The principles that are common to all spiritual teachings – presence, responsibility, oneness, balance, equanimity and simplicity – are not just lofty metaphysical goals. They are also guidelines for effective daily living, and we can apply them to ease the stress of life and make ourselves more conten
Many people struggle with personal finance. Money is the most common medium we have to interact with society, and it impossible to survive without it. The better we manage our money, the more fulfilling our life experiences and more peace of mind we have. Unfortunately, many of us don’t manage money well.
Our approach to money management begins in childhood. How our parents managed money and the way they lived form the early foundation of our money philosophy, and we either adopt their approach or rebel against it. The more our parents gravitated toward frugality or extravagance, the more likely we are to move toward one extreme or the other.
Our money management skills are further developed through education, either formal or informal. We may learn some basic financial knowledge in school, or we may learn through the examples of others who are really good, or really bad, at managing money.
The attitude we develop toward money in childhood combined with any formal or informal education we receive, determine how well prepared we are when we begin receiving regular paychecks and have to manage our own money. We may become rather adept at financial management, or we may never seem to “keep up” or “get ahead.”
Those who lack a sound foundation in financial management tend to struggle with money, and these struggles can lead to insecurity and self-doubt. As the struggles continue and intensify in adulthood, so does the insecurity. This is, perhaps, why money is one of the most taboo subjects. We are much more willing to tell others the results of our latest medical procedure or how often we have sex than we are to disclose how much money we have in the bank.
Everyone can learn and apply sound financial practices. It is true that some of us are good with numbers and some of us can retain more book knowledge, but prudent money management doesn’t require advanced math skills or an extensive financial vocabulary. We can control our finances by understanding a few basic concepts and having the discipline to employ them in our lives. And we can begin by remembering those core principles of effective daily living that have been passed down to us.
Presence: The first step in taking control of our personal finances is to be aware of our financial situation and recognize the need to regularly assess that situation. We simply can’t ignore that bills are coming due, that our debt is piling up, or that we are not saving enough for the future. We just can’t manage our money effectively until we step back and get a good view of our financial picture.
Responsibility: We can’t control our finances if we let someone else do it for us. Money management is too critical a part of our lives to delegate to others. We can seek advice, and we can follow a program developed in cooperation with someone else, but money management is a basic part of living. To effectively control any aspect of our lives we need to take personal responsibility for our affairs. Regardless of how many advisers we enlist, we must make our own decisions about our own lives.
Oneness: Financial planning and money management affect others as much as ourselves. We need to communicate with our spouses and children if we are having difficulties. Everyone needs to be involved to successfully carry out a plan. Reaching our goals is much easier when everyone is aware of those goals, and the reasons for them, especially since others can offer solutions which we may not have considered.
Balance: As with all aspects of life, sound financial management is a balancing act. We must find the optimum balance between what we need and what we want, between taking care of our current situation in the short-term and providing for our future needs in the long-term. Most importantly, we need to realize that money is just one of the important aspects of our lives, and it must be balanced with other areas so that our pursuit of financial success doesn’t jeopardize our health or our relationships.
Equanimity: To paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge, “I can think of nothing better for my welfare than a night of uninterrupted sleep!” Money problems cause us to worry, and lead us to question every financial transaction during the day before keeping us up at night. When we take control of our finances, we are comfortable with the assessment of our current situation and the plan that we have put in place to better it. We no longer panic if the furnace breaks down or the stock markets decline. Living according to our plan, and seeing the steady progress we are making, gives us the peace of mind to sleep at night.
Simplicity: We live in a time of ever-increasing complexity. We are constantly confronted with nearly infinite choices and varieties of the most commonplace things. This is partly due to being human, and partly due to the markets that aggressively compete for our money by offering us unique and ever-evolving opportunities. We cannot effectively manage our money if we don’t understand what our money is doing. We need to dig deep, underneath all of that complexity, to discover what is truly valuable — basic principles and guidelines that, once understood and applied, lead us to success and contentment.
Sound money management is really just common sense. Following a few fundamental principles can lead to financial security and put our minds at ease. Unfortunately, there is so much noise distracting us that the basic knowledge and skills we need to survive and thrive have become uncommon sense.