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Is Money "Bad"?


"The love of money is the root of all evil."

-Bible; Timothy 6:10


"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven."

-Bible, Matthew 19:24


"That was the best show I've seen." This is what I thought to myself as I'm watching Jesse Pinkman escape from slavery as Walter White dies in a meth lab that he influenced as the cops close in on the scene.

For many, Breaking Bad is somewhat of a case-in-point example people love to use to "prove" that money corrupts. Dopey high school chemistry teacher starts making a lot of money and turns into an egotistical maniac. If not for the money, he would still be a good man.

Perhaps you haven't seen Breaking Bad (sorry for the spoiler!). Maybe you remember stories about employees at Enron manipulating energy prices in order to earn larger bonuses and make more money. Or how the executives would talk to employees about the optimistic outlook for the future so they would want to buy more company stock, while simultaneously unloaded their own shares.

If you don't know about Enron, surely you remember how financier Bernie Madoff created and ran a giant Ponzi scheme, collecting hefty fees from clients in the process.

There's a good chance you've seen (or at least heard about) children of the wealthy, who often get television shows, who act like snobby, disconnected morons. We hate those people, and those people have money simply because they were born to wealthy parents, and we see how these wealthy people raise kids.

Many believers in big government want an expansive social safety net for those who are less fortunate. When asked why private citizens couldn't privately donate money to charities and other organizations to help solve those same problems the answer is, "because rich people are too greedy to do that."

These stories and beliefs contribute to something called money avoidance, which is avoiding money because of the negative emotions associated with it.

money corrupts

Money Scripts

If I asked you if you think money is bad, you would probably tell me, "no." Unfortunately, these money-avoidant beliefs are buried deep in our subconscious minds. Money scripts are subconscious beliefs and rules that we automatically follow about money. These scripts are written for us based mostly on our upbringing, and drive our current financial behaviors. Our brains write our money scripts based on what we witness as children, lessons that were passed on to us, and highly emotional money events that have happened to us.

Thus, money scripts are basically rules that we follow, and they fall into four categories. There are money worship money scripts - scripts that tell us that more money will make our lives better; money status money scripts - scripts that tell us that our self worth is tied to our money and our success; and money vigilance money scripts - scripts that tell us that it is bad to spend money on ourselves and money should not be talked about.

The final category is money avoidance money scripts. Common specific money scripts in this category include:

  • Rich people don't deserve their money

  • Money corrupts people

  • Money would make me into a bad person

  • People got money by taking advantage of others

  • Good people shouldn't care about money

  • You can love people or money, but not both

Potential Issue

The issues with having these (subconscious) beliefs is that it is very difficult, emotionally, to accumulate wealth if you think that having money is bad.

If you think that rich people don't deserve their money, how will you feel about yourself if you had money?

How likely are you to want to build up a nest egg if you believe that having that money will corrupt you?

If you hold onto a belief that good people shouldn't care about money, how uncomfortable are you going to be if you try to responsibly manage your money, thereby "caring" about it?

People who hold onto beliefs like this have a hard time with money. They are the people who can't get rid of windfalls fast enough (lottery winnings, insurance payouts, legal settlements). They are the people who never ask for raises or promotions. They'll work in jobs for which they are underpaid and overqualified.

It's important to understand that they have no idea they are doing this. Our conscious brains are very good at rationalizing our decisions. Someone squandering a windfall might tell himself a story about being generous with others now that he can afford to. Someone who works in a lower-paying job might tell herself a story about not wanting to deal with the hassle and stress of a promotion.

These beliefs lead many to the conclusion that you can like people or you can like money, but not both. Another way to say that is that you can have either have love or money. They believe the two are mutually exclusive, meaning there is zero overlap.

It doesn't occur to those with these beliefs that you can like people and money at the same time, and you can have both love and money.

Possible Solution

Sometimes just simply understanding the consequences of this kind of thinking can be enough to overcome them. Don't underestimate the power of conscious awareness. If you take some time, slow down, and consider why you might be making one decisions versus another, you might be able to determine the emotional beliefs that are driving your decisions and behaviors.

If you can identify the rules (money scripts) that might be influencing your decisions, test those automatic rules. If you want to show that a rule is true or false, you can try to show that it works in every single situation, which is very difficult to do. It's far easier, though, to find ONE situation in which it doesn't work. If you can show that a rule doesn't work at least one time, then you've disproven the rule.

Thus, it doesn't matter how many Walter Whites, Bernie Madoffs, Kenneth Lays, and Jeffery Skillings you can think of. If you can think of ONE person who has money and isn't corrupt, you've disproven your rule. For you that might be Warren Buffet, John Stewart, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, or your millionaire-next-door teacher neighbor. If you know one person who is well-off but isn't a jerk, you can start to unwind your belief. Unwinding your money avoidance beliefs if your first step toward building wealth.

You only have one life - live intentionally.

Read Next:


Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow

Brad Klontz, Ted Klontz: Mind Over Money

Sarah Newcomb: Loaded

Richard Wagner: Financial Planning 3.0


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© 2019 Money Health Solutions, LLC



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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