Would it be better to start treating money as a chore?
A few weeks ago I asked a provocative question: why haven’t you got your money situation sorted?
If it doesn’t feel like it’s sorted, then you should really ask yourself why. Your answer will be illuminating. Take a look at your excuses. How many of them are real? How many have relatively simple solutions?
(You might be surprised).
Anyway, I wanted to look at one excuse I get a bit. It goes something like, “I haven’t focused on money because I’ve been living the life I love and doing what I want.”
“What I want” might mean extreme BMX. It might also mean something more righteous, like feeding the homeless or saving the planet. Whatever.
But it’s the idea that I put energy into non-monetary but meaning-rich pursuits, and as a result, I don’t have much money.
There’s nothing really wrong with this, as long as you are genuinely happy with the results, especially the part about being poor.
But I find most people aren’t really all that happy about being poor, actually, once you ask the question.
I also don’t really get the level of analysis – like why we’re even setting money and meaning up as competing pursuits.
The way I see it, taking care of your finances is like taking care of your house – it’s like doing housework.
Very few people derive their life’s meaning from housework. But you very rarely hear people say, “I’ve chosen to spend my time on more meaningful pursuits, and so as a result, I live in squalor.”
No one would really buy that. They would say, “Don’t try and pull that crap on me again Jon. There are some things in life that you just have to do, that are just a basic part of living – they are basic responsibilities that create the foundation from which you can launch more meaningful pursuits. So give your mother a break and pick up your clothes.”
We all need structures that support us in life. Money is one of those structures. It’s not the only structure, but if you’re not going with money, you still need to go with something.
So taking care of your finances is as basic as taking out the garbage.
The other thing with it is that money is just one of many essential things we need to get by in the modern world. But it’s the only one that has the meaning razor applied to it.
For example, money is an energy that helps me do what I need to do.
So is food.
But I don’t spend time worrying about whether my eating habits are increasing the amount of meaning and happiness in my life.
And so a statement like, “I’ve decided to focus on the things that make me happy, so I’m spending less time making money” sounds like it makes sense. You might even get a pat on the back for being so righteous and wise.
But if it’s true then a statement like, “I’ve decided to focus on the things that make me happy, so I’m spending less time eating” should be equally true. But it’s not. You sound ridiculous.
And so giving less time to your money, to me, makes about as much sense as giving less time to eating, household chores, personal hygiene, and time spent in traffic.
Some things you just have to do.
Of course there is a sweet spot to be found. If you spent all of your day in the shower grooming yourself, you’re life would be pretty shallow. Likewise, if you spent all your time working and chasing money, you are also wasting your life.
But I think the solution is to see your finances as a sort of ‘cost of doing business’. As rent on planet earth. Time spent there is just a necessary expense.
The flip side of that is that money is not an end in itself. It’s like electricity. The wise person stays focused on what they’re going to do with the power they have, not the power itself.
And that’s all not to say that you should stay in a job that makes you miserable. There are better ways to earn money – methods that are better suited to your personality – just as there are nicer things to eat, better vacuums to use, more efficient ways to commute to work.
It’s worth spending the time finding the systems that work for you.
But don’t think you’re winning any righteous points by shirking your chores.
Pull the finger out and just get it done.