4 Negative Ideas About Money We Need to Unlearn

Do you have any misguided beliefs about money?

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Our society has plenty of clichés, images, and ideas about money that are detrimental to our financial well-being. The next time you catch yourself repeating such popular clichés, stop and ponder what they really mean. By internalizing negative ideas about money, you might be setting yourself up for financial stress.

Our behaviors and thoughts are linked, and by developing healthier thought patterns, you may create healthier financial behaviors. Additionally, make sure you don't utter negative phrases about money within earshot of children or young adults. They may act like they don't listen, but kids and teens pick up their financial attitudes from the grown-ups around them. You don't want them to start internalizing these self-defeating ideas.

Consider four of the worst offenders. As you read through this list, ask yourself whether or not you've internalized these ideas. If you have, actively work toward unlearning the concepts.

1. "Money is the root of all evil."

Technically, this isn’t even the accurate Biblical statement. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, which is different than money itself.

The love of money can be expressed as greed, but money itself is a tool, like a hammer. It can be used to smash your thumb, in which case a hammer is a tool being used for a negative purpose, or it can be used to build a house, in which case the hammer is being used for something positive that contributes to the world.

Money is just an object. It's neither benevolent nor evil. What matters is that we're good stewards of our money and use it in a way that aligns with our values.

If you find yourself overspending on clothes, shoes, and restaurants when your deepest values reflect wanting a secure retirement and making sure your kids can go to college, then the issue isn’t that money is evil. The issue is that you're not spending your money in a way that aligns with your purpose.

2. "It’s not what you earn, it’s what you save."

This is a misguided idea. Both what you earn and what you save matter. A high savings rate is admirable, but it ultimately won’t move the needle if you have an ultra-low income.

You’ll need to focus on increasing the gap between your earnings and your spending. That gap can be grown in two ways: spending less or earning more. Don’t ignore one for the sake of the other. Focus on both.

3. "Money can’t buy happiness."

Sure, that’s true, but it’s also irrelevant. Money can buy health care, housing, groceries, electricity, running water, vaccinations, medicine, and trips to the dentist.

Moreover, it can purchase a sense of security and peace of mind—especially once you know that your retirement accounts are being fully funded, you’re debt-free, and your kids have healthy college savings.

Don’t devalue money by saying that it doesn’t buy happiness. Most people don't claim that it does, so that’s beside the point.

4. "I'd rather be happy than rich."

This falls along the same line of thinking as "money can't buy happiness." People who make these statements are implying that you can be one or the other, but not both.

In reality, there's no tradeoff. You can be happy and rich at the same time just as you can be happy and poor. You also can be unhappy and poor, and you can be unhappy and rich. There's no reason to dismiss wealth based on a fear that it'll make you unhappy.