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Money misconceptions: four financial fictions
By Tammy May

More money won't make you happy, but more financial control willLast year I participated in a fundraising debate where I had to argue for the affirmative team that money buys happiness. That’s not my personal opinion, but I was happy to argue for a good cause!

The debate highlighted that money is clouded by all sorts of misunderstandings. Much of it stems from the fact that we live in a money-centric culture. Too often, we measure life in dollars and cents instead of its intrinsic value. But what if we measured our worth by different metrics: friends, family, health, laughs, kind thoughts, gentle words, personal projects, hobbies, gratitude, self-respect, knowledge… How wealthy would you be?

The 20th of March marks the International Day of Happiness and to honour the event I want to address some popular money misconceptions. I hope, in the process, you’ll see yourself for the wealthy person you already are and the happy person you deserve to be!

Fiction 1: If I had more money, I’d be happier.

Don’t believe the hype: You are not your car, clothes, home, or job title. Sure, money pays the bills and gives us options, but it doesn’t buy self-worth. Happiness is an internal attitude that springs from self-respect. You generate self-respect by honouring your personal values. It has nothing to do with what you drive, the brand of your clothes, your address or your power over others. (Need examples? Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Eva Rausing, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe…)

That being said, there is a strong correlation between stress and unhappiness. After all, it’s hard to feel happy if you’re always worrying. If financial stress is a source of unhappiness for you, the key is to reduce your stress by getting a better handle on your finances. It’s not about having more money; it’s about having more control over your money. Less stress = more happiness!

Fiction 2: If I had more money, I wouldn’t have to work.

Work is not just about earning money. Humans have an innate need to be creative and productive. That doesn’t necessarily mean working to cure cancer or striving to be prime minister (though it might). It means finding work that satisfies your personal interests. One person may like working in a team, another may prefer working alone. Perhaps you like working outdoors, while your best friend prefers an office job.

It also helps to turn up to work with a happy attitude. One of the most valuable lessons I ever learnt happened when I was working at Hungry Jacks. I realised that I had a choice: I could focus on the negative aspects of the job or I could focus on the positives. The hours went by much faster when I was wearing a smile. I learnt that any work can be satisfying if you try your best and approach it with a positive attitude.

Fiction 3: If I had more money, I wouldn’t be in debt.

A big income is no guarantee of avoiding debt. In fact, people with big salaries can be more prone to overspending, especially if they feel pressure to look successful and affluent. The only way to avoid debt is to not borrow money, which includes credit cards.

The good news is that you can avoid debt by living within your means. If you’re relying on loans to make ends meet or your debt has become unmanageable, it’s time to analyse your finances by creating a detailed budget. (MyBudget offers this service for free.) Most people can pay their way out of debt without needing more credit.

Fiction 4: If I had more money, I’d be able to live my dreams.

If your dream is to buy a tropical island then, yes, you’ll need to become rich to achieve it. But most people’s dreams are much more modest than that. When I talk to people their dreams include things like touring the country in a campervan, staying at home while their kids are young, or taking an overseas holiday. These dreams are achievable! We can’t always have everything we want in life (especially tropical islands), but we can achieve the things that are important to us if we are willing to set ourselves goals and stick to a plan.

In summary... Having more money won't guarantee you happiness, but having more control over your finances is a great way to feel good about yourself and your future. The other advantages of practicing financial responsibility include finding deeper, more personal, less monetary ways to experience the beauty of life. I was reminded of this when I read this thoughtful client post:

“My children have become creative in thinking outside the square too, especially for Christmas and that you don’t need to a product to make someone happy… My son has decided to take his girlfriend to the beach and watch the sunset together on Christmas Day. I think that is just beautiful! Now, if we were not with MyBudget, I probably would have given my son $100 to go buy his girlfriend something and gone broke. It’s great to see MyBudget has also changed my children’s view of money and hopefully it stays with them throughout their lives.”

Wishing everyone a very happy International Day of Happiness for tomorrow!

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