Thoughts and epiphanies about money while we go through the FPU course (and as I read blogs like Mr. Money Mustache)
Beliefs I'm just beginning to notice in myself:
Truths I'm just beginning to understand:
Becoming rich means increasing one's capacity to retain more money, increasing one's comfort level with possessing more money.
Money is a form of energy. A greater accumulation of money means a greater concentration of energy—a more intense experience with which we might not yet be comfortable.
Spending is a way of relieving the intensity. When money accumulates, the intensity rises and we feel discomfort. We can relieve the discomfort either by:
#2 is easier because it doesn't require us to change. #1 is harder because it means living on the growing edge of our comfort zone. And to grow constantly means to constantly face discomfort.
Money is just one area (albeit one far-reaching, highly-intertwined area) of our lives in which we turn down the intensity of our experience. We turn down the intensity of our day-to-day experience of aliveness by consuming addictive media and foods. Unnecessary expenditures are just another way of turning down the volume of our experience, of helping us to feel less. We waste money for the same reason we waste other forms of life energy. We only have so much capacity to feel...before we become overwhelmed.
[Here I would like to take a short detour to honor the intelligence of Life. The ability to turn down the intensity of our experience in order to protect ourselves is an exquisitely intelligent thing to do; it works very well and very efficiently and very naturally. This is important to recognize, because if we want to change certain behaviors, we need to do so in an ecological way that recognizes the impact of those changes and that offers alternatives that meet the original need for protection. For example, we can afford freedom to the unsure parts of ourselves that might feel threatened by the prospect of possessing more money. We can be gentle and respectful and ask ourselves permission to try on new behaviors without taking away the option of utilizing old behaviors, i.e. known strategies to maintain a sense of comfort and safety. We can focus on increasing our freedom by offering new behaviors rather than focus on restricting our freedom by taking old behaviors away. The most congruent and long-lasting changes will be those that our entire being chooses, from a place of freedom. This is good news: we are free to change, and we are free not to change. We are free. And even if we decide to possess more money, we will still be free to spend as well as to not spend.]
This is precisely the reason our bank account does not grow when our income grows. We feel the increasing flood of incoming money and we divert it away from us in order to maintain our normal feelings.
For our bank account to grow, we do not need to make more money. And if the only thing we did was to increase our income, we most certainly would not grow our bank account. Instead, we would just pass more money through our lives.
Being rich boils down to just one behavior: not spending. We could keep increasing our income more and more every year, but if we don't increase our capacity to not spend, then we won't retain any of it and we will not be rich. In other words, the fundamental behavior is saving money (and putting those saved dollars to work to make more money). Although at one level it seems obvious that to save means to not spend, there are large parts of my psyche that haven't made this connection. Large parts, for example, that still believe that not spending money means being poor.
The barely-conscious moral judgments are also holding me back ("it's greedy to possess more money"). Again, just as it's counter-productive to moralize the need to save money (since we will just rebel), it's also counter-productive to moralize the possession of less money, to make poverty a virtue and riches a vice. Both restrict our freedom. And if we absolutely must moralize, both restrict our freedom to obey God in our finances. They both represent muddled, small-minded thinking: groping for truth in the dark. We can rise above both. We can be much more available to Life if we are willing to embrace our freedom: we are free to be rich and we are free to be poor and we are free to change between the two.
Being rich means producing more market value than we consume. Our bank account balance is the measure of how much market value we have produced versus how much market value we have consumed. (I say "market value" since, thankfully, not everything of value is measured in dollars.)
Conversely (by this definition anyway), being poor means consuming more market value than you produce. Being poor means spending more.
While waking up this morning, I could just about feel the energy of money and the comfort I gain by spending it and the tension that's relieved by quickly converting it to material goods or by "investing" it in some new learning experience. The unspent money is like raw energy, pure potential. I feel a need to bring it down to earth, to contain it by converting it to some specific form. The raw energy and pure potential of unspent money—I can apparently handle only so much of it.
Tithing is easier than saving. It offloads the pure potential of unspent money into someone else's hands (or to my own hands but in a collective context, i.e. church council, where I have others to help me decide what to do with it).
Tithing is easier than saving, but I'd like to be able to do both.