idealism and personal finance are not a match made in heaven. at least not according to die hard idealists.
they believe money is bad and that because they are good people, they shouldn’t be too concerned with it.
which is why, in this opinion piece, i will make the case for the contrary.
because i believe that dealing with for finances can bring your idealism to a whole different level and bring new opportunities to do good to yourself and others.
my way from idealism to personal finance
i cannot remember a time when i was not an idealist.
in contrast, i do remember a time when my finances were a necessary evil that i dreaded dealing with. it was the majority of my life.
so, when i started to get interested in personal finance, my friends reacted with mixed feelings.
some shrugged and saw it as yet another one of my quirks.
others instantly asked for a summary of my research for personal use.
it was when i started talking about investing, that i knew that i really lost them.
one reaction in particular stood out, because it made me question my values.
and what about a conscious lifestyle and investing (aka the bad capitalism)?
a linear journey
i had never asked myself these questions, because the journey from idealism to personal finance was a linear one for me.
the way from one to the other?
throughout months of decluttering again and again, i got used to questioning what i had and what i really needed.
and i definitely got more careful about what i wanted to add.
this then spilled to non-physical areas.
innocent ones at first
do i watch season 6 of this show because i still enjoy it or because i watched seasons 1-5?
i stopped watching a lot of shows.
then more serious ones
do i want this relationship with this person under these circumstances?
it was hard.
but it also felt good.
and somewhere along these lines, i got personal with my finances.
looking at them, putting them in order and getting serious about getting to know what i need to deal with them.
the big, big questions
in the beginning it was just one more area to declutter.
but soon, and with the mental space that came with my clutterfree(-ish) life, i felt urged to deal with the big, big questions :
what do i want for my future?
the hard truth is you can’t do finance without answering these questions first. or at least finance in YOUR best interest.
and i wanted to deal with them.
effectively and constructively.
once and for all.
whatever you think you want or you want to do, chances are you need money to do it (or to sustain yourself while you’re doing it).
so here is my current take on money.
inspired both by my personal values and the knowledge i acquired on this journey so far.
money is a tool
at its essence, money is a commodity.
it facilitates the exchange of goods and services.
to heavily paraphrase yuval noah harari’s sapiens, imagine there’s no money, imagine you work an office job and you would really like to eat a croissant for breakfast before work. what do you do?
do you go to a bakery on your way and offer to help them with administrative tasks in exchange for a croissant? how long do you work for your croissant? enough to put in one order for butter for the month?
now imagine you’re a physical therapist, but the entire staff of this particular bakery is in top physical health, how many bakeries do you have to check before you can offer your services?
and just how many minutes of physical therapy are the equivalent of a croissant?
now, imagine you are a divorce lawyer.
getting more and more complicated, right?
because it is.
this is why the idea of money first came into existence.
if all goods and services can be exchanged for the same commodity and everybody agrees on the worth of that commodity, well then you can exchange your physical therapy lessons for money and then exchange that money for your croissant.
easy. (or well, at least, easier).
money is a belief system
you may say now : money can’t be a tool. people don’t lose their cool to this extent over tools. tools are neutral. just think of a wrench.
yes, a lot of people have a lot of opinions and beliefs about money.
some think it’s THE best ever and get euro signs in their eyes just thinking of it and want to make as much of it as possible.
others think it’s THE worst ever and that it will be the downfall of mankind.
however, it’s not money that’s good or bad per se.
a bit like with cars.
sometimes, the driver can get into an accident.
but when they do, how many of them blame the car?
and even if it turns out that there was something wrong with the car, is it really the car’s fault?
or the fault of the entity that designed, built or serviced it?
it’s the same with money.
just like a car gets you from A to B, money gets you from a job to a roof over your head, groceries in your fridge, etc.
and just like with cars, money is a neutral tool, that is used (or built) in either a good or a bad way by people with either good or bad intentions.
as such it’s not money that’s bad.
it’s the greed of some of the people that use it, that’s bad.
money is time and freedom
unfortunately, as far as tools go, money ’s got mostly a bad reputation among the people who made the choice to do good in their lives.
it is therefore less recognized (and used) as a neutral tool by these people.
the bill and melinda gates foundation and the like aside.
which in my opinion is a shame, because money can go a long way to do good.
and i’m not even talking here about the obvious ways such as donating money to charities.
i’m talking about all the ways, we all could do good if we were financially independent.
even just partly.
let’s use our imagination again
imagine, the set-up of your personal finances would cover a percentage of your salary.
what would you do with the additional 10, 20 or so hours that you wouldn’t need to spend at your day job anymore?
more much needed downtime in our stressful world?
a passion project maybe, that would make you happier, more fulfilled?
or would you give back to the community more?
whatever it could be, imagine the impact a calmer, more fulfilled self would have on your environment alone?
let alone the world if more and more people used money in this way.
put your tool to good use
no matter what you think about money, you can’t deny that it is literally the world’s currency.
so when we come back to the real world and look at our goals, money will inevitably be a part of it.
no matter how noble or idealist our goals turn out to be.
which is why personal finances needs to be dealt with.
and just like with every other tool learning how to best use it will go a long way towards actually using it in the best way for you.
specifically if you are an idealist!
this is ultimately where financial education and financial literacy come in.
and somewhat further down the rabbit hole : maybe even investing.
i believe that investing my money is investing in my freedom in the future.
should that turn out to be changing the world with my words, opinions and ideas, well then so be it!
so, i guess all that remains is to ask :
what will your future freedom look like?
let me know in the comments!