If being debt-free and able to shop when we like isn’t a meaningful financial goal, what is?
Swap out the idea of financial wealth with physical health — would it be normal/desirable to aim to be disease-free and able to perform the physical feats we need to and/or want to? Only if we had been deprived of health or if the feats we want to perform are in some way exceptional for us (which given how many of us treat “our wants” as “needs”, may indeed be the case; so many of us are unhealthy and fat.)
The point is that money shares properties with health – it’s a resource, it’s a means to achieve other ends.
For those that share my psycho-financial profile, that of the “avoider”, a worthy goal might be for me to move towards a state of consciousness. Do I know what money I have and how I use it and am I making deliberate choices that match my values? No! Because I’d rather not think about it. Because if I do I suspect/fear I’ll find I can’t hope to meet what I’d consider the basics never mind any sort of ideal. Whereas in oblivion I can hope for the best.
Once we leave the realm of practical guidance on how to handle money and enter the space of why bother? What’s it all about? We come face to face with the Meaning of Life sort of stuff that seems a whole lot harder to get a grip on than how to set up a budget.
Jacob Needleman’s book Money and the Meaning of Life sounded like it might help me out at this juncture. But of course it didn’t. The read was, as you may’ve guessed sooner than I did, a head-wrecker. As he himself explains books rarely have the answers that only difficult real-life choices yield. The best bit of the whole book was the friendly 13 page User’s Guide at the front of his latest edition. If you’re in a bookstore just read that. As you can tell I didn’t check out the Amazon reviews first, no … the title was too tempting and being a compulsive book-buying I just went for it.
Redeeming feature: in the User’s Guide he offers a series of guiding questions which aren’t so easy to find in other places or rather, in all one place.
Here’s the one that leapt out at me:
We know we can take the measure of someone else by observing how he or she handles money. To what extent is it possible to take our own measure in the same way?