One of the most frequent questions we are asked is: “What is the relationship, if any, between Spirituality and money.” Obviously, it’s not a direct correlation since if it were, the most Spiritually advanced people would be the richest—and we know experientially that’s simply not so, unless of course, you define Mother Teresa as a terribly low achiever Spiritually, living and serving the way she did among the poorest of the poor.
On the other hand, there are people who have accumulated great wealth and use that wealth largely for the benefit of others. Sir John Templeton comes to mind.
The fact is that we live in a very unusual time, where change is happening at an ever-increasing rate. And if you happened to be a person from the planet Mars who had just landed here on Earth, judging by what you see in the news, as well as by the way most people here live their lives, you would likely conclude that the accumulation of as much wealth as possible was an extremely important part of human existence. And, in a sense, you’d be accurate—up to a certain point.
This brings us to what we refer to as Money Myths—ideas that many people have that directly impact their relationship with money. Let’s consider some of them.
The first Money Myth has to do with the rampant confusion between standard of living and quality of life. Many people believe that the higher their standard of living becomes, the greater quality of life they will experience. Really? That belief is probably part of why there are some very upscale, very expensive, addiction treatment centers.
Depending upon which study you read, the prevailing research shows that increases in one’s annual income, in today’s dollars somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 for a family, do result in enhanced happiness or satisfaction with life. However, anything beyond that amount, no matter how high you go, was reported to have hardly any effect. In fact, this situation is referred to as the “hedonic treadmill” and is defined as the tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals. According to the hedonic treadmill, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, resulting in no permanent gain in happiness.
A second Money Myth, hardly ever considered, is that somehow all the wealth you create will maintain itself. The fact is that you will be responsible for maintaining everything you create. A friend of ours has a yacht large enough to require a small boat on board to take passengers to and from the dock since the yacht must be moored at a buoy in the harbor of most destinations. On a short trip from Los Angeles to Catalina Island, around 26 miles each way, when we stopped for gas on the way home, it cost more than $1,000 to fill the yacht's tanks. Oh, yes, and then there were the buoy and mooring fees wherever we would go, plus the full-time mooring fee for the home port and the crew necessary for anything other than a short trip—you get the idea.
Please don’t misunderstand. We all had a fabulous time and can hardly wait for them to invite us again. We’re simply pointing out the fact that you’ll be responsible for maintaining everything you create.
The third and fourth Money Myths are based upon Spiritual principles inherent in Spiritual Psychology, and to have a sense of what they mean, it’s imperative to understand some basic assumptions about what we call the Spiritual Context. Basically, within the Spiritual Context, we are living in two quite separate, yet related, realities—what we refer to as the Goal Line of life and the Soul Line of life.
The Goal Line has to do with physical world reality where success is measured in terms of achievement, accomplishment, and acquisition—material gain. The more you achieve, the more successful you are perceived to be.
The Soul Line has to do with Spiritual Reality. It has little to do with physical world achievement. Rather, it’s all about Spiritual Awakening, or Waking Up, more and more into the Reality that you are a Divine Loving Being using your earthly life as an opportunity for engaging in the Awakening process in accordance with what your Soul has come to Earth to learn. We refer to this as Spiritual Curriculum.
Thus, the third Money Myth is that we have to create materially in order to have a fulfilling life. The truth is no matter how hard you try, or how fantastic your coach is, you simply cannot create materially outside of the bounds set by your Spiritual Curriculum. However, you can still resolve issues that limit you and go on to experience a deeply meaningful and fulfilling life.
And the fourth Money Myth, which has to do with the desire for accumulation of wealth for a variety of reasons, is that, in order to enter the next level of Spiritual Awakening, you may be required to let go of everything you spent so much time and energy creating. Notice, we didn’t say you will be required to let it go. We said, you may be required to let it go as part of surrendering certain attachments connected with your Spiritual Curriculum. For example, if you become a billionaire, you may need to donate huge sums of money to fulfill your Spiritual Curriculum.
If these ideas resonate within you, your next question might very well be, “Well then, how does a Divine Being using a human experience for the purpose of Awakening relate to money?”
On the Soul Line, money, like all other aspects of life on Earth, is used for the purpose of Spiritual Awakening. And for many, money is an integral part of their Spiritual Curriculum. How so, you might ask? Well, on one side of the coin are those whose Spiritual Curriculum is fulfilled through engaging in philanthropic work that benefits many. That is what their Soul is learning about and in order to fulfill that, they must have considerable financial resources to begin with.
On the other side, a student approached me (Ron) expressing her fears about ending up penniless, living on the street as a bag lady. As we talked, she revealed a pattern in her consciousness reflecting an unresolved issue having to do with money (on the physical level) and Trust (on the Spiritual level). This fear was overwhelming and led her to extreme frugality with her financial resources, reflecting patterns of deprivation and deep mistrust of herself and of Spirit. As I talked with her further, what came to Light was her belief that she was unworthy and undeserving. She had a well-established pattern of judging herself as inadequate, not measuring up, and, bottom line, basically unworthy. Her feelings of lack informed all aspects of her life including low-paying, unfulfilling work and a fear of going for a position more in alignment with her ability and education for fear she would be found wanting.
This illuminates a fifth Money Myth, which is that one’s net worth is an accurate indicator of one’s Self-Worth. Many people really believe that their level of material success equates to their value as a person, and since material success is often measured in terms of dollars, it’s easy to see how this confusion is maintained in today’s physical-world-oriented reality.
Within the context of Spiritual Psychology, focusing exclusively on material success can be thought of as being caught in the ego’s illusion of fool’s gold, whereas Awakening into the Awareness of your Self as a Soul using a human experience is where the True Gold of the Authentic Self is to be found.
So let’s consider an extremely important Spiritual Psychology Principle, which is, “How you relate to the issue IS the issue.” Might it be that the way you relate to money, rather than the amount of money you have, has a bearing on both your Self-Worth and the quality of your life in terms of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment? In all our years of working with people, this Principle has certainly proved itself to be accurate.
When Mary and I wrote the book Financial Freedom in 8 Minutes a Day, we defined Financial Freedom as “being at peace with your finances, regardless of how great or small your wealth,” and by wealth, we mean in material terms. To us, this is so important since we have seen over and over that only someone who is at peace with their finances is going to be able to experience the enjoyment and fulfillment that come from focusing on the quality of their life, by which we mean their sense of meaning, purpose, and the level of fulfillment they are experiencing.
Having said all of that, it’s also true that by daring to carefully consider your finances within the context of “how you relate to the issue IS the issue,” you open the door to the possibility that you can learn how to relate with your finances in a way such that you sacrifice judgment and emotional upset and are at Peace regardless of your financial conditions. This, to us, is the greatest experience of true Financial Freedom.
Another eye-opening realization we had when we began counseling people regarding their finances was that we were astonished to discover how many of them had no idea of the current state of their financial kingdom. So we took a survey of the several hundred students in our classes and were amazed to learn that 30% of them admitted they were unwilling to honestly look at their finances because they didn’t want to find out just how badly they were really doing. (And who knows how many were even afraid to admit that?) And what was most interesting is that in every single case where people dared to look, they discovered, much to their relief, that they were actually better off than they had imagined.
So the first major key is daring to honestly look. Getting a clue on what needs to be done can only occur once you dare to look at what is.
The second major key is that it’s not about the amount coming in but rather the relationship between the amount coming in and the amount going out that’s crucial.
The third major key is that in order to build wealth, you must have a plan, and the basis of any plan is a Tracking System that tells you the relationship between income and outflow. Obviously, it’s only when more is coming in than is going out that you have any success at accumulating wealth. It’s for that reason that we refer to a Tracking System as a Roadmap to Freedom.
The truly Financially Free person has learned to balance these variables to such a degree so as to have a maximum of 80% of what’s coming in pay all expenses. Then, 10% is invested in what we call a Wealth Building Account and the remaining 10% is donated to causes deemed worthy of support. These people tend to experience greater fulfillment in life more than any other group.
“But wait,” you might say, “in today’s economy that money is likely to erode in value.” Consider the possibility that the return on your investment is less important than the peace you’ll experience by knowing you are always going ahead. And the best part is that this pattern tends to habitualize over time so that it becomes automatic in your life. And for most people, once that happens, it’s a very happy day since, at the very least, as the Roman poet Ovid is reported to have said, “Add a little to a little and there will be a great heap.”