Spoiler alert! The following contains a discussion of existential matters and the tangible and intangible means humans use in exchange for the things we want and need. Warning! Biblical references and world views may be cited.
What is money anyway, and how should we view it, use it, store it, and leave it? You can be thankful we will not be covering all of these in detail in this space. But even scratching the surface should be worthwhile.
First and perhaps in simplest form, money is a medium of exchange we use in social commerce to get what we want or need and to allow others the same ability. The relative freedom in our economy – compared with most others – to make these decisions ourselves about our own priorities is the heart of capitalism. You can use your money in ways I think are foolish while I place a high priority on eating high-quality ice cream!
Imagine how much time it would take for you to barter whatever good or service you could provide for everything you want and need. We too would be living in huts. You might have a horse or some animals, but no sophisticated system of specialization would be possible.
When boomers were youngsters decades ago, we still had few means for any quick transfers or payments of financial value. You could buy something if you sent a check or money order by snail mail and hope that it would arrive at its destination within a week, sometimes less.
You could have a checking account, a savings account, have a few government savings bonds in paper form, some stock certificates, cash, and coins made out of mostly silver if they were worth much. The dollar’s value was set at 1/35th troy ounce of gold by the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, and that lasted until August 1971. Life was pretty simple.
From that definition, we go on to more philosophical issues. Does money have more influence within our lives than it should? Do you know someone (or are you someone) who thinks he who has the most money when he dies wins life’s special prize? Do you suffer from anxiety about whether you will finish this life with at least a dollar left on your last day?
If we had a national vote today, I wonder if our future paper money would still be engraved with “In God We Trust” or instead might it say “In Gold We Trust?” Either way, it still spends regardless of your belief.
That leads to my introduction of the Apostle Paul’s advice to his spiritual son, Timothy, in his first letter about money or financial wealth. (In today’s parlance, Timothy was a local church pastor.)
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves a treasure of a good foundation for the future, so they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Those few words carry at least a thousand pages of possible thoughts and comments. I would only suggest you think about the place that money in its various forms has in your life and heart. Is it taking up a bigger place than it should for you to be happy and fulfilled? When we go to poor countries to help with building or other service projects, isn’t it amazing that people without much of anything seem to be much happier than the average U.S. citizen today?
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)
Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.