In last week’s post, I detoured into a more philosophical perspective about what money means to me. I highlighted two impressions: first, it’s a means and not the end; and second, it’s a reservoir for the good, when used productively. I did so because I think it’s important that you understand what my relationship is to money, if you are to read my advice on money matters. But also because as you begin to build your self-confidence and competencies to become and act as a DIY investor, you should recognize more broadly that underneath the physical currency, rewards credit cards, or 401(k) portfolio account statements you receive, there is a living and profound subjective experience each moment you interact with your money.

My goal is to help inform and inspire you about money matters, mostly here on DIY investing, but also on a range of personal finance topics, such as budgeting and saving. But to do that I want to dispel counterproductive notions of money, such as keeping up with the Joneses or that money equates to a happier life. Money does not lead proportionally to a happier life. Just because you have more money, doesn’t imply that you will be more content. More “stuff” just takes up more space. On the contrary, however, how you use your money to achieve your most inner, productive ambitions can help you live a more fulfilling life.

And yet so much of pop culture idolizes money solely for money’s sake. In my opinion, you don’t want your mindset to land in that place. Instead, you want to be in a position where money is the conduity through which you achieve your dreams and aspirations. It’s the journey; not the destination. To do so, take some time and contemplate for a moment on these four questions to improve your relationship with money:

  • Why do I want to earn and accumulate money in the first place?
  • What am I going to do with my money once I have enough of it?
  • How am I personally defined in relationship to the money that I have?
  • Who will benefit positively from the money I have accumulated?

Indeed, we are hardwired to see money as the goal, but it’s not. And this hardwiring isn’t just a modern notion. On the contrary, turn back to Victorian literature to see all the money scheming that takes place in a Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope novel, or even look as far back to ancient Jewish literature, where the rabbis pose the question, “Who is rich? He who is content.” It’s a rhetorical question probably asked to address money anxiety among the Levantine population. Message: Wealth is a state of mind more than it is a state of being.

I believe that you’ll become a better DIY investor once you internalize the mantra that money is the means and not the end. In the end, you’ll be more focused on important matters in your life, such as investing in your growth and development, spending on meaningful life experiences, and giving back to the community to elevate and empower others. You can achieve so much, what’s stopping you?

Follow me on Twitter @MatthewKMiller.

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