I’ve talked about how I don’t really care about money before.
I know… it’s weird to hear that coming from a financial coach who has a bachelor’s degree in Finance, is a financial writer, has published two books largely related to finances, and gets money questions constantly. It’s ironic, yes.
I recognize the importance of money in accomplishing goals and creating a better life.
I see money mostly as a game. Not in an irresponsible way. But in more of a “let’s see what I can do with this” way.
My wife sees money as security, so we have funds in place to make her feel secure.
We all think we need more money. We think we need more stuff. We think that’s what “a better life” entails.
But it doesn’t. Stuff is just stuff that often becomes junk and it won’t make you happy for long.
Deep down, we all know possessions aren’t the most important thing, but often we still live like they are… devoting most of our waking hours to chasing money and finding ways to earn more.
It’s Just Money
The fact is, it’s just money.
I know it’s easy to say that, because I have financial freedom. But even leading up to this point, when we were struggling to get out of debt, I saw the fun in it. And it was fun to get out of debt… to me.
None of this “it’s just money” stuff sounds appealing to someone who just had a transmission go out and doesn’t have the money to replace it. Or to one of the many people who lost their job last year. Or to those who are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay the rent this month.
It’s also hard to say “it’s just money” when a theif cleans out your garage, or when your two-year-old throws a toy at the TV and breaks the $1,000+ screen you just bought.
I first thought about this “it’s just money” concept back in 2015. I started writing about it and then something happened that challenged my beliefs on this… literally while I was writing the article.
My cat. That’s what happened.
Cats and Stuff
Now, we’ve only owned a cat for a few months out of the 15 years we’ve been married. And maybe that was enough. But I have to thank her, because she helped me write this article.
We had taken in a pregnant stray cat so she didn’t get sent to an animal shelter.
Often times animal shelters will euthanize cats almost immediately when they come in, because so many come in. This was especially the case in Oklahoma, where we lived at the time, because they had an abundance of stray cats. After a quick phone call, I discovered our local animal shelter did euthanize strays.
So… we had this cat.
There we were, back in 2015, and as I was preparing to write an article about not being materialistic. I walked into my living room to find a hole in our leather couch. Not just one hole… about 1,000 holes in our $2,000 real leather couch and loveseat. The furniture set was nice. It had served us well for a few years at that point.
I got frustrated for about five minutes, until I called my wife to vent. Her response was, “it’s just stuff.” So really, my wife helped me write this article. I need a lot of help apparently.
And she’s right. It really doesn’t matter.
We still saved the life of a cat and her kittens. I’m not a cat person, but I do value life.
We ended up selling the couch and loveseat for $50 to some friends before we moved to Italy. Once we got to Italy, we paid $200 for a like-new, really nice sectional couch. Which we gave to our refugee neighbors as we prepared to move to Japan.
How Much are Things Worth?
You pay money for things and thus, things are worth money. That’s true.
It’s important to take care of the things we’re blessed with. I firmly believe you will reap what you sow and we are called to be good stewards of everything God has blessed us with.
It works out in our favor too. If we take care of our vehicles, they will last a long time. The same goes for our home. And for all of the little stuff.
We just have to make sure we aren’t giving things more value than they truly deserve.
Have you ever scolded your child for breaking something of value? I know, I know, you’ve got to instill discipline, and they need to know it was wrong to break it, but was that really your motivation? Would you “instill” the same lesson if they broke something that didn’t matter to you? I say this because I’ve been guilty of it before.
There’s a line between being good stewards of our things and giving our stuff more value than it deserves.
I like Andy Stanley’s rule on purchases. He doesn’t buy anything he wouldn’t lend out to someone else. That’s a good rule to follow if you want to give things their proper value.
Fortunately, there’s a practical way to practice this in your own life.
Apply the 10-Year Rule
When something happens to anything I own—this often applies to other areas of life—I ask myself one simple question: will this matter in 10 years?
When you’re stressed out and dealing with a difficult financial situation, or when your toddler breaks your favorite lamp, or when your kids make a mess all over the kitchen… use this question.
We like to freak out about stuff that won’t matter in 10 minutes, so it’s not easy to apply and stick with this rule.
But we have to think long-term.
As an aside, the majority of the things we stress out about are never going to happen.
That’s why Michel de Montaigne said:
And Tom Petty said:
And Mark Twain said the same thing for a third time here, in my favorite way:
There’s a reason those three thinkers (yes, I consider Tom Petty a thinker) said almost the same thing: because they realized how much they worry about things they shouldn’t worry about. It’s that simple.
But what if something happens that actually will matter in 10 years? What is the stock market crashes and your retirement is wiped out? Well, it’s likely that it won’t matter in 10 years, because of how the stock market always recovers… historically.
But if there is a huge situation that will matter in 10 years, do your best to be thankful for what you still have. If you lost all of your money tomorrow, you’d still have your family. You’ll always have your relationship with God. You’ll always have someone in your life who cares about you, whether that means people or even if God is all you have left.
It’s never going to help to worry yourself to death, even if the situation is legitimately worrisome.
I’m not saying “get over it” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” It may be a big deal. It may be something you can’t just “get over,” or at least not any time soon. Serious tragedies happen to all of us.
Regardless of what happens, I just want to remind you that money isn’t the most important thing in life. And material possessions definitely aren’t.
I have to remind myself of this all the time. I like stuff. I like to buy things. I’m the spender in the family, ironically. I give stuff too much value all the time and I have to bring myself back to reality. I think it’s good to constantly bring ourselves back to reality.
The popular opinion is to get all the money you can, retire rich, and build a hundred incomes streams. I just want to be a small voice in the finance world who tells you it’s not all about the money. Because it’s not.