How to Worry less about Money by John Armstrong

There is a distinction between money worries and troubles. Worries are connected with imagination. Troubles are when you have difficulty paying your bill. Most advice for money problems is to find ways to increase one’s wealth. The more important to ask is ‘How much money do I need’. What will you be buying with that money? ‘What’s the link between money and the good life?’ Similarly, there is a difference between training and education. The way we have taught about money matters is more of a training than an education per se. Karl Marx didn’t believe money did any good on society. There are also schools of thought where money is viewed neutrally. Ask yourself, what is the role of money in your life? What is your equivalent theory of money?

Thinking about Money

What are money worries really about? My life will have a lot of pains and hassles? ‘Money will force me to spend a lot of time just making enough to get by’. ‘I’ll miss the good things that I long for.’ ‘Money is like a virus’. The important questions to ask are ‘What is the best way for me to get that money?’; ‘What are my economic responsibilities to other people?’ There are definitely underlying causes to one’s worries that must be addressed. Sometimes, people worry about things when they compare what they own with others around them. They don’t want to be judged by others. One should think hard before buying a new car. People worry once they compare themselves to admirable people. If your objectives and worries are vague, all the more you need to pay attention to them.

A Good Relationship with Money. Money brings a certain level of spending power. Instead of addressing the quantity of money, it is better to address your relationship with it and the feelings you have. Some form of angst is inevitable. The aim of adult life is to worry well.

You might grow up (as I did) in a grim environment and long to make enough money to escape it. But that can feel like losing your roots. Or, in order to make enough money to survive in a competitive world, you might feel you have to sell out and never devote yourself to the things that you wish you could focus on, like family, creativity, changing the world or simply cultivating your garden. – John Armstrong

Part III: The Secret Meaning of Money. Emotional baggage can cause problems. Some people feel that money means an enviable time together. A money solution is unlikely to solve a romantic problem. Money may not ease relationship tensions. Some people feel that they always want more and that what they have is never enough. Sometimes, it is important to confront your insecurities. Some people just want to earn and spend more than others so that they can feel better about themselves. Others may not want so much money as their money management skills are poor and the money often gets squandered away. People often view others’ self-worth based on their wealth. This is creepy indeed and should not be the case in society. Wealth can create social classes and strata. Sometimes, money can be seen as a form of goodness. Money should just be a neutral mechanism for exchange. Money can cause us to behave in strange ways. We need to improve our relationship with money as a whole.

How to Strip Off. Acknowledge that you treat money in strange ways. Associate some words with money. Do you associate hassles with a lack of money? Do you associate a lack of money with ‘I’ll never escape’? Your troubles will not simply go away with more money. Do not feel happy when others are unhappy. What’s your most embarrassing moment with money? What are your worst fears about money? Ask yourself these deep questions. Stripping away basically means clarifying one’s own relationship with money. How do we find people also interested in this conversation? You should try to look out for the following people. 1) People who encourage us to be realistic. Setting too high expectations might make you disappointed. 2) People who don’t use money as a way of humiliating others. Avoid these people at all costs. 3) People who don’t spread despair and resentment about money. 4) People who encourage good habits. 5) People who are open about their own economic experiences. 6) People who listen – and don’t project their situation onto yours. Do not use others’ lives as a model for your own. 7) People who open our minds to thinking more clearly about our situation, opportunities and difficulties.

What is Money? It is essentially a means of exchange. Barter trade happened because of this. Money can buy you possessions and experiences. How efficient do you use your money to turn it into possessions and experiences? How do you turn work into money? The problem is some people see education as earning potential or a painting as just a price tag. Do not view every possession just as money or the ability for it to make you more money. View your house as a home rather than an economic vehicle.

Another common fear is that even when there is enough money, one is not actually able to translate it into good enough possessions and experiences. Money on its own does not show you how to do that. – John Armstrong

The task of life is to translate efforts and activities that are inherently worthwhile into possessions and experiences that are themselves of lasting and true value. – John Armstrong

Money and the Good Life

Money as an Ingredient. Money is an instrument. It should be used efficiently and effectively. Understand the diminishing return in terms of happiness when you accumulate more money. Even you lead a glamorous lifestyle, it is possible to be depressed. Money cannot buy happiness. We should talk about flourishing and not happiness. Most people like to do things with others. Flourishing means doing things that are important to you, even if they might be unpleasant. It also means making the best use of our capacities and abilities. Be involved in things that are worthwhile. Money creates potential for flourishing. However, money is not the sole cause of flourishing. It is simply an ingredient. The important question is ‘How much do I need?’ What are your real objectives? What does money contribute?

Money can indeed buy things that make you feel serene: the plush hotel etc. But there are many possible sources of serenity, such as a good temperament, stable relationships, taking physical exercise, possessing a religious belief, listening to music etc. – John Armstrong

A good life is still a life. It must involve its full share of suffering, loneliness, disappointment and coming to terms with one’s own mortality and the deaths of those one loves. – John Armstrong

Jane Austen’s Theory of Marriage. Is money connected to love and sex? Love benefits from a healthy economic conditions. There are other foundations required for a good relationship. If you have a good salary, but have an extravagant lifestyle, you are unlikely to be rich. The important lesson to learn is that money is necessary, but not sufficient. It is important to marry someone of decent financial background. It is a crucial ingredient in marriage. Money worries can cause conflicts in a relationship.

Envy as Education. What if you have a dream but your current income level is far from achieving it? Take it seriously. Learn to be creative. Do not simply copy others. Think about the elements of your dream that can be incorporated in your life now even though you have less money. Try to reproduce the underlying virtues. Often, you don’t need radical changes in your life to feel happy.

When a person dies, we know we have to take the sorrow seriously. We don’t pretend that the person didn’t die or that it doesn’t matter. In a less intense but still important matter, we should mourn the loss of other things we love. – John Armstrong

Creating Order

Need vs Want. How important is that object in your life? What can it do for you? A violinist NEEDS a really expensive bow. This is because the bow has played a central role in that person’s life. Hence, meeting a need can be out of reach. However, it is a worthy pursuit as compared to a want. Some purchases will not help you to develop or flourish. How do you differentiate need from desire? How good will it be for this thing to enter my life? Do not simply tell yourself that if you can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter whether you have it or not. The trick is to work out your needs without taking into account the price of the items. There are higher needs that might enable you to flourish as an individual. Distinguish between middle and higher needs. Middle-order needs relate more to sociability and status. There is an indirect costs of higher needs. Do not do things just to gain status. Higher needs are not simply about craving for status. It is okay to envy someone, however, we must know exactly what aspects of the person we envy. We need to find the right type of company.

How Much Money Do I need? Instead of being realistic about what you can afford, be realistic about what you need. Write them down a table. This is a sober reality check. Then after it’s written down, ask yourself what can be done in order to get closer to meeting your true needs. You can live in a bigger house if you move to the suburbs. Is a holiday more important than presents? What things are good for my long-term well-being?

Price vs Value. Value is a personal judgement and it depends on your character, perspectives etc. Some people are resourceful, but that doesn’t make them stingy. Some of them have good taste and don’t follow fashion. Learn to be creative. Spending money is an art, not a science. Learn to pay attention to the hints around you to draw inspiration from. You can be creative.

Longing and Fear. Keep your house neat. Do not clutter. The fear has to be overcome. To me, the thought of organizing my money drawing makes me fearful. The solution is about money. I feel bad about my relationship with money. Labour can be dignifying if it leads to a grander aspect of existence. Spread the difficult task over a few days. Cultivate the art of tracking your domestic finance. There is indeed a beauty to neatness and clarity. When confronting a difficult task, it is best to do it in stages. There is beauty in going about our ordinary lives.

How to Make Money and be a good person at the same time

Having and Doing. Money is like a ‘virus’. For a child, he thinks that the more fun an activity is, the more good things flow from it. However, this doesn’t often happen in reality. Some children believe that money equals happiness. A lot of people want to make enough money and care about what they are doing too. We need to care about both having and doing simultaneously. If you want to maximize intrinsic good for society and through the course of it, you make a lot of money, that’s alright. It is very difficult to escape capitalism because it is so prevalent in society. However, we can be more hopeful over it. Is it so difficult to be a good person and to flourish financially?

What Rex Got Wrong and Other lessons. Is it possible to make money and meet the higher needs of humanity? Learn to pay attention to the cause of profits. Sometimes by commercializing something, you cheapen and degrade it. Commodification is a bad thing? Create an economic base. Standardization causes something to lack a soul. Industrialization has its benefits. We need to understand the ends, so that we will know what means to take. Constantly ask what is the good that is being served? Society needs to answer the question of what good does art serve. Money can be made in so many ways. It is important to ask how they made it.

My Place in the Big Picture

The Problems of the Rich. The desire for wealth is almost universal. However, the rich have their problems as well. Wealth from inheritance is pure lucky and it is through no effort on your own. If you receive it, you should not feel any superstitious sense of entitlement etc. Even wealthy people become envious over others. Having money might not free you completely. Rich people often feel like they can do whatever they want. Rich people have to fight off temptations as alcohol is detrimental to health etc. They feel they have the power to destroy others if they wanted to. Rich people don’t usually rise up to philanthropic examples of people in the past.

The Virtues of Poverty. Is there anything we can learn about it? This means indifference to possessions. Voluntary poverty might be good. Some people see possessions as corrupting. Being poor frees you from being preoccupied with getting and spending. Inner security is the key here.

The Intimate Relationship with Money. Money worries are vastly different from money troubles. We need to be more attentive to our experiences with money. Worrying less helps. Ask what does money mean to you.

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