For most of us, dreams money can buy is symbolic of something much more significant than money itself. When we talk about money, most of the conversation is rooted in how to make or keep more of it. We create budgets to keep track of and reduce our expenses so we can save more. We often talk about how to negotiate for more equity or higher pay to earn more. Once we’ve amassed that cash, we look at how to wisely invest so we can enjoy it today while growing a reserve for the future.

What we don’t often talk about is how to spend that money to create the life we want. But knowing how to spend our money — or more precisely, use money as a tool — is a critical part of financial planning that’s often discounted.

The truth about money

Money is a tool. On its own, it is neither good nor bad; it is a means to an end. If anything, money is merely a means of exchanging value for value. In many circumstances, the truth is the problem isn’t money alone. It is in the lens through which we view money, how we approach money, and how we handle money.

While we should explore our feelings towards money and strive to manage it better, we should not allow our desire for more to consume us. Don’t get me wrong. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting more money, per se. Many affluent people have worked earnestly to attain the success necessary to accumulate wealth. It is the prioritization of accumulating money at all costs, that’s the problem. It is in this relentless pursuit that many of us realize that money is not, and never will be, the answer to what makes us happy. 

Indeed, while money can help us find happiness, we shouldn’t just expect it because it only represents half of the equation. The key is using money to afford experiences and memories, not just material things. In the grand scheme of things, money should enhance our lives, not control it. 

Think of money as a tool, not as a goal. 

Money is important because it enables us to have more control over our lives. In essence, it is a tool that affords us the freedom to carve out our own path and have fewer constraints on our choices. When we shift our perspective to view money as a tool that permits us to grow our wealth and do the things we want for as long as we want, we’ve come one step closer to enjoying a mindset of fulfillment. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you inherited a million dollars and decided you wanted to purchase your dream car. Let’s go with a Porsche and estimate the car payments to be about $800 per month.

Most people would likely finance and start making monthly payments or buy the car outright. After all, you have a million-dollar stash.

But, those who view money as a tool, might do something as simple as this: Place the million dollars in an interest-bearing account that produces a 1% return and then use the $833 per month of accumulated interest to pay for the car.

Rather than spending money on the car and taking away from the newfound million, you’d get to have your cake and eat it too.

While this example may be somewhat one-dimensional, it inevitably demonstrates the idea of using money as a tool to kindle fulfillment.

Live with money, not for money. 

Money only has value when you use it to live your life. Not only this, but how you manage your money should be determined entirely by your personal goals and values. The way I see it, money is a tool that empowers us to protect ourselves, build a legacy for ourselves and our family, and give back to our community. For me, that’s the reasoning behind its significance. If you can master this money mindset, you’ll be further along than most.

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