The Human Side of Money – Announcing ‘The Philosophy of Money’

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP



Stop for a minute and think about how we show the value of money.

Nice, neat columns on our financial statements. Rupees and Paise..

Money appears to be so clear-cut and logical, at least on paper.

Which is funny, if you think about it, because if you’re like me and almost every other person I’ve ever talked to, your feelings about money are anything but clear-cut and logical.

They’re tricky, sticky, and sometimes contradictory. Emotional, painful, joyful, and aspirational.

Money isn’t as neat and tidy as we would like it to be.

Try as we might, we can’t seem to figure out how to make money stay inside the lines.

Our relationship with money is as complex as the most intricate of dances. It leads and follows, sometimes stepping on our toes, at other times moving us effortlessly across the floor of life. We are taught to chase it, to hoard it, and to measure our worth by it, yet seldom are we schooled in the art of managing the emotions it stirs within us.

Consider for a moment how money impacts our decisions. It wields the power to influence our career choices, who we marry, where we live, and even how many children we decide to have. It shapes our social circles, our leisure activities, and often, the measure of respect we believe we deserve from others. It’s not just currency; it’s a current running through the very river of our lives, sometimes calm, sometimes tumultuous.

Yet, for something so deeply interwoven into our existence, our financial literacy seldom matches the required depth. We learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but not to understand or control the impulses to spend beyond our means or to confuse self-worth with net worth.

We are often left unprepared for the tides of economic change, the ebb and flow of markets, and the personal upheavals that can unsettle even the most carefully laid financial plans.

In truth, our financial systems and institutions are built on a foundation of predictability and logic, while our interactions with money remain inherently human – unpredictable, driven by desire, and often, by fear. The financial industry quantifies risk in percentages and basis points, but how do we measure the risk of sleepless nights caused by financial stress, or the joy derived from using money to fulfill a lifelong dream?

Money, in its essence, is a tool, a means to an end. Yet, in the theater of the human mind, it often becomes the end itself. It is a canvas onto which we project our insecurities, our ambitions, our generosity, and our greed. Understanding money’s multifaceted role in our lives is the first step in mastering it, in ensuring that while it may have the power to buy happiness up to a point, it does not become the yardstick by which we measure the depth of our joy or the breadth of our humanity.

I embark on this exploration of money’s complex nature, with my upcoming book, “The Philosophy of Money.” This book is not just another financial guide; it is an odyssey into the very soul of money, unearthing the emotional and psychological layers that govern our relationship with it.

In “The Philosophy of Money,” we will delve deeper into the paradoxes and paradigms that define our financial lives. We will examine the invisible threads that connect our values and beliefs to our bank accounts, and we will question the societal norms that have long dictated our financial behaviors.

Through the pages of this book, I invite you to a journey of self-discovery, to look beyond the numbers and embrace a more holistic understanding of what money truly represents in your life. It’s an opportunity to redefine wealth not by the weight of your wallet but by the richness of your life experiences.

“The Philosophy of Money” aims to shift perspectives – from seeing money as a master to utilizing it as a servant, from the stress of accumulation to the peace of contentment. It is a call to align our financial endeavors with our deepest life goals and to construct a life where money serves as a bridge to our aspirations, not as a barrier.

Here are several powerful yet simple examples that encapsulate the philosophical exploration of money as discussed:

 The Saver and The Spender: Imagine two siblings with identical incomes. One saves diligently, forgoing holidays and luxuries, driven by a fear of future scarcity. The other spends joyfully on experiences, prioritizing present happiness over future security. Their bank balances are vastly different, yet who is richer? The saver may retire early, but the spender has a wealth of memories. Money, therefore, is not just a figure in an account; it’s a reflection of our innermost values and fears.

The Philanthropist’s Dilemma: A successful entrepreneur donates generously to charity, not just for tax benefits, but from a desire to give back. Yet, she struggles internally—could the money have been better spent on her family, or could she have invested it back into her business for greater impact? This tension illustrates that even the act of giving money away is laden with complex motivations and outcomes.

The Windfall: A middle-class family inherits a significant sum from a distant relative. Overnight, their financial worries vanish. However, the windfall disrupts their simple lifestyle; relatives emerge with hands outstretched, friendships strain under envy, and their own spending habits change. The money has transformed their lives, but has it brought peace or turmoil?

The Retirement Mirage: A couple works tirelessly, dreaming of a retirement filled with travel and leisure. When they finally reach this milestone, they find the reality starkly different. Health issues limit mobility, and the travel industry has evolved; the places they longed to see have changed or become inaccessible. Their savings can afford the dream, but the dream itself has altered. Money’s promise of future happiness is not guaranteed.

The Minimalist Millionaire: A tech mogul lives in a modest home and drives an old car, not out of frugality, but from a belief that happiness cannot be bought. Her wealth lies in her ability to innovate and create, not in material possessions. This tech mogul’s philosophy suggests that the true value of money is deeply personal and varies from one individual to another. For her, money is not a tool for accumulating possessions to showcase success as often dictated by societal norms. Instead, she finds value in money’s ability to enable innovation and creation — elements that bring her personal fulfillment and joy. It’s a reminder that each person has the autonomy to define what money means to them, independent of societal expectations or pressures.

Each example serves to illustrate the multifaceted relationship we have with money, reinforcing the notion that it is not merely a currency, but a catalyst that can either confound or complement our deepest desires and aspirations.

I hope this book will challenge you to strip away the layers of conventional wisdom surrounding money, to rebuild your financial beliefs from the ground up. It is an invitation to transform your financial life from a source of anxiety to one of empowerment and fulfillment. Along the way you will be able to formulate a philosophy for spending, saving, investing, giving, and living a financial life that is true to yourself.

Stay tuned for the release of “The Philosophy of Money,” (December 2024) where we will confront the chaos, embrace the challenges, and celebrate the charms that money brings to our lives. Together, we will chart a course to a more mindful, purpose-driven approach to personal finance.