Naturally over time I think we all go through different phases on what I call our ‘Money Journeys’. Each journey is different, but I think they all kind of have similar stages and we all react to the stages and experiences differently. I will give a brief outline.
It starts with what I call the Dependent Phase – being a child and having your aunts and uncles give you cards on your birthday. Crisp 10, 20 and 50 pound notes, enticingly enveloped between the crease of an irrelevant card that is quickly dashed to the side. At this point you have no real understanding of the value of money, but you understand that:
Having money = Being able to buy sweets.
Your parents quickly pocket this money with the claims that they are ‘keeping it for you’ and then it is pretty much never seen again. Depending on your personality type and initial relationship with money, your reaction to this can range from ‘absolutely vexed’ to ‘nonchalant’. At this stage you haven’t really done anything to earn the money in the first place and I suppose, bar touching it upon opening the card – you never really own it.
The next phase is the Custodian Phase when your parents realise you will actually need to take custody of money to buy lunch at school etc. So some of us enter the realm of pocket money. This varies widely from those who are given £2 a day for lunch, to those who are gifted large sums with which to do as they please. Then there are those who are ‘paid’ to do chores at home and rewarded with currency for their efforts. Personally, my parents were not into paying me for tasks they could force me to do for free, so I was never part of this latter group – but it’s fine I’m not bitter. Again, although we probably didn’t realise it – our relationships and views on money, how it is acquired and spent were being formed slowly in these early interactions. Maybe if you were someone who was only given a small amount you would save your pennies diligently and if you were used to a steady flow, would spend more freely.
Then onto the student loan stage which I call the Exposed Phase. For many of us, this was the ultimate dream. Free money? (Disclaimer: it absolutely is not free money – as your Student Loan Company statement will remind you until you eventually pay it off, along with some wild interest). But every term, seeing a lump sum drop into your account would see a large majority of us living lavish for two weeks – if that – before returning to abject poverty for the remainder of the term. Whilst some of us worked part time during studies, it was nothing compared to the ‘loan drop’ that had us eagerly watching our bank accounts before running to our local student bar/favourite clothes shop to quickly spend our coins.
The Labour Phase is split into two parts. I think the first being when you have a menial job, maybe alongside your studies or even as your first job straight out of uni/school. At this point you are probably being paid by the hour and so before you make a purchase you think, ‘Is this worth a five hour shift?’ and then realise whatever it is, is not really worth buying for the amount of hours you had to work. There are also some people who think ‘yolo’ and spend as they please regardless of their earnings and live the pay check to pay check life, potentially even racking up credit card debts. The second part of the work phase is when you are actually earning dolla. Not like rich rich, but you know – you can probably contribute towards a pension and actually have savings. Or you can book loads of holidays, go clubbing every night and buy Balenciagas. Again, your relationship with money will probably dictate the actions you take here and is shaped not only by yourself but the actions of those around you. If you are in a social circle that behaves a certain way then you are more likely to adjust your actions to fall in line with those around you – keeping up with the Joneses.
I am sure we can all see aspects of ourselves within my ‘Money Journeys’ outline and I suppose there is no real right or wrong way to handle money (moral relativism and all that). For me personally, a quote from my mum probably sums up my relationship with money:
‘Money is called currency for a reason – it is meant to flow like a current and not remain stagnant.’
It is fine to save, spend and invest your money – none of those things is inherently bad, but I suppose you need to strike some sort of balance. I think for a long time I was keen to just keep my money and watch it build up (Igbo girls stand up) but over time I have realised that I am at my happiest when I recognise that it is just a tool for greater good. Money is a tool that we can utilise to make life better for the people around us and to achieve certain goals that we have. One example for me personally was with tithing – I did not tithe for a long time because I thought, well I don’t really have enough money. But then I sat and thought ‘Well what actually is enough?’. This doesn’t just apply to tithing, it could be donating money to charity or just buying people gifts. I think as humans we always have an innate desire for more. We could honestly double/triple our income and still think, ‘Ah but it’s not quite enough’. Lifestyle creep comes into this as well – which basically means the more you earn, the more luxurious your lifestyle becomes and so the more you spend. A lot of us see our self-worth in the amount of money we have and that is not the way it should be. We are all individuals with unique gifts, talents and interests and whilst money is something that is very useful it shouldn’t form the core of all our decisions. For example, you could take a job that pays 10k more, but if it means you never have free time to see your family or pursue your hobbies, is it really worth it? Which brings me to what I think is the final stage of money journeys – the Enlightened Phase. At this point you are comfortable, happy to use your money for philanthropic means, furthering the development and wellbeing of others and without expecting anything in return.
So, my aim with this post is to get you to reflect on your own money journey, think about your current relationship with money and think how you can better utilise it as a tool to pursue what you really want to do in life and to have a positive impact on others.