Your value as a human being is not defined by the “stuff” you own. Our society has wrongfully assigned a value to people based on how much “stuff” they collect. Many of us suffer from a deadly disease called the “stuffit’s.” We spend a lot of money to buy things we can’t afford to impress people we don’t really like. I love the old adage “Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things for which you would not take money.”

There are those who believe that finance is an exact mathematical science. I’ve learned that personal finance is only 20 percent head knowledge and 80 percent behavior. Personal finance is who you are. Your personal, philosophical and emotional problems and strengths will be reflected in your use of money. If you are very disciplined, you can be a good saver. If you are very selfish or self-centered, you will surround yourself with toys you cannot afford.

Author Larry Burkett says money problems are normally not the real problem but instead are only the symptom of a personal shortfall. My counseling experience confirms Burkett’s statement, “Extreme amounts of money or extreme lack of it magnifies character.”

What We Do Shows Who We Are

We all have seen people get rich overnight through a lottery or inheritance and, because of their immaturity, lose the entire fortune.  On the other hand, I have seen people who grew more as individuals during a financial crisis than at any other time in their lives.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

Independent of What?

We Americans have developed a concept in the last several decades and we all strive for it – being “financially independent.”  Independent of what?  Can you gain enough money that you never have to worry or be cautious again?  Can you gain enough money that you can protect your family from injury or sickness? Can you accumulate enough money to be guaranteed you won’t lose everything due to war, famine, or the collapse of financial markets?  I have never read about or met anyone who could hoard this much money.  You can be a better manager and gain more control and peace in the handling of finance, but you can never be totally independent as long as you are alive.  Money is active, and you must keep managing it and moving it no matter how much you attain.  You can do well—and I expect you to—in handling of your money.  You should try to gain as much as you are able, but this pursuit should not become all-consuming.  You must be careful of spending all your energy and time trying to reach “financial independence” because this place is as nonexistent as the god of that golden calf.

The Dirty Word

We have discussed how the strengths and weaknesses in your life will affect your personal finances, but we cannot leave that subject without dealing with one of life’s dirtiest words—discipline.  You will have conflict, worry, shortages, and general lack of fun until you achieve some discipline in the handling of your funds. I am not saying you have to run or live in a financial boot camp, but you must start to think before you write that check. You must begin today to look at your finances differently from how you have done so before. You must recognize that you have to bring your finances under control. The recent events in our economy have proven that all overspending eventually comes to an end.

To Give or Not To Give

No farmer has grown any crops without first planting the seeds.  Personal growth requires that you give money away.  If you feel as if you don’t have enough to give, you can start by giving small amounts and by giving of your time.  You can give something.  Somehow giving reminds us that the world does not revolve around us no matter what our financial status.  Someone else is always in a much worse situation.  Good things that cannot be calculated or quantified are set in motion in your life when you give.  In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I do not totally understand what giving does to the human spirit, but I do know that I meet very few well-balanced, happy, healthy, wealthy people who don’t give. 

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. More than 1.5 million families have attended Financial Peace University in more than 30,000 churches nationwide. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Ramsey on Twitter and on the web at daveramsey.com.

Publication date: August 22, 2012