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Updated: February 23, 2014 14:18 IST

Money and you

Malini Seshadri
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Knowing early the importance you accord to money in different situations will help you make better decisions in life.

Yes, indeed money matters. But, how much? It is up to each one of us to decide. It will determine how we live our lives and what the quality of that life will be.

When asked what she wants to do in life, Rohini says she is looking forward to getting a job and making money. What job? Any job I can land that lets me make money, she replies. Is she being ‘greedy’?

Vivek has a different response: I want a job that interests me and where I can make a difference. What about money? Well, that would be the icing on the cake, he says. Is he being ‘impractical’?

Obviously there’s much to be said for and against each of these attitudes. For one thing, they may be a reflection of the existing financial situation of the person’s family or the expectations from the person’s family and peer group.

When anyone mentions the phrase “managing money” we tend to form a mental image of little children filling their piggy banks and wise parents saving for their son’s education and daughter’s wedding (yes, some of those old, nasty gender stereotypes do persist!). But actually, managing money is less about your balance at the bank and more about the balance in your life.

Many people claim that it’s money (not love) that makes the world go around. They could well have added that love of money can turn lives upside down.

What is the value of money? A one-hundred rupee note has the same value for everyone and at all times, right? Wrong!

What is its value to the master of the house as a percentage of his income? And to the manservant?

What is its value to you when you are in a mall? And on a desert island?

What is its value when you have earned it? And when you have found it on the street?

What is its value to you when you realise it can buy you a pizza? And when you are told it can buy a hungry child’s food for a whole week?

What is its value to you when it is the only one you have? And when there are hundreds more of them in your cupboard at home?

Managing attitudes

So… no, money does not have the same value to everyone and at all times. Realising this, internalising this crucial truth, will refine our ideas regarding money and create healthier attitudes towards it throughout our lives. When you think about it, managing money is more to do with managing attitudes and expectations than the actual money itself. It is to do with assigning a suitable slot for “money” on our values pyramid. Very often, we don’t take the time and effort to do this early enough in life. The result could be a temptation to take unethical or even illegal shortcuts in the blind pursuit of money without even a clear idea of what it means to us. Lurking on the horizon are the consequences… potentially a lifetime of family tensions, job dissatisfaction and consequent poor health.

How should we determine the ‘slot’ for money on our personal values pyramid? For a start, we could list all the things that money cannot buy and decide how important those things are to us. A very memorable advertisement for a credit card company had the tagline “There are some things that money cannot buy; for everything else there’s…….!” For instance, money cannot buy good health, a loving family, genuine friendships and strong character. It cannot buy empathy and loyalty. On the contrary, poor attitudes to money can destroy any or all of these.

Next, we should analyse how big a role sentiment plays in our way of thinking, if at all. That pearl necklace that your grandma gave you last year, so unfashionable and out-of-date, does it have a value to you other than in terms of what it can fetch when sold on one of those ubiquitous “quick-sale” Internet sites?

When the elderly man down the street says he doesn’t want to part with his house in his lifetime because it holds very good memories for him, would his relatives be right in branding him “selfish” for not handing the house over to developers and distributing the profits among his heirs?

There are no universal right and wrong answers about the value of money. But there are right and wrong answers that are unique for a particular person’s value system. If we don’t take the time to introspect and determine where we stand on this very important issue, we may be allowing ourselves to let money determine our decisions, our relationships and, ultimately the quality of our lives.

Rate these in order of their satisfaction quotient: money received as a gift, money obtained through dishonesty, money earned by you, money saved from pocket-money given by parents, money found lying on the street.

When determining the ranking of money in our value system, it is more important to be honest with ourselves than be merely ‘politically correct’. That way, we make decisions with open eyes and minimum regrets.

Email: malini1seshadri@gmail.com

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