#1: The correlation between having money, managing it well, and living a good life

21st September, 2020

Welcome to the Idiot Money newsletter. The newsletter that bothers to check if what it does all day, every day, is actually worth it.

This week: becoming wiser with money by understanding that how you allocate your money is the worst possible thing to do blindly.

There is no correlation between having money and living well. However, when it comes not to what people have, but how they are with what they have, there sure as shit is.

Personally and professionally, I’ve been inside the heads of the people that other people think they want to be (or rather that have what other people think they want to have).

Business folk, film folk, sport folk, idle posh folk… from the boardroom to the pages of Tatler, I’ve examined a circus of rich people’s relationships with money, even if they couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves.

And yet in the context of living, rather than simply existing, what more valuable act could there be?

Money misleads us into believing it will bring us what we want, when in reality it is only a well-disguised substitute. […] What is very bad indeed is when we try to meet ‘being’ wants with ‘having’ answers. If anything feels more like something you have rather than something you are in the process of becoming, it will never feel real […] becoming who you want makes having what you want happen by accident. The reverse is not true. [Continued...]

Socrates’ assertion, when on trial for his life, that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ may be the most famous line in classical philosophy. But what does it mean?

Socrates is saying that he would rather die than live a life governed by self-deception. He is on trial for seeking wisdom, for trying to understand what is real and living in alignment with it; for seeking to establish a rational basis for what to care about, and what to do. For seeking to express his authentic soul through his societal self.

Aligning what we do with what we (deep down, undistracted and undeceived) care about, rather than with what unreal deceptive influences tell us to care about, is what joins up having resources with living a good life.

It was so important to Socrates that he rather died than be prevented from doing it. So should it be for the rest of us. There’s bugger-all benefit in being rich if you use those riches in a miserably misaligned manner.

None of us is going to be forced to knock back a happy-hour hemlock. Sadly, our fate is worse. Because it’s all too easy to ignore. The slow suicide we don’t see, that hides in the unexamined, unchallenged, wiring of our minds, is far more dangerous.

This book should be seen in a symbolic light. A tempting beam from a brighter future that draws you along your own path to becoming a financial sage. That shines lights on previously unexamined aspects of your financial life, to inspire examination in a way that gradually changes how money is represented in your mind, in an ongoing virtuous cycle. [Continued...]

I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t. The ways that work are the same, and the ways that don’t are too. It is simple, and systematic.

Focusing on embracing what works and shunning what doesn’t should be everyone’s aim. Yet if anything, because of the way we’re wired, because of the way society is set-up, and sometimes because of the way the people we pay to help us are incentivised, everything gets flipped: we embrace what doesn’t work, and shun what does.

Often this is as easy as just asking if what we do blindly we’d still do consciously. This is a central principle of the book.

Asking ‘Does it work?’ is the bridge between the theoretical and the practical, and the inspiration for this book. If the screwy way most of us obsess over money, and the gap between its accumulation and its application in service if the Good Life actually worked, there would be no need for me to write, nor for you to read, this book. [Continued...]

This needs to change. For the stakes – your life savings, if not your life – couldn’t be higher. And the application – you’re thinking about money right now, and you’ll be spending some soon – could be neither more incessant nor more immediate. A poor relationship with money leads to poor money decisions leads to wasting money. And time. And energy. It leads to wasting your life. It leads to expressing yourself in ways that don’t feel right, but that you can justify in the short-term, conveniently overlooking the ability of the short-term to turn into the long-term when you’re not looking.

When the stakes are high and you’re busy looking elsewhere, it can be tempting to hire some help. Unfortunately, the obvious place to turn often doesn’t help at all. More on that next time.

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