Personal finances and their management are some of the biggest problems faced by adults around the world. In fact, in many cases, other problems stem from or can be linked to monetary problems. In many African cultures, we tend to refer to money as though it is a living, breathing with a personality to boot. Sayings like “mari muenzi” which money is a guest/visitor dominate the first lessons that many of us were taught about money. What growing up has not taught me is that it is not the character of money but rather your character and how you behave towards it that determines the sort of ride you will experience.

Money is a neutral entity

The first thing we need to understand is that money is a neutral entity. Money itself does not have a choice in what happens around it. It is both inanimate and impassionate. Money knows no rhyme or reason. What makes it feel like money has a personality is that because it is a neutral entity it serves to show our behaviour. Sometimes it does so very loudly.

Goes with the flow

Despite what you may have grown up believing money is actually very obedient. It moves toward where it is attracted, stays where it is cherished and flees where it is abused. Look at personal finance articles on this website. Go a little further and look at all the material that addresses personal finance out there. I’d say maybe 75% of it focuses on changing your behaviour. It’s “10 tips” or “5 things” or do this and that. And of course, it’s titles like “respect your money”. Money has no choice in whether or not it comes to you. If you do the work or invest in the asset the money will by right (or law) flow to you. If you hold your money dearly and are determined not to part with it easily, it stays with you. If you are reckless and throw your money at things left right and centre, it will flee from you. And very fast for that matter.

A matter of Respect

So when I talk about respecting your money I’m referring to fully acknowledging the value of your money. Being Zimbabwean and having experienced Zimbabwean monetary issues it is very easy to get caught up in the belief system that our money is worthless. A few years ago someone said those exact words to me when bemoaning their financial circumstances. I reminded them that that money is not worthless for so long as it can buy something of value such as a US dollar. Fast forward a few years later and their personal finances have taken a dramatic turnaround. How dramatic? From going to ends not meeting to surviving a 5 month period of unemployment. Sure there were many personal finance lessons along the way but it started with respecting their money.

How to respect your money

There are many expressions of respecting your money, depending on various situations. I will speak on a few and hopefully, I can fully expose the lesson in each case.

Spend it wisely

Spending money wisely is often confused with frugality. However, it is not. Spending money wisely is the act of considering the short term and long term implications of a decision. A good example cheap vs expensive version of something where it is known that the more expensive item is more durable. The money spent on replacing the cheaper item may match or exceed the expensive item and this story usually ends with the more expensive item being bought anyway.

Be careful what you promise

Another behaviour I see a lot of that concerns me and shows a lack of respect for money is committing money in the future. It can be as simple as committing to future expenditure or agreeing to credit arrangements. It’s so easy to place no value on money before you know the feeling of having it. Once you have it and experience the pain of letting it go you start to understand the value of the money. You respect it. I’m not against credit but make sure it makes sense.

Throwing money at things

While money is linked to many issues it is not always the cause of all problems. Sometimes the money problem is a symptom of a deeper problem. Earlier I gave the example of choosing between a cheaper item and a more expensive option. If you’re observant you will notice I said “where the expensive item is known to be more durable”. While it is so in many cases it is certainly not always the case. Spending more is no guarantee of better and this is where we say you are throwing money at things instead of working on your understanding of the thing in question. It could be a purchase, a service provider or a problem. The outcome is always the same.

Could go on and on with examples but I believe you get the idea. No matter how much or how little money you have it is yours as a result of effort, sacrifice or decision. Respect your money and command the best product, service, experience or return for your money wherever you choose to take it.