Money is a good thing, even a great thing—if used correctly. We need money to conduct commerce, provide for ourselves and our families, and help others in our communities in times of need. But can too much money turn into a bad thing?
The answer here, as with medicine and sunlight, is that too much money can become a bad thing for some people and in some situations. It has a great deal to do with how we attained it and what we do with it. But can too much money bring about our own destruction? Having money is not the issue. The problem is focusing too much on money or mishandling it.
A good example of this is individuals who win the lottery. In an article in Forbes magazine, author Susan Adams explores cautionary tales of lottery winners who have gone bankrupt. She writes, “Sudden wealth is most likely to exaggerate your current situation, but it won’t fundamentally change your sense of well-being. If you’re unhappy, you’re not good at managing money and you’re surrounded by people you don’t trust, a big win will probably make your problems worse.” According to one source Adams cites, 44 percent of lottery winners have spent all their winnings after only five years; another she uses indicates that lottery winners are twice as likely as average people to declare bankruptcy.
Professional athletes can also fall into the money trap. Some have little experience managing money, and then overnight they suddenly become incredibly wealthy. Then, if their career is cut short, they might not be able to maintain their large lifestyles when the excessive money stops rolling in. It isn’t the money itself that’s the problem—it’s when it becomes our preoccupation. It’s when we move it from its place as a tool and make it our focus—our god.
The temptation to use money to keep up with the Joneses can start at an early age. Even worse, we can easily pass unhealthy views about money on to our children. What other conclusion are they to make when we put our jobs and acquisition of wealth ahead of them? What else would they learn other than what they see their parents doing?
We think we’re providing a better home, the best toys, and the latest electronic gadgets. We’ll work long hours and make painful sacrifices, thinking it’s for the best. But our children really don’t want all the stuff; they want us—our presence. Instead, through our actions and our words, we might inadvertently pass down a legacy of keeping up with the Joneses to our children
A friend of ours relayed a story to us that makes this point better than anything we could write. She tells of a friend, a single mom who worked long hours in the banking industry. When her daughter turned eighteen, the mother asked what she wanted as a gift. The daughter’s answer: “I would love for you to take time off work and spend the whole day with me.”
The mother refused, reminding her daughter sternly, “Who do you think pays for your room, your car, your insurance, your nice clothes, and your cell phone? I have to work to do that!” Our friend told this mother, “I think she just told you that you are more important to her than all those things you buy her.” Unfortunately, this mother didn’t heed the advice, and years later the preferred focus on work cost her a relationship with her daughter, who now has very little to do with her.
Is the acquisition of more money and stuff or a greater lifestyle blinding you to the impact this drive for more can have on those closest to you?
Blessings on your continuing journey,
Bob & Susan Karcher
Authors | Speakers | Coaches