What is Your Relationship with Money?

Money is one of the greatest motivators for action in our world. To understand our relationship with money, let’s first briefly talk about money itself. Money is essentially a token (or other object) that functions as a medium of exchange at a socially agreed value and is accepted in payment for goods and services and in settlement of debts. Money also serves as a standard of value for measuring the relative worth of different goods and services and as a store of value. The absence of money can cause an economy to be inefficient because it requires a coincidence of wants between traders, and an agreement that these needs are of equal value, before a barter exchange can occur. The efficiency gains through the use of money are thought to encourage trade and the division of labor, in turn increasing productivity and wealth.

Thus, money is the symbol of our stored energy and represents the ability to conveniently and effectively trade our stored energy for things we desire without having to be in parity with the seller’s desire for the value we personally provide. Like the stored energy in a battery that can be used to power a light to illuminate our way or to trigger a bomb, money can be used for life-enhancing or destructive purposes. It is our relationship with money, including how we receive it, hold and spend it, that determines whether money has a positive, neutral or negative effect on our lives.

Our beliefs about money, exchange and value have a profound impact on our ability to create real wealth for ourselves and our world. Real wealth consists not of worthless paper, but of health, freedom, security, happiness, love and beauty. It’s true that our beliefs about money can attract or repel it. Some of us believe money is good, want lots of it and tend to attract it. Others believe money is evil, avoid placing their attention on it and tend to repel it.

Money doesn’t create abundance. Our universe, the earth and living systems create regenerative abundance, and occasionally humans do to. Money doesn’t choose us. It cannot make choices. We make choices on how we receive, hold and spend money. Money, in and of itself, isn’t alive, but through our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors regarding money, we give it energy and “aliveness.” It is through our energy, beliefs and behaviors that we have created a society that has largely elevated money over love, beauty, trust, abundance and wellbeing.

We have now arrived at a critical time in human history where our beliefs and behaviors will determine whether humankind will thrive or become extinct and whether money is more important than our survival.

What are you willing to sacrifice for money? The following questions will help determine your relationship and choices around money:

  • Would you give up your health for money?
  • Would you destroy the planet and beauty for money?
  • Would you give up your freedom for money?
  • Would you kill for money?
  • Would you give up your happiness for money?
  • Would you sell your family or yourself into slavery for money?
  • Would you cheat, lie and steal for money?

Most people would answer “No” to most or all of the foregoing questions. However, about 6.5 billion out of 7.5 billion people that in some manner support, work for, propagate and participate with governments, banks, corporations and systems that consistently engage in conduct that includes: 1) harming human health and well-being; 2) creating waste, pollution and toxicity that destroys our environment and its beauty; 3) diminishing happiness and connection of people; 4) causing and supporting war, destruction and killing; 5) exploiting people and planet; (6) promoting human servitude to a system that perpetuates debt, scarcity and disempowerment; and (7) lying, cheating, manipulating and stealing.

While there may be extenuating circumstances where some people might answer “Yes” to one or more of the foregoing questions, we should inquire into how much of our individual behavior directly and indirectly supports and perpetuates systemic dysfunction and sociopathy.

“Sociopathy” (now officially listed in the DSM as “Antisocial Personality Disorder”) is characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct but masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal.

Here is a small sampling showing how our society prioritizes the spending of its money and resources:

In addition to the foregoing, here are just a few examples of human activities that arguably fit into the definition of sociopathy:

  • Over $29 trillion has been spent in the global economic bailout from the 2008 financial crisis, according to Levy Economics Institute of Baird College. For this amount of money and human energy, we could have created a wholly new renewal energy smart grid, upgraded our water infrastructure, improved and provided free healthcare and education, advanced new modes of transportation, provided the “bottom of the pyramid” with ongoing water, food, and sanitation, replanted and preserved forests, repopulated the oceans, and created a new thriving regenerative economy. Instead, we used this massive amount of money to perpetuate a dysfunctional system with hand-outs, pork-barrel giveaways and large bonuses to the bankers that created the problem.[13]
  • Human activities are responsible for releasing 6,457,000,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years.[14] Of this total, 76%, was due to CO2 emissions largely from the combustion of fossil fuels.[15]
  • 5 billion people out of 7 billion live on $10/day or less, with 3 billion of the 5 billion living on $2.50 a day or less. About 80% of humanity lives in or near poverty and 8 of the wealthiest people control more resources than 3.6 billion of the poorest people.[16]

As a society, we can come up with trillions of dollars for war, unnecessary consumable products and bailing out financial institutions, but can’t seem to provide $6 billion a year for healthy drinking water and $23 billion for sanitization to save the lives of the millions of people, including more than 800,000 children, that die each year from lack of potable water and sanitization.[17] We also seem to have little awareness or concern for the devastating effects of overconsumption and industrialization, not to mention the manner in which we prioritize our spending.

When the foregoing examples are compared to the definitions of sociopathy and dysfunction above, it is clear that many of practices and activities of humans in modern society accepted as “normal” are actually sociopathic and dysfunctional.

I must admit my own participation in our dysfunctional society — I use computers and cells phones that promote child labor and environmental waste; I drive a hybrid that still uses fossil fuels contributing to pollution, ecological destruction and perpetuation of an industrialized war machine; I exchange my time for fiat money issued by the central banking system based upon debt and scarcity; and rather than growing my food, I buy it at a grocery store and support an inefficient greenhouse gas belching centralized supply chain. While I make significant efforts to be environmentally and socially conscious, participating in present-day modern society, is, by default, participating in dysfunction.

Most of us really don’t want stacks of worthless paper or electronic journal entries. Most of us want free time, clean air, pure water, nutritious food, comfortable shelter, good health, love, freedom, adventure, security, peace, meaningful connection and joy. We are often so focused on money as an end in itself that we forget the numerous ways we abundantly create, exchange and receive value that don’t involve money. We share and exchange our time and our resources. We do favors for each other, give acknowledgement, and show gratitude. We exchange love with our families, friends and loved ones. We engage in acts of kindness and support, such as a hug, lending a helping hand, giving compassion and listening. We engage in acts of beauty such as planting a garden or doing art. We share experiences such as watching a sunset, taking a hike, prayer/meditation, exercise and sports, listening to music, enjoying art, theatre and dance and sharing a meal together. Ultimately, the greatest value we can exchange is that which enhances the quality of life, love, connection and thriving for humankind and the planet.

We can choose to use our time, resources and money in a way that transforms social dysfunction into function and creates a society that serves human and planetary thriving. Rather than an economy based upon destruction, debt, servitude and scarcity, imagine a world where the majority of people are engaged in meaningful work devoted to abundance, wellness, beauty and the thriving of humankind and the planet.

The two most impactful influences on culture and society in the history of humankind are (1) our environment, and (2) innovation.

· Environment. Our environment (e.g., land, water, growing season, weather, flora, fauna, family, friends, social conditioning and narratives) has, throughout history, been the greatest influence on our beliefs and behavior, and therefore human culture. Most cultural beliefs, behaviors and practices arose from adapting to the land and physical environment where we were born. These cultural beliefs and practices were handed down through generations, including survival skills, mating rituals, food production, dietary choices, creative expression, clothing, shelter and language. Changing our environment generally causes our beliefs, behaviors and culture to change. By focusing our time, resources and money on transforming our environments, cities and communities, we can disintermediate the need for a centralized, greenhouse gas belching and destructive supply chain and shift to developing wise, regenerative and resilient cities and communities

· Innovation. Over human history, innovation, most often provided by inventors and entrepreneurs, has massively transformed our world. For example, the advent of lightbulbs, the electric power grid, computers, digital printers, the Internet and smartphones has radically transformed our pre-electric world of writing documents with feather quills by candlelight and delivering them by stagecoach. Most change and innovation starts with imagination and becomes a vision. Vision in tangible form provides a demonstration. The demonstration, once adopted, becomes a movement and then a way of life. By directing capital to regenerative innovation, we can transform our water, food, energy, materials, waste, health and many other industries to create a regenerative economy that serves the health and thriving of humankind and our planet.

While top-down macro-systemic transformation is a bit like boiling the ocean with a match, we can make rapid, sweeping and practical changes to our socio-political-economic system by focusing investment and resources into (1) “Wise, Resilient and Regenerative Cities and Communities” that transform the environments, and (2) “Regenerative Innovation” that transforms industries and our economy. These two leverage points can provide economic, social and environmental benefits including (1) healing the planet and remediating the toxins in our air, water, land, food and built environments; (2) clean and renewable energy, infrastructure and transportation; (3) local, secure and resilient supplies of water, food, energy and materials; (4) upcycling, recycling and reuse of all waste products; (5) higher quality of life and health through optimal wellness programs designed to promote health rather than fight disease; (6) practical and applied education that builds skills and capacity for regenerative jobs as well as inclusivity, arts, inclusivity, emotional intelligence and collaboration; (7) creating new regenerative industries that will contribute to carbon drawdown; and (8) providing regenerative jobs, health, education and affordable living for all.

Making investments of money and resources in Wise, Resilient and Regenerative Cities and Communities” and “Regenerative Innovation” will accelerate and exponentiate the multi-trillion dollar “Regenerative Economy.” The Regenerative Economy will support a higher quality of life and health while also providing a booming economy that generates profits by achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”).

Even though the human population will expand along with consumption, our resources will multiply to meet the demand because of the economic commitment to regenerating our resources and ecosystems rather than taking resources without replenishment while destroying the capacity of the earth to provide for us. Our relationship with the way earn, save and use money will shift from scarcity to abundance, from destruction to creation and from dysfunction to thriving.

[1] SIPRI, Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade — says SIPRI — reaching $1917 billion in 2019; https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/global-military-expenditure-sees-largest-annual-increase-decade-says-sipri-reaching-1917-billion#:~:text=Global%20military%20expenditure%20sees%20largest%20annual%20increase%20in%20a%20decade,reaching%20%241917%20billion%20in%202019&text=(Stockholm%2C%2027%20April%202020),Peace%20Research%20Institute%20(SIPRI).

[2] http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=axB4c8xDmBAk

[3] https://blog.marketresearch.com/the-gambling-industry-forecasts-and-trends#:~:text=According%20to%20The%20Business%20Research,rate%20of%205.9%25%20through%202022.

[4] World Health Organization, Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach MDG target and universal coverage, p. 5 (2012); http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/75140/1/WHO_HSE_WSH_12.01_eng.pdf

[5] http://www.ukessays.com/dissertations/business/personal-care-products-industry.php

[6] World Health Organization, Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach MDG target and universal coverage, p. 5 (2012) -http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/75140/1/WHO_HSE_WSH_12.01_eng.

[7] http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/2238951/pet_care_forecast_revisit_2012_how_resilient_is

[8] http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/11239

[9] http://www.prweb.com/releases/gums_chewing_gum/sugarless_bubble_gum/prweb9246521.htm and http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-10-02/business/ct-biz-1003-gum-wars-20101001_1_capita-gum-consumption-gum-sales-gum-manufacturers

[10] http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/mods/theme_a/interact/www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/what03.shtml

[11] http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160718005552/en/Jewellery-Records-316-Billion-Sales-2016-15

[12] http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/mods/theme_a/interact/www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/what07.shtml

[13] $29,000,000,000,000: A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Bailout by Funding Facility and Recipient, James Felkerson, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (2011)

[14] EPA, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[15] EIA, Energy and the environment explained, eia.gov/energyexplained/energy-and-the-environment/where-greenhouse-gases-come-from.php

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/16/worlds-eight-richest-people-have-same-wealth-as-poorest-50

[17] https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html

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Mark Stephen Chasan

Mark Stephen Chasan

Mark Chasan is a lawyer, entrepreneur and financial advisor supporting regenerative communities and eco-social entrepreneurs to foster the Regenerative Economy.