty, greedy, beneath you, stupid.

Exception 3: It Robs you of your Freedom

If you are deliberate, money will buy you freedom of choice. You can live where you want to live doing what you want to do limited only by your imagination, rule of law, and the size of your pile your deliberations have provided. You may have deliberately worked the highest paying job for as many hours as you could possibly cram in to buy this freedom. You may be a disciplined saver, a wise investor, never living above your means and voila, you have freedom. But if you have not been deliberate (see Exception 2) you can’t do anything and are stuck where you are doing what you are doing in order to pay for the stuff you have and the kids who secretly resent you for Exception 1 because they haven’t yet been pummled by Exceptions 1-3.

Money isn’t the root of all evil, it is just an abstract that we manipulate because we as a species are so smart and intricate we need to overlay complications on everything we touch, including means of exchanging goods and services. If you take care of money, it will provide all the things you love about it. If you can’t seem to get a handle on it, talk to a therapist who can help you organize all the events and emotions in your life into a coherent narrative that will reveal why you won’t take care of your financial life as carefully as you take care of your flat-screen TV. Then take a deep breath, start over, and plan for a happy ending.