What Does Money Mean to You?

This is a guest article by Ray, the owner and primary author of Financial Highway, where he discusses investing, saving and practical money management concepts. You can check subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter.

Money plays an important role in all our lives; the fact that you are on this finance blog reading an article on money illustrates that money is an important topic to you. Earlier I discussed the importance of money and asked if money is the means to an end or an end in itself for you, the responses were interesting to say the least. Although majority of readers said it’s a means to an end, their “reasoning” varied widely. Today’s question is what does money mean to you?

Meaning of Money to You

We are often so consumed by earning money that we forget to take a minute and think about what it means to us; how do we feel about money and how does it effect our lives. For some money is just a necessity, they need/want just enough money to meet life’s basics needs. To other’s money means freedom and independence. Take a minute and think about what money means to you.

What feelings does the thought of money bring up? Is it worry, joy, freedom, anger, power…?

Do you give a percentage of your income to a charity? Do you share your wealth or do you control other’s with money?

For me the meaning of money has changed over time, when I was very young my parents were well off and I enjoyed more luxuries than most of my friends, but my parents fought constantly over money. As I grew older my parents lost all their wealth and I spent my teens being fairly poor compared to my friends while my parents continued to fight over money and eventually divorced each other. At this stage I developed an extreme hate for money, the thought of money would make me angry. As I grew older and started to earn some money, the meaning of money changed for me. Now money is a tool for me, it’s a tool to accomplish things and get what I need/want. Does it mean freedom to me? No it does not and I do not understand those who say money means freedom to them, if your freedom is dependent on money how free are you really? Aren’t you enslaved to money and money is your master? What will happen when you lose your money?

Although the meaning of money to me has changed over time, it has not become a symbol for freedom or independence.  What is the meaning of money to you? Has it changed over time?


  1. Money means freedom for me in the sense that a car means freedom or a musical instrument means freedom or being at the right weight means freedom. A car lets me get places that I could not go otherwise. An instrument lets me express myself in ways that I otherwise could not. Being at the right weight lets me go on hikes that I could not handle if I were not at the right weight.

    Would I lose my freedom if I lost my money? Yes, at least a good bit of it. There are many things that I would be required to give up. A person without a car does not lose all his freedoms. A person without an instrument does not lose all her freedoms. A person who loses his or her money loses a good bit of his or her freedoms, but not all of them.


  2. Money is reassurance for the life I want to live to enjoy it stress free. Of course if I had that type of money it would help and it’s just one less thing to worry about. Having money allows you to do things you want to do if you don’t have to work.

  3. I think that knowledge is much more powerful than money. Money can be taken away. Look at all the uber-rich who are now not-so-rich after the whole Madoff scandal. They are no longer as “powerful” as they were perceived to be before they lost all their money.

    If you are content with what you already have, than money has to no power for you. It can’t do anything for you. If you have the knowledge to provide for yourself and your family without money, than that knowledge does much more for you than money.

    We are so caught up in being marketed to. We are told that we must have this or that or the other thing. By whom? By people who want OUR money!! If you free yourself from that, that is true happiness and power.

  4. At its core, money is just a tool to get the things you need and want.

    But it can also be a means for freedom. I never really liked going to work. But I needed the money to live off of. So I saved, invested and lived fairly modestly. Now I have the freedom not to go to a job I did not like. I can do the things I enjoy instead.

  5. Just a means to an end, really.

    Of course, I have trouble with this too sometimes — I don’t indulge in that many wants, because I don’t feel I can justify the costs. It’s quite the odd problem, having the money to indulge a bit but not being able to do it. (And I’m *still* wondering if anyone else has this problem!! Savings meant to be spent on wants, but never finding a want that’s good enough to justify using the savings. Sigh.)

    I also agree with those stating financial independence and such. I’m far from that point, but I’d love to be there someday!

  6. Unfortunately, all I can think about at this particular moment is that money equals power. I’m going to a fundraiser this weekend where I (a simple guy) will be around powerful people. These people will be giving a lot of money to our cause (cystic fibrosis research). I feel like those folks are so much more powerful than I am. I’m just an E6 in the Navy, you know?

    Yes, I know in my head that this isn’t true. Money isn’t power. It is only a tool. Still, this is my feeling right now.

  7. This recession has hit our whole family in different ways. For my husband and I, it meant our savings was cut nearly in half and we were very well diversified. Retirement is much farther down the road. Our children are having their own problems. One is hoping to keeping her job and the other in finding one at all. Both are trying to figure out which bill is neediest to pay first and how much of their money will cover the next bills. Money is hugely important when it comes to cover basic life-needs and freedom from stress in meeting those needs. When you have ‘enough’ you have freedom to concentrate on the joys of life. I am wishing that for my children.

  8. re: giving. I used to give to charity on a national level. After the tsunami of ’04 my wife and I gave a sum of 4 figures (a great amount of our annual income) to the American Red Cross. I felt like a chump after reading about how lavish the ARC administrators were with donated funds. Never again. I give closer to home, family, local community, etc.

  9. Money is something I would like to live without. Money is the chains capitalism uses to keep people subservient 🙁 and it makes me sad.

  10. I think my feelings about money can be summed up in one statement from my dad as a teenager. “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it makes it a whole lot easier to find.”

  11. Money used to mean basic survival.
    Then I learned how to survive and do a lot of things without money 🙂

    Now money is a means to help others, especially family – a way to make their paths easier.

    And money, in my old age, is peace of mind and being able to sleep at night 🙂

  12. Very interesting question and your take on it as well. I like Emily’s comment and agree with her. For me, money is about options. You have more options the more money you have. I have no desire to be ‘rich’. I am not a hugely material person. But, with money I can do things such as pay off my mortgage, thus providing me with more options for travel and giving and spending time the way I want to. It’s a tool that can, if used wisely, enrich my life. I don’t feel it’s necessary to make me happy, but I do feel it can allow for things that without it would be impossible…like traveling overseas to visit family.

    As for giving, we currently give mostly to local organizations and also to some National ones that are important to us. We are working towards a goal giving 10% (or more) of our income.

  13. Wow some great thoughts, please keep them coming!
    Obviously there is not right or wrong answer here just how you feel about it. There was a time where I felt that money was the root of all evil, now I believe people are just evil and money is a tool. To me it does not provide freedom, although this depends on your definition of freedom, but I can live very happy on very little.

  14. I would agree with those that say money means options. My husband teases me that I love money, because I get excited when I get to deposit money into our account. I argue with him that I don’t love money per se, I love that I can move closer to my goals when I have money to do it. For instance, in the past, I felt very insecure without a strong financial grounding. One thing money provides me is a way to feel more secure. Also, I try to explain to DH that if we live below our means and save the rest, we would have the option of not working full time or travelling more or giving more to causes we believe in. For instance, I love my work, but if I won the lottery, I would want to do it on a pro bono basis instead. Hopefully I can enact that dream one day with careful planning. This is what I mean when I think of money as freedom-the ability to have more choice about how you spend your time and energy.

  15. I see money as a means to an end – a tool. With money, and when I have no debt, I can do a lot of good for others, and I can make a difference in other people’s lives. I can give to my favorite charities, give more to my church, pay someone’s rent when they can’t.

    Without money – or with debt, I become less free – and have to work to pay off those debts. I am not able to do a lot of the things that I want to, and I am just working to pay the bills – not to make a difference.

  16. Money is a necessary evil. You need it to get the things you need to survive (food, shelter), and things you want (vacations, material things). But it’s also misused a lot — there are those who wield it like a weapon, take it from others (think Ponzi schemes) or use it to supposedly find happiness.

    How you handle your money says a lot about who you are. I think it’s the way you use money that can bring you happiness — not how much of it you have.

  17. For me I think of it as a tool to get us from where we are to where we want to go.

    When we start giving it more qualities than that, it starts to grow legs and to become something it isn’t and can never be.

    Maybe that’s why having a lot of it can never make us as happy as we think it could before we had it.

  18. I see money as a tool. The more money one has, the more options one can afford to choose from.

    For some, money is a tool they use to buy more stuff.

    For me, money is a tool I use to “buy” free time to spend with my family and friends, to volunteer, to pursue my passions.

    Money is neither good nor evil. Some people use money with evil intent for evil purposes. People with good intentions use it for positive ones. So it has to do with the choices we make, not money.

    If I was to lose my money, I would still have the freedom of choice on how to handle and react to it. We had freedom all along, but our lifestyle choices would change based on affordability.

  19. Money is freedom. I also dont give money to charities. Ive seen to many things in my years to know plenty of money given is used improperly. Gotta love the humble minister driving in a new lexus.

    Money is not the root of all evil.

    Lack of money is.

  20. For me, money means…
    …security: knowing I could lose my job and still live worry-free for over a year.
    …independence. I don’t need anyone to “take care of” me financially.
    …choices. I can retire early to travel or do volunteer work again.
    … a means to help future generations, for ex. help my daughter graduate from college debt free.

    Would I still feel secure and independent if I had no money/savings? Sure, but less so. As they say, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it helps.

  21. This is interesting.

    I guess I began like most folks coveting money in some way or another. I guess it was only after going deeply in debt and getting our act together that I really saw the power of money and began to see it as something you must respect.

    Coming out the other side of debt and being in a position to win financially, I’m now a bit more… indifferent? It doesn’t control me. We don’t need boatloads of it to be happy. It doesn’t define me.

  22. Money simply means everything, in the sense that the cash I have in the bank has given me the freedom in life to do anything I want b/c I don’t have any financial worries anymore.

    This is what I tried so hard for 20 years and saved so much. Only one shot at getting into a good school, working hard, saving, and investing, so you might as well do the best you can.

  23. money is what it has always being, a means to freedom to do what i want when i want and go wherever i want, and power. plain and simple. i don’t think that this will change any time soon.
    OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

  24. money is what it has always being, a means to freedom to do what i want when i want and go wherever i want, and power. plain and simple. i don’t think that this will change any time soon.

  25. Money has never meant much to me. It’s convenient to have it when you want something, but otherwise it’s a pain in the butt. The only time it really takes on meaning is when I get in debt. I hate debt. I despise debt. Grrr.

  26. I feel like my views about money have changed over the years (I’m 45)
    I’ve been a saver, a spender, rich, broke and someday will inherit quite a sum but who knows when that day will be? Could be tomorrow, could be another 25 years, therefore I don’t depend on it. I’ve learned not to plan so optimistically, which is my personality 🙂
    I’ve used money to mask grief, to live a dream and now to start over.
    I’m excited about a new beginning after the last two years of unemployment and struggle.

  27. Money is something to strive for. It makes most people happy when you have something to strive for, and money is one of those things that makes me feel like there is something I am working toward.

  28. Hi,

    Money is a gift from God to me to be a steward. All the money that passes through my hands is not my own, and I have the privilege of giving away at least 10% to charities.


  29. For me money is money period. It can buy me things or sit in an account and make more money, but it isn’t freedom or even a free lunch. At least to me it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how much money I have, I would still have the same issues that I face every day.

    A lot of people think money solves everything, but then they haven’t looked at the exact figures when it comes to a lottery payout. Let me finish school and get an entry level, stable, career and it would be worth more than winning the lottery, figuratively and realistically.

  30. The monetary system is an effective way to control civilization. As long as there is a belief in scarcity, people will be chasing money all their living days.

    In conjunction with the monetary system is the system of taxation. Tax can be taken at consumption and, far more insidious, as a graduated percentage of income. Taxation is the only way the monetary system can be held in balance for the majority of the civilization’s population.

    There is another aspect of control which can go unnoticed but it is actually the foundation of the monetary system. This foundation is called Debt. Money is no longer based on something tangible like Gold or silver or any other precious metals. No, money is now created out of thin air based upon someone’s promise to pay back that debt at some point.

    Things get even more complicated when one considers the fractional reserve system where by the money that was created out of thin air and then deposited into a bank account as payment for let’s say an automobile is then loaned out again leaving behind only a fraction in reserve. And the fractional cycle repeats many times, like 9 to 1, from the original out of thin air money.

    As long as everyone “plays along” the game of monetary musical chairs goes on. The real question we should be asking is… who are the masters above and beyond the system of money? One can start by looking at the cabal of international bankers who run the so called “Federal Reserve”. (The Federal Reserve is no more Federal than Federal Express.)

  31. Money is a gift from GOD to me and others. Money has never meant much to me. It can buy me things or sit in an account and make more money, but it isn’t freedom or even a free lunch or free dinner. Thanks a bunch for sharing. Keep blogging.

  32. Money is the water of wealth and it’s flow is influenced by the steepness of your channel (value) and the width and depth of your channel (leverage). And so, money flows in and flows out along your river of wealth

  33. Some say money is the root of all evil. I have been thinking of what money actually is, and what it represents. Of course, the technical answer is it represents a certain amount of gold. But what is the gold worth? A ring? All gold is, is a pretty looking metal. Now, let me explain why I think money is actually the fluid to a healthier, more commune society.

    Looking at money in the simplest view, it is a sort of ticket saying, “My owner has contributed to society a certain amount, so for what he has contributed to others, it is your turn to contribute to him.” And whoever contribute to him has thus contributed to society, and now has the mark of contribution.

    Commercial farms have a HUGE surplus of food. There is no way the owners and workers of the farm could consume all that food. So, they contribute what they don’t need to society, in return the get the contribution marks, or the dollar. Imagine a T.V. company, who’s CEO just had some eggs from that farm for breakfast. That CEO has a HUGE surplus of TV’s. That farmer could say “Hey TV company, look! I have contributed this much food to society, in return, it is your turn to contribute to me (a member of society) a new TV for my family.

    Obviously, things become a lot more complex as greed and distribution of money comes into play, but in a basic sense, money drives the world to cooperate with each other, and I think without this drive, the world would not be as advanced as it is today.