Obsessing over money is supposed to be a terrible thing. Those who think about it all the time are called money hungry or greedy. I agree, if all you do for the rest of your life is think and plot your dollars then you are simply obsessed. However, spending a few strategic years learning the ins and outs of money might help you prevent ever needing to obsess over money, much less fear it and subsequently waste it.
I was obsessed with my books the first 2 years of medical school. That doesn’t mean it was a bad thing. I needed to spend every waking moment studying and the rest of the time testing my knowledge to make sure I was retaining the material.
Budgeting is not obsessing over money. But it will take a few years of intense practice to master it. And you need to master it because everything revolves around money. Even your life can depend on it. Furthermore, as a healthcare professional, you are starting out way later than others so you have some catching up to do.
It’s Irresponsible To Not Obsess Over Money
I can make the argument that it takes an irresponsible person in this world to not obsess over money. The dollar can buy freedom. It can, and does, oppress entire nations. The dollar helps us out of poverty. It buys elections. It can be used to control another person. It can raise certain groups out of poverty. It can help the poor in other countries start businesses.
Money Isn’t Evil
I write from a perspective that money isn’t inherently evil. It’s a tool like my education was a tool. I can use it for good or I can use it for evil. I can use money to help me become financially free so that I can escape the greedy, monetary system of medicine.
You might be made to feel guilty if you talk about money too much or think about it excessively. Talking about money is taboo when it’s anything but a generality. It’s the same force that prevents people from openly sharing their annual income or net worth. Perhaps out of fear that they would be judged for not having enough or that they are bragging about their wealth.
Saving Money Isn’t Hoarding Money
I have been accused of hoarding money just so that I can get to my supposed destination of retirement. The onlooker assumed that my end-goal is to accumulate as much money as possible and then turn the engine off and cruise to my death. Not quite!
I’m not here to defend my lifestyle or portray it as a higher path. The reason I am writing this post today is because I believe that we need to think about money more, not less.
The Obsession Can Turn Into A Positive Force
There are endless books published on how to achieve a balance in life. It often is written by those who have the sick ability to juggle 10 different tasks simultaneously. Not just any task! They can be world-renowned professors, authors, athletes or artists, while being a parent, balancing a healthy lifestyle, and helping their fellow person. You people make me sick! Damn overachievers. Show-offs!
I don’t buy that. I believe for most of us, we need to really delve into certain topics and learn the shit out of it before being able to set it aside and have it go on cruise control. Not just learn it, but also put it into practice, fail strategically, and fine-tune it until we achieve a level of mastery.
Some topics need a high level of engagement at first
I’m not talking about typing or learning to tango. Those can be learned synchronously while you’re living your life. I’m referring to the mastery of money, exercise, diet, and relationships. These really aren’t covered by traditional education and the people who do teach it to us, such as our parents or friends, often don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Shit, I may not even have a clue what I’m talking about – but thank you to all 5 of you who are reading this blog, viewing it as your bible, your torah, your quran!
Sure, I was obsessed with budgeting and investing the first few years when I was learning a lot about it. I may have even tried to pick up some chicks by talking about floating interest rates… (call me!) But I believe it has since turned into a healthy balance. Of course, I also write about personal finances so I have to maintain a balanced level of engagement in the topic. I would actually say it’s the writing that I’m obsessed with not the topic of personal finance.
Once you master the topic, you can then spend very little time to keep it going. That’s what I enjoy about such skills – they require a big upfront investment and very little effort to maintain the results.
Unhealthy Obsessions With Money
There are a few common ways that a person can develop an unhealthy relationship with money. This isn’t always intentional, just a byproduct of how we are raised in this society.
The Money Hoarder
The money hoarder is petrified of losing it and so they do everything possible to not spend a dime. This is the fearful cheapskate, not the wisely frugal.
There are underlying fears that this person hasn’t addressed often unrelated to money. They have a weak support structure and possibly have formed an identity around the size of their bank account – it gives them a false feeling of security, much like their comb over, or spray tan, or bleached teeth, or their fake accent.
This money hoarder has no concept of enough, likely not just with money but other aspects of their life. They couldn’t tell you how much money is enough. Sure, maybe they would throw out some incomprehensible number like $10 million or $100 million – often a sum that few among us can conceptualize.
The money hoarder would be devastated if they lost it all or if the value of their savings dropped to nothing. I suspect they would be the first to climb atop the highest bridge to take a plunge after a major financial setback.
This person would rather cut their own wrists than to give any portion of their money away. Buying something for someone else is like tolerating a cavity without lidocaine.
Money Means Power
The other obsession is something I experienced myself from age 20-34. I was obsessed with the power of money. I was obsessed with the feelings money could bring with it. Spending it helped me distract from the reality of life. I could spend to mute negative feelings or I could get a ton of debt on credit cards and mortgages to feel like I was powerful.
A person who views money as power, usually men, will use it to control others. They will buy visibly expensive personal items. They will buy the biggest house on the block or an uncharacteristically expensive car. Everything is a status symbol for them. And if they can’t flaunt the purchase then it’s not worth having.
Sadly they often incorrectly assume that people are friends with them because of their money. Their self-worth is wrapped around the size of their paycheck.
This person will buy their friendships by paying for lavish dinners for others or buy very expensive gifts for family. Money is a tool used to control others around them. These are often workaholics since they don’t value time needed to put into relationships, they think that they need more money to pay to maintain those friendships.
The Money Hater
Those who associate money with devil horns can end up hating the whole concept of money. Money is evil and the good lord knows because he wrote about it on page blah, blah, blah. Leave the camel alone!
They don’t like talking about money and have very little insight into investing. They might be incredibly frugal, though often they are flagrant with their money. Their reasoning is that “It’s just money, what else are you supposed to do with it?” It’s their excuse to pay no attention to money.
This person believes that spending too much of their time on their finances will take them away from really living life. They know money exists but like to push it so far down in their psyche that it often resurfaces in an unhealthy obsession.
They view the many evil men in the world who use their wealth to oppress others. Perhaps they fear that they will become like those men.
There are those who just think the whole concept of money is either beyond them or something they don’t want to deal with. They probably don’t think in numerical terms, they don’t like the idea of investment risk, they hate percentages, and they don’t want their minds cluttered with such concrete thoughts.
They aren’t ignorant, but they just aren’t drawn to or inspired by the concept of money – they rather not have it on their mind. More women than men fall into this category, likely because the monetary system has been designed by men, some who use it to oppress women – which it accomplishes quite well when women remain in denial about money.
The Money Gambler
This person always finds a way to make a good income, they are probably a high earning healthcare professional in a high intensity specialty. They have 4-5 different income-generating projects running at the same time. From time to time, they even make it big.
The problem is that they are in it for the thrill. They have to always be gambling their money otherwise it has little value to them. It has value when they are buying something or investing in something. It even has value when they lose it all – it gives them a reason to earn more.
Invest in a taco stands with juggling taco makers? Sure! Let’s open 3 of them. A car wash with scantily clad bears? Money! I know the perfect gay bar.
The Turning Point
I realized sometime this year, maybe late 2016, that when I no longer care to have a lot of money or no longer fear losing it all, that’s when the obsession with money ends. I relinquished the power of control by creating the same value that money provides without relying on money. Lemme ‘splain.
Does that mean I don’t need any more money to live off of? Sort of. It means that I no longer need to depend on the system of money to feel the security that money provides me. The feeling of control and the feeling of security I got from money was a poorly evolved mindset – it needed to be perfected. I have since graduated to having those same feeling by depending on my network of friends/family and partially on my ability to provide value to my community.
I can still put money to good use. I can invest it and have it do what it’s supposed to do, generate opportunity and further the wellbeing of those around me.
Viewing Money As A Tool
I have the ability to earn an income within medicine and outside of clinical medicine. I have wonderful friends, whom I can rely on should I need a place to stay or help with a problem that I would otherwise have to pay to solve. Not only is this a wonderful feeling but a liberating one, as well.
If I can invest money in something safe and easy to understand, then that investment will generate an income, somewhat passively. It frees up my time, time which I can spend doing things which matter to me and make a bigger difference in the world.
Not Letting Money Control Us
Money controls the world. I mentioned this already but when I see how people use their money, I sometimes feel that I’m alone in this thinking. Money is printed by governments and rationed out to us by our jobs. We are rewarded with a raise and punished by taking our income away.
This system is in place because it’s assumed that no matter how much you are paid, you will spend right up to the limit of that.
You earn $150k a year as a PA and you’ll have a $400k home.
You earn $300k a year as a family doc and you’ll have a $700k home.
You earn $750k a year as a radiologist and you’ll have a $2.5 million home.
Set your own household budget. Completely disregard how others are living their lives. Use your money to build yourself the kind of lifestyle that you really wish you had. Budget, save, invest, and give back.
At first you may spend most of your time learning how to budget. Soon you’ll start cutting out things out of your life which you assumed were absolutely necessary. You then take that money and invest it in something safe, whatever that means to you. Then you start having more free time because you’ll have less need for income. You’ll start figuring out how you want to spend your free time and realize what a wonderful way of life this is. Next, you’ll try to figure out how you can help others realize this so that they can achieve the same.