Financial Indoctrination

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have an eager aspiration to have money. Before I even had an understanding of it, before I even knew its exact worth, I was a little hoarder. I quickly learned that to have more was to afford more. Of course, I was only in the market for chewing gum and gobstoppers, but I soon realised that if I denied myself the sweets and saved my pennies, I could obtain something far more rewarding with longer lasting satisfaction. I’m talking doll accessories, videos, CDs, shoes… a whole new marketplace opened up to my lustful eyes and outstretched hands. Henceforth, my marketplace grew and grew, until one day I’m looking at cars, flats, overseas holidays and puppies. And it’s never enough. It never feels like more. I am no happier now than the day I had a packet of gum and a pocket full of gobstoppers. 

You see, this whole concept of value being placed onto a piece of metal or paper is an entirely artificial way to do business. So many coins equal a chocolate bar and so many notes equal a car. But it’s still a trade-off. Like a wise person once said to me, “You can’t have the bread and the money for the bread”. To reiterate, if you have money for something, that is generally because you do not yet have that something, therefore, once you have acquired it, the money for it is gone. In this game of give and take we must always forfeit something, whether we are the buyer or the seller. The success of a good buyer or seller lies in their ability to lose the one of lesser value.

“You can’t have the bread and the money for the bread.”

But if we’re placing artificial value on metal and paper, what artificial value are we placing on these ‘somethings’ we’re trading them for? There are so many variables that decide how much something is worth: time, manpower, demand, scarcity… the list goes on, and all these variables have a monetary value placed on each of them to calculate what their bi-product is worth. The value of time itself depends largely on the person whose time can be traded for £1 an hour, or £100,000 an hour. You might believe that the person who trades their time at the rate of £1 an hour is wasting their time or undervaluing it, however, what you are really saying is that this person is not successful. They’ve sold themselves short. They’ve been robbed, exploited! Except, it’s not really for us to judge or decide what their time was worth in that trade-off, is it?

Let’s get back to my previous point: with every transaction we must suffer a loss and the truly successful trader knows what to lose. For example, my brother might decide to offer his lawn mowing services at £1 an hour and feel this is a good, fair and reasonable trade. The variables for deciding the value of his time may revolve around his age (9), his responsibilities (or lack thereof), his love of the outdoors (particularly the garden) and his desire for things of similarly low cost (a lava lamp). Thus, at £1 an hour, he has arguably ‘spent’ his time well. On the other hand, a lawyer can earn in excess of £25 for one hour of their time and feel this is a sour trade-off for the lack of sleep (due to stress) and guilt (for not spending that time with their family) suffered in this exchange. Or, they might be a light sleeper with no family commitments who would happily trade their time for much less. The point is, only we can place a value on our time and how it is spent. Likewise, only we can place a true value on that car, or that holiday, or that gobstopper. We get to decide whether it’s worth the trade.

So, instead of hoarding my money for the boasting rights on my savings account, or conversely, spending my money on that new dress, I ask myself, “What is that really worth to me?” Are my savings worth more than helping a family member with a loan? Is that dress worth the 8 hours I spent at work to afford it? Irrespective of the arbitrary monetary figure some other person or computer placed on it, I’m making the trade – what would I rather lose? Understanding money in this way helps me feel more content with the balance of my incomings and outgoings because I’m satisfied I got the best deal for me.

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