From the perspectives of human wisdom, Biblical wisdom, and the TAO wisdom from ancient China
The living tips
The wisdom books
The better English
ALWAYS ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT MONEY
Can money cause irrational behavior?
Money can often create irrational behavior in rational people, resulting in harmful and even painful consequences in their lives.
Some examples of irrational behavior in rational people with respect to money are as follows:
Money matters so much to some people that they feel so contented and will not even ask for more, though they may rightly deserve it.
Money matters so much to some people that they simply refuse ever to go into debt, blindly believing in the virtue of being debt-free no matter what.
Money matters so much to some people that they would allow their greed to get better of their sound financial judgment, resulting in bad investments.
Money matters so much to some people that they do not let on about the family finances, such as couples concealing bank accounts or credit card payments from each other.
Does any of the above apply to you? If yes, then money may also make you irrational?
What are the obstacles to understanding the money wisdom?
You may not attain your money wisdom if you are confronted with the following obstacles:
You spend more than you earn. Do you have several unpaid credit cards?
You buy things you do not need with the money you do not have. Take a look at your closet, your basement or your garage. Are they all full of your stuff?
You think you need more money. You save and save. Money has become nothing but only security to you. Do you always worry a lot about your money insecurity?
You want quick returns and big payoffs for your money. Do you often go to the casino or buy the lottery?
You go with the crowd when it comes to investment and spending. Do you often go shopping with a group of your dear friends?
You lie about money, because you measure yourself on the basis of money. Are you always conscious of how people perceive what you dress or where you live?
You are uncomfortable about money, or you hate money because it is the root of all evils. You never like to talk about money, do you?
To overcome the above obstacles, you simply do exactly the opposite.
Once you can free yourself from the delusional and irrational money beliefs and habits, you will then begin to perceive how money really matters in your life, such that you will learn how to sell yourself, how to invest wisely, and how to make more money. You will be richer for life-in every way. Once you have attained your money wisdom, you will then look at money with new perspectives and you will know how to make, save, and spend your money.
Does money bring happiness?
Human existence is meaningless, if it is devoid of human happiness.
Since time immemorial, man has been searching for happiness. Many believe that human wisdom holds the key to ultimate success in the quest for happiness. The pursuit of wisdom is also as old as age.
Happiness is like a carrot-and-stick to a mule-forever unattainable: the more pain inflicted on the mule, the greater desire it shows to reach out for that unreachable carrot in front. Maybe that explains the painstaking pursuit of happiness by many. Indeed, happiness is not only abstract and intangible, but also elusive and evasive.
Happiness comes in many different forms. What happiness to one individual may not be happiness to another-just as one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Happiness is uniquely personal. In addition, even if it is attainable, happiness comes and goes, just as day and night. Furthermore, no matter what, happiness has to come to an end with the expiration of life.
It is human nature to seek happiness by any means, and human wisdom is considered the most appropriate way to attaining human happiness. During the brief lifespan, humans seek their own wisdom to help them pursue their happiness that may come to them in many different forms, such as wealth, good health, satisfying relationships, successful careers and endeavors, and among others.
Sadly, the many different forms of happiness that most people crave and pursue in their lives may not bring them true and lasting happiness.
Why not? It is because there are certain myths about true happiness.
One of the myths is that happiness is about experiences. Accordingly, many use money to buy those pleasant life experiences, such as going on a vacation, throwing a party, or buying an expensive dress. The memories of those happy life experiences in the past, as well as the thoughts of those happy moments to be repeated in the future-both are unreal: the past was gone, and the future is yet to come. So, the happiness created by those memories and thoughts in the human mind is unreal and self-delusional at best.
Another happiness myth is that most happy life experiences have to do with sensual sensations, which are based on pleasures derived from the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. But sensations can provide only sensual pleasures-such as the excitement of new experiences, the thrill and passion of sex, or the delights of a fine meal-they last only a brief moment or two, and they do not contribute to true and lasting happiness.
The truth of the matter is that all your wonderful life experiences are only to be enjoyed, and then to be let go of, just as a delicious meal is to be enjoyed, savored, and then to be digested, and ultimately eliminated from the body. So, the continuous quest for happiness is elusive and evasive, just like chasing the wind.
The truth of the matter is that happiness is but a state of mind, and that is why it is abstract, intangible, and unattainable. It is all in the mind’s eye-just as John Milton, the famous English poet, says in his masterpiece Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, money and happiness are not positively correlated, because wealth may make people less generous and more domineering. In addition, money may not bring out the best of an individual: the more money that individual has, the more focused on self that individual may become, and so the less sensitive to the needs of people around, as well as the more likely to do all the wrong things due to the feeling of right and entitlement.
What is money?
Money is not just about coins and dollars; it is about anything and everything in your life that you may have knowingly or unknowingly in your mind attached a price tag.
Money is emotional. So, you must have your money wisdom to navigate that reality by creating your own money beliefs and money habits that may affect your emotions when you feel the abundance or the lack of money.
So, what are your money beliefs? Do you believe that money can buy you many things, if not everything? Do you believe in the power of money?
What are some of your money habits, such as the ways you earn and make your money, as well as the ways you save and spend your money earned? Do they give you security or insecurity?
Does money matter?
Of course, money matters in life. You cannot do without your money, which always matters to you. That is the reality.
Your money can do many things, but not everything, and that is also the reality of your money wisdom.
Your money may provide you with access to resources which can be used to help you meet some but not all of your everyday “needs” and “wants.”
With more money, you can live rich; with less money, you can still live richly.
But how to live richly, if you cannot live rich?
Thrift is the answer. Thrift is an alternative lifestyle to consumerism, materialism, and over-consumption in this material world you are living in.
Thrift may help you work less, and not more. Many people are not paying with their money; instead, they are paying with their time from their lives. Are you one of them? Are you doing two or more jobs just to earn that money to spend more?
Thrift may promote your positive consumption values. Are some or most of your purchases aimed at your instant gratification, or just enhancing your self-esteem, making you feel rich, such as wearing a designer’s dress?
Thrift may encourage your savings. It may give you more space to save, thereby instrumental in protecting you from negative income shocks, such as an unexpected unemployment.
Get your right thinking mind to understand YOUR MONEY WISDOM!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR MONEY?
Making money is all about “being” and “doing.”
“Being” is about who you think you are: your self-beliefs, your life passions, and your money values.
So, what is the value of money? More specifically, what does money mean to you? Your perceptions of money value determine two of the most important things in the rest of your life: how you are going to make your money, and how you are going to spend the money you have made.
The value of money should be based on your own core values, such as honesty, integrity, love, compassion, generosity, and gratitude, among others. They have little to do with your money; instead, they demonstrate the value of what life has to offer, and not the value of things purchased with your money. Your core values may affect your attitudes toward how you are going to live the rest of your life, irrespective of your abundance or lack.
Your “doing” is about making decisions and taking actions to make your money, while manifesting and validating your true “being.”
Making your own money may include the following:
Becoming an expert
You must learn and acquire skills and expertise, backed by related training, in order to become an expert in the profession of your choice. Some high-paying jobs include those of attorneys, bankers, doctors, fire-fighters, investors, and among many others. These high-paying jobs may help you make more money. But do you have your passion for some of them?
On the other hand, you may not want to get the skills and the expertise for high-paying jobs, due to your self-belief in your own incompetence or incapability. If that is the case, you have only two options: one, changing your pre-conceived mindset about self; the other, self-acceptance, which is accepting who you really are and all the consequences of being who you are meant to be.
The first option means you must change yourself no matter what. Life is all about changes, and getting wisdom from those changes. Without changes, nothing will be done, and you will continue to be incapable or incompetent for any high-paying job.
The second option means you are willing to do a low-paying job, such as working at the checkout of a grocery store. In spite of choosing a low-paying job, you may have some hidden potentials that you can turn into a part-time income and make some money.
Starting a business
To start a business, you must have your own innovative ideas that make you “think out of the box.” To make your money out of your business, you must have passion, motivation, perseverance, and, of course, some cash.
Passion is the assessing of the potentials of an individual, irrespective of that individual’s background or even the parental advice of that individual. An example is the multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s eldest son Howard Buffett, who turned himself into a farmer, instead of pursuing success by following his famous father’s footsteps.
So, your passion is your deep desire to turn your lifelong dream into a reality, no matter what other people may say or think.
In conventional wisdom, motivation is looked upon as the key to success. As a result, there are many books and motivation speeches to fire up success: “the will to win is everything”, “you can have it all if you will it”, and “you can be just anything you wish to become.” But motivation books and speeches in the form of positive thinking and affirmations may or may not produce the desired results because they are often a shallow and short-lived approach to ultimate success.
For your motivation to work effectively, you must not wait for someone or something to motivate you. As a matter of fact, the word “motivation” derives from the word “motive”, which is an internal quality within you, and not an external factor, that propels you into action. That is to say, only you can feel deep inside you the need to act.
Starting your own business may encounter many obstacles and problems that require your perseverance. Can you deal with your emotional frustrations? Can you handle all the ups and downs of your business?
Of course, starting your business always requires some cash. But you will find the means to get your cash for your business, if you have set your mind on it.
Investing in the financial markets
Before investing your money in the financial markets, you must, first and foremost, separate some of the myths from the truths about your money investments.
The myth: The financial markets are always dangerous, risky, and unpredictable, and you need expert help to make your money.
The truth: The financial markets, over the long term, are steady and predictable. To illustrate, an investor with little or no training, who invested in the S&P 500 Index, would have performed better than the average professional investor with an MBA in finance. This attests to the truth that expert’s help is often no help when it comes to investing in the financial markets. So, empower yourself with knowledge and expertise in the field of your financial investment, and do it yourself, as long as you understand how your money matters to you.
The myth: You need a lot of money to get started.
The truth: According to Warren Buffett, “cash is to a business as oxygen is to an individual; but if you are smart, you can still make a lot of money without borrowing.”
The myth: The investment professionals always outperform the market.
The truth: You may do better with your own “right thinking”-just as Warren Buffett said: "I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business." So, only “right thinking” can give you the wisdom to invest your money, and not just the advice of the so-called experts or the professionals.
What is financial investment?
Financial investment is about buying and selling, which includes choosing and picking, resulting in winning or losing.
Suze Orman, best-selling author and personal finance expert, has this to say about investment wisdom: “It is better to have 50 percent of something than to have 100 percent of nothing.”
Suze Orman got her wisdom from her father when she was very young, asking her father why he would not double or triple the price of sandwiches he was selling when compared to others in the same business.
The reality is that when you buy something and sell it with a profit, the price may continue to go up and up. So, you get very upset. You may even want to buy it back at a much higher price.
The wisdom in investment is to focus only on your gains at each transaction, and not on what you could have had. That explains why buying is easy, but selling is always difficult due to human greed. So, never look back in anger or with regret at what you could or could not have done; always move forward.
Learn to use YOUR MONEY WISDOM as you continue to age!
SAVING AND SPENDING MONEY
How to save money?
Making money may be easy for some, but keeping the money is difficult for many.
Many Americans earn plenty of money to live a great lifestyle but do not save enough for their long-term life goals.
With your money wisdom, you always have to save and pay yourself first. If not, you could end up blowing away all your money faster, than you earn it.
How do you pay yourself first?
Simple: Open both a checking account and a savings account. Every month, deposit a certain but fixed amount of money into your savings account.
In addition, set up an emergency fund. Why? It is because you may become unemployed; your house’s roof may need fixing; you may experience a medical emergency; you may need a college fund, and so on. So, if you have extra cash each month, deposit it into your emergency fund.
How do you get rid of your debts?
With your money wisdom, you get rid of your debts as much as and as soon as possible. Pay your credit cards balance, and pay off first all your debts with the highest interest, including your medical bills, and your student loans.
As for your home mortgage, make bi-weekly instead of monthly payments; refinance your mortgage from 30 years to 15 years.
How do you save little to save big?
“Beware of little expenses. A small leak can sink a great ship.”-Benjamin Franklin
Your every daily action has a monetary consequence. Here are some of the little things you can do in order to save little to save big:
Avoid buying your coffee on your way to work.
Bring your own lunch to work, instead of getting your lunch elsewhere.
Eat more at home than at restaurants.
Get your DVDs from your local library, rather than going to cinemas to watch your movies.
How to spend money?
Your money wisdom is to spend what is left after your saving. If you do not have anything left, then why do you spend on the things you do not need with the money you do not have?
Basically, your spending habits have much to do with your own money values. So, rethink your own money values: What does money mean to you?
Also, ask yourself some questions about any “big spending” you may have on your mind, such as the following:
Buying a “big” house
Do you really need a big house?
Why do you want to buy a 4-bedroom house, instead of one with 3 bedrooms?
Can you buy one later instead of now?
Planning a “big” wedding
Do you want to spend “big money” on your engagement ring, your wedding dress, and your wedding reception? The reality is that an expensive wedding does not guarantee a happy marriage, except a heavy debt if you do not have the cash.
Satisfying a “big” ego
Warren Buffett once said with humor that he bought “expensive” suits, but they looked pretty “cheap” on him.
Do you buy an expensive dress to make you look “expensive”? So, do not try to “look” rich, but to “get” rich by spending your money wisely.
How to teach the money wisdom to children?
It is your responsibility as parent to teach your children money responsibility; you do not expect them to learn it the hard way through their own life experiences.
So, teach your children the following starting at an early age:
At age 4 to 5, teach your children to count coins. Kids love coins. Make them count and put them in their piggy banks. Also, teach them to recognize different dollar notes.
Money and daily chores
At age 6 to 7, give your children simple daily chores at home, and then reward them with money or allowance. Let them put their money in boxes labeled “saving”, “spending”, and “loving.”
If they want to buy something at a store, let them look at their money in the “spending” box to see if there is sufficient money. If they wish to buy a gift for Mom’s or Dad’s birthday, let them go to the “loving” box.
You are in fact teaching your children to earn, to save, to spend, as well as to love.
Different types of spending
Around age 10, introduce your children to different types of spending, such as buying goods or getting services done, buying due to needs versus wants, and buying with short-term goals versus long-term ones.
At age 15 to 18, prepare your teenagers for the real world of money. Teach them the concept of credit, including credit cards, credit score, as well as car loans and student loans.
The bottom line: Build a good foundation for financial literacy for your children, giving them the money wisdom they need to survive in a world of both abundance and lack.
RICHES AND NOTHING
With or without your money wisdom, everything becomes nothing at the end, and this is the ultimate and universal truth.
So, learn to let go of anything and everything in your life. They are nothing more than your attachments to sustain and support your ego-self. Attaining this wisdom is your self-awakening to your understanding of your money wisdom.
An illustration of going from riches to nothing
Barbara Woolworth Hutton, also known as “the poor little rich girl”, was one of the wealthiest women in the world during the Great Depression. She had experienced an unhappy childhood with the early loss of her mother at age five and the neglect of her father, setting her the stage for a life of difficulty in forming relationships.
Married and divorced seven times, she acquired grand foreign titles, but was maliciously treated and exploited by several of her husbands. Publicly, she was much envied for her lavish lifestyle and her exuberant wealth; privately, she was very insecure and unhappy, leading to addiction and fornication.
Barbara Hutton died of a heart attack at age 66. At her death, the formerly wealthy Hutton was on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of exploitation, as well as her own lavish and luxurious lifestyle.
Barbara Hutton was the unhappy poor little rich girl! She was widely reported in the media, and her story was even made into a Hollywood movie: “The Poor Little Rich Girl.”
An illustration of going from nothing to riches
Christopher Paul Gardner is an American businessman, entrepreneur, investor, author, and philanthropist. In the early 1980s, Gardner was very poor and homeless; he was often sleeping on the floor of a public toilet. Gardner never dreamt that he would become a multi-millionaire one day. His very inspiring life story was even made into a hit Hollywood movie, starring Will Smith: “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
Gardner was brought up with the belief that he could do or be anything that he wanted to do or be. He was homeless, but he was not hopeless. He often dreamed of wealth and success, and his dreams were not mirages. Because of his right doing, he made his dreams come true.
Initially, Gardner made his living by selling medical equipment. He did not make enough money to make both ends meet, and his poverty made him homeless for a year.
Then, one day, Gardner met a stockbroker in a red Ferrari, who offered him internship because of his incredible drive and sustained enthusiasm. He had a successful investment career, and he subsequently opened his own investment firm, Gardner Rich & Co.
More than two decades later, after the death of his wife, who challenged him to find his own true happiness and fulfillment in the remainder of his life, Gardner then made a complete career change. He became a philanthropist and a remarkable motivation speaker traveling around the world, focusing not on his own wealth, but on humanity and helping others to get their happiness.
According to Gardner, life journey is always a process of lesson learning and forward moving:
“People often ask me would I trade anything from my past, and I quickly tell them NO, because my past helped to make me into the person I am today.”
“On that life journey, mental focus is essential: focusing not just on the big things in life but also on the small things as well; appreciating what you have rather than dwelling on what you lack.”
“What seems like nothing in the eyes of the world, when properly valued and put to use, can be among the greatest riches.”
“Wealth can also be that attitude of gratitude with which we remind ourselves everyday to count our blessings.”
“The balance in your life is more important than the balance in your checking account.”
According to Gardner, everything begins with self-belief and doing.
“I just wanted to make a million dollars. But I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t play ball, so I said to my mother, ‘How am I going to make a million dollars?’ And she said to me, ‘Son, if you believe you can do it, you will.’”
“It can be done, but you have to make it happen.”
The above illustrations show that money can make you happy or unhappy, depending on your money values, and how you apply them to your daily life and living -- that is, your money wisdom.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau