Money is one of the most important aspects of our lives. It is involved in almost everything we do from the purchases we can or can’t make, the schools we go to, the neighborhoods we grow up in, the success in our relationships, and the status we hold in society. Money is the main driver behind the careers we pursue and it is what we spend an overwhelming amount of our time working for. As adults we seek out jobs that will pay us well and we end up spending most of our adult lives in those jobs to sustain our lifestyles and pay for the things we need in life. This includes food, cars, housing, entertainment, vacations, and most simply put the cost to live.
Money has increased its control on us over the years as our society has become more materialistic and our jobs have increasingly been paying us more. Living in one of the richest countries in the world, our access to money has become abundant, yet still so many of us struggle to pay the bills every month. We put so much emphasis on how much we earn, the things we buy, and the idea that we have to provide a lavish for our families, but while doing this we begin to forget about the importance of saving the money we earn and focusing on things in life that really do matter.
This is where the title of this article comes in. How is it that money can matter so much yet mean so little.
Money matters so much because it is our ticket to freedom. The reason I write this blog about money really has very little in itself to do with money. Yes it is important to learn how to invest, how to save, and how to manage your money responsibly, but these are really just small little tools that lead us to a life of freedom. When I think of this goal I have set for myself of reaching financial independence I can see how many people around me would think that I am obsessed with money. I get jokes all the time about saving, being cheap, or not doing anything fun, all because I want to retire early. I think about this stuff a lot because I truly don’t feel that I have withheld myself from doing things I want or deprived myself of things that would make me happier. What I have done is gotten a really good grasp on the things in life that really bring happiness. It just so happens that money ties into this very well and I have been fortunate enough to educate myself about it. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Over the past six weeks I have been volunteering at a school teaching 8th graders all about money, financial literacy, budgeting, and even a little bit about financial independence. I have absolutely loved teaching this topic to these kids and I never would have imagined that they would be so receptive to it. This last week I broke the news to them that it would be my last class with them and I gave them a few minutes to give me some feedback on what they thought of the class and how it could be better. The overwhelming response was that they were so happy they had the opportunity to learn about money because they had never even covered it at school or at home with their parents. They were appreciative that they had learned things that will actually impact their adult life and they now know the importance of not going into debt, avoiding buying things they can’t afford, and what credit cards are and the risks of using them.
While it was great to teach them about money one of the classes specifically asked if we could just talk about life. They were interested in what is hard about being an adult, what brings happiness, and what does it take to be successful. These kids blew me away with their deep thinking and were asking questions I don’t necessarily even have the answers to as I’m trying to figure this all out myself.
These kids got me thinking though and they really hit on the message I’ve been trying to portray on this blog and in my own personal life.That message will continue to be that the accumulation of money shouldn’t be your life goal, but that the accumulation of money will help you achieve your life goals.
As I stood before these kids I had to tell them my thoughts on what brings happiness. In my answer I never mentioned getting a high paying job, becoming rich, or having a nice car. What I told them is that they have to really focus on building strong relationships and friendships with others, achieving goals that they have set before themselves, finding hobbies that they enjoy, and doing whatever they can to help other people.
These things to me are what is most important in life and having that abundance of money from being financially responsible will only give you more time to focus on those things. I’m a big believer that so many people who struggle with their finances aren’t doing it on purpose. They either were not educated on it at a young age or they have gone through life experiences that have put them in a bad spot either emotionally or physically. Education is so important on this topic and I have seen time and time again that as soon as people start to hear the message that this blog and so many others are trying to share they generally latch on immediately.
The idea of fixing your finances is actually very uncomfortable though. It makes you come to terms with the fact that you have made mistakes and done things wrong in life. Maybe you spent way too much money on your car or clothes, took out loans to pay for things that you now regret, or went to a very expensive college and are now left with the loans that are attached. The great part about this is that so many people have been through the exact same situations as you, they have overcome it, and they are leading a life of happiness that isn’t shackled by stress and debt. I have a friend who is a perfect example of this. As he is closing in on his final months of paying off his debt he is already starting to look to the future, realizing his options are now endless. He may change jobs, move out of state, and start a whole new life which are all things he would not of been able to do without the freedom of having money. So while money is important, we have to understand that it is just a tool that will allow us to live our lives in the best way possible as the options will be endless.
So if you are scared about your current financial situation, don’t be. Like any other problems in life you just have to tackle it head on. Recovering from things like debt will not happen overnight, it is a journey that generally takes years along with a lot of learning along the way. Educate yourself by reading books, listening to podcasts, or reading blog posts. These pieces of information will change your life drastically and open you up to the fact that you have been doing so many things wrong this whole time that you weren’t even aware of. Guys like Mr. Money Mustache, or Brad and Jonathon from ChooseFI have drastically changed my life and the way I think about money and life in general. So take some time to evaluate your own personal situation, think about the things you’d rather be doing in life right now and how your current financial situation may be holding you back from that. Realize that there is no better time than now to make changes in your life to make you the best person you can be.
Thanks for reading,