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.

Here is a rundown of four of the worst offenders. As you read through this list, ask yourself whether or not you've internalized these ideas. If you have, I encourage you to actively work towards unlearning these 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 the 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: by spending less or by 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. Nobody ever claimed that it did. 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— and you can be happy and poor. You can also 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.

Bottom Line

The next time you catch yourself saying or thinking one of these popular clichés, stop and ponder what it really means. 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 phrases like this 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.