The question, what does money mean to you, is not rhetorical.
It is a question asked, meant to illicit an answer, of what a person feels or thinks, money means to them.
Let’s first define money, I mean, we all know what cash is, a few bob, a few quid, Brewstered, loaded, rich, well off, or comfortable.
We all feel good on payday, and if we have a few notes/pounds in our pockets.
But what does money mean to you, what does it represent?
So I decided to ask a few people, some I knew and some I didn’t know, just what money means to them or what it represents.
One person responded saying money means freedom to them. In researching this, I found they were not alone in their feelings.
If you have unlimited funds, you don’t have to work, and if you wish, you can travel, you have the freedom to do what you wish, when you wish. You could even run for President of the United States.
Another person who I spoke with felt that money meant respect to them. If you have money and are rich you have people’s respect.
That may be true, however, there are some instances where being rich and having money may not gain you the respect you want.
Of course there were those that stated money was power, it made you a powerful person. If you were rich and owned a large company and employed hundreds of people, you had the power over their jobs and their lives.
That one response scared me a bit and wondered if there were others that felt that way, they have money, so they have power??
There also were those that had no real feelings about money. They know they need it to live, but have no real emotional ties or bonds with money.
There are those that are not materialistic or subscribe to the laws of consumerism. And it can be very liberating.
Money as a Motivational Tool
Money is quite a motivator when you think about it. I mean people steal and are criminals risking their personal freedom, and in some instances their very lives, just to get some money.
People even ridicule themselves and do silly things just to get money. Look at some of the game shows that have been on TV here and in America, and especially in Japan.
Money motivates us to get up each morning and go to work. If we did not go to work, we would not get paid. And while many of us love our jobs, we still want that financial reward at the end of the month.
A quote by Abd Er-Rahman III says, ”I have reigned for 50 years in victory and in peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to 14.”
There are two sides to the issue of money as a motivational tool with employees. One aspect is getting paid overtime, or getting paid more for a job well done, such as bonuses.
There also are tips, if someone does an outstanding job of service in a restaurant or pub, we tip them. Tipping and gratuities varies amongst countries and cultures, however many do certain rules for tipping.
In America tipping is expected, and servers are motivated to provide the best customer service they can in the hopes of getting good tips.
However, there is another side to that coin, if you look at the huge bonuses paid to some executives and bankers, they are millions, and the bank or company may still flounder or go bust.
A study done by Edward Deci in the 70’s showed differences in doing something because you liked it, or doing something for a reward.
In the study if a student was offered payment for a task, they were less likely to continue that task after payment was made.
Deci states, “People have three psychological needs – to feel autonomous, to feel competent and to feel related to others.”
Getting paid or money as a reward, does not meet these needs.
“This [negative effect of money on motivation] matters hugely. You need high quality performance from bankers. You need thinkers, problem solvers, people who can be creative and using money to motivate them will not get you that.”
Dan Ariely from Duke University in North Carolina, USA states, “If I ask you to help me change a tire on my car you might be willing to help, but if I offer you a dollar for this you don’t say to yourself ‘gee I get to help Dan and I get a dollar’. In contrast you say: ‘It’s a dollar, I don’t work for a dollar’ and you’re less interested in doing this.” In other words the introduction of financial incentives into a relationship by one party can undermine another’s motivation to perform a task.”
Deci goes on to say, “I am not suggesting that they [people] should not be well paid for doing their work.”
“I am saying we need to get out of the place of thinking that the way to motivate is to give them incentives for specific tasks. We need to think about how to make the workplace one in which people will get their needs satisfied and in which they will perform well.”
Obviously there needs to be a balance between work environment, who we work with, and how we are compensated.
Money as a Means to an End
We all now know that money represents and means different things to different people. We all may have a different relationship with money.
The bottom line here is that money represents a means to an end for all of us. Be it freedom, respect, or material possessions.
We also know that while money can buy us a lot of things, it does not necessarily equate itself to happiness.
“Money is a tool”. A tool to aid and help us achieve what we are looking to gain.
Money even gets equated to love, such as a man buying gifts for a woman, and the woman seeing this as love.
In a survey, it was found that men equalled money with freedom and power, while women associated money with love and “feelings of care”.
The study stated, “There has recently been an interest in the evolutionary psychology of consumption where socio-biological explanations are offered for numerous sex differences in shopping, spending and responding to advertising. On the other hand it has been argued that sex differences in money beliefs and behaviours are essentially a product of structural institutions and socialization and can therefore be relearned.”
It is a complicated and complex area, our relationship(s) with money. We know we need it, we know we need enough of it, we know what it can and cannot do, and for some of us, we are always in the pursuit of it.