Money and your ego

“I owe, I owe. So off to work I go.” -Car bumper sticker

WHEN we buy stuff, we think we own it. The truth is the stuff owns us.

If we bought the stuff on credit, then we have contracted a set time in our future to pay for the stuff by working our tail off. We now are responsible for its care, upkeep or maintenance, its use, storage and final disposition. Pretty soon, we are out of living space and checking out those companies that rent out storage spaces.

With the passage of time, stuff lose their usefulness or simply become obsolete. Often, we simply lose interest in it because the stuff has gone out of fashion and there is a new thing on the market that we just have to have.

Parting with stuff IS sweet sorrow, particularly when some sentiment is attached to it. It It is getting rid of stuff that is hard when the time comes. And the time will indeed come when we leave behind all our wordly goods. If we don’t dispose of our stuff while we are still alive, other people will or the government will through probate. While we are still alive, we can choose to give our stuff away as a gift or to donate it. If the stuff is of any significant value like an heirloom quality antique diamond brooch, it can be an item bequeathed to a loved one in a final will and testament.

Through e-commerce, it is now easier to recoup all or some of the value of the stuff you bought by reselling it on Ebay or amazon.com But doing so is still work. Savvy resellers can even make money from their stuff. But these are the exception. Most resellers have to eat a loss. Appraisals are only benchmarks of value and not a guarantee of purchase price which is reached only when a seller finds a buyer actually willing to pay the price he sets.

Understanding and managing money is a survival skill. We all have a learning curve on survival skills. When it comes to money, some muster the concept and its practice faster than most. On the average though, the learning curve about money is steep.

More so for the young ones of today, the incline on how to become fiscally responsible has become even more of a slippery slope, with so much distraction in available stuff for sale. It does not help that media ant the internet have shed off all pretenses and have become one efficient selling machine, hawking an endless array of goods and services knowing which hot buttons to push to get us to part with our hard-earned cash.

Young people have to have the latest technological gizmo that comes on the market. They have to have name brand designer purses, dresses, perfume. The list is endless. Amazon is having a ball, at your expense, of course.

Whimsical wants camouflage as basic needs. The result: in early adulthood, many already face financial insolvency, unable to save and unable to understand why money has them in a stranglehold, unable to spread their wings and fly, their wings clipped by acquiring too much stuff and in the process, too much debt.

The educational emphasis to build healthy self esteem in the young has taken an unpleasant turn sometimes sadly resulting in producing a generation of self-absorbed individuals with huge egos, who honestly believe that they can buy their way into gaining the respect of their peers or the people around them because they can buy stuff. But one day, the young have to learn about money in the most expensive way — often, through bad experience.

There are no shortcuts in arriving at a decision to live a simple life. Sometimes, one has to go through a personal hell experiencing an inner fatigue and helplessness over the never-ending chase for the almighty dollar and quality of life in order to come to a conclusion that there has to be a better way than what is commonly believed.

Money is a major consideration in deciding to simplify one’s life. Let’s face it. Our attitude and relationship towards money have a lot to do with it. If you are always strapped for money because you are too deeply buried in debt, then money has you in a stranglehold. You have to work longer, harder hours in order to pay off the debt.

Think of it this way. If you buy a new car which you have to pay on installment for the next five or six years, you have just signed yourself on to work for the next five years to pay it off. If you love your work and can see yourself doing it for the same company for the next five years, then driving a new car and being able to pay for it are bonuses of the work that you love to do. But if you hate your job, it becomes a big problem. As Shakespeare would say.“Aye there’s the rub…” Overwhelming financial problems will prevent you from living simply.

Many who have taken the simple life path will tell you that being debt-free can be very liberating. It will allow you to breathe freely and lead you to appreciate everything with a twinkle in your eyes, about life under these big blue skies.

Saved money can give you options to take an extended leave, extended sabbaticals, switch gears to study for a change in career or simply to do the things you have always wanted to do but could not because you have been slaving your life away over things you have bought stashed in the garage, in the closet or in the basement in boxes still unopened or things you have been maintaining to impress and create a cool image.

To be able to save money, you will have to live below your means and pare down to the barest minimum your expenses to cover the basic necessities. Your treacherous, fat ego—the one that keeps wanting to impress others with bogus symbols of power and success—must be cut down to size. If you have neither the motivation nor the discipline to do this, it won’t happen. You will always be in dire need, trying to make ends meet.

Ergo, put that BIG, FAT EGO on a diet, pronto.

If you begin to understand your attitude about money and how you can make it work for you instead of you working for it, then you are on the right track. When it finally hits you that money can either free you or make a slave out of you depending on how you view it and how you use it, you can then begin to exercise the control you never knew you had over it. The reward is tremendous. You begin to experience a rare sense of freedom that only a simple life gives.

Charles Dickens, who lived from 1812 to 1870 during the Victorian era, summed it up when he wrote, “ Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, RESULT HAPPINESS. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, RESULT MISERY.

Some things never change. It was true then as it is now.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail monette.maglaya@asianjournalinc.com

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