Money is inextricably intertwined into every aspect of our lives. It affects virtually everything we do, and influences every decision we make. We devote large parts of our lives trying to earn it, and once we’ve earned it we decide what to spend it on. The effect of money on us is everywhere. If you don’t believe this, examine your day so far. Every decision you’ve already made and every decision you will make today will be affected by money.
In 1943 the psychological theorist Abraham Maslow published his Hierarchy of Needs. This theory of human needs examined exactly what is needed for human development. He separated each need into a stage of development, beginning with the basic needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter, before moving onto safety and security, good health and social needs. His theory concludes at the peak of the psychological pyramid – self-actualization, which in simple terms is attaining the ability to not only accomplish the previous needs but indeed to master them.
How does all of this relate to money? Well, if examined closely, the need for money is evident at every stage in the hierarchy of human needs. Whether it’s food, water, shelter, security, or the need to socialise; money is necessary for all aspects of human needs. If there is no money, the most basic of human needs won’t be met. This can be taken further – think of anything, no matter what it is, and it can be inextricably linked to money. Whether you agree with this or not is immaterial – this is how life is in a capitalist world, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Acknowledging the fact that money has a huge influence on all aspects of life, the next logical step is to further our understanding of money and finance. However, knowledge of money and personal finance in this country can be described as limited at best. The UK is in a midst of a debt crisis; personal debt in the UK is now over £1.5 trillion (yes, that’s trillion), while the amount of UK credit card debt is £70 billion. The amount of consumer credit borrowing is now £3975 per adult in the UK.
These figures add up to an absolute personal finance crisis, yet huge numbers of people choose to bury their heads in the sand as far as money matters are concerned. How many times have you heard people state how useless they are with money? And how many times have they laughed and seemed unconcerned, or even proud of this? In the UK it can seem as if it’s a badge of honour to be useless with finances. Why is this? We don’t throw our hands up say the same about our driving abilities, for instance, or our ability to do our jobs – ‘Oh I’m a useless driver, I’m not sure why they let me on the road’ or ‘I’m just terrible at my job, I don’t know why they employ me’. This would be the last thing anyone would want to admit. But ‘Oh, I’m just awful with my money’ seems to be an acceptable admission.
Ignoring your finances can have hugely detrimental effects not just on your bank or credit card balance, it can also be hugely damaging to mental health. Financial problems can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, stress, panic attacks and depression. According to a study by the University of Nottingham, people who struggle with debt are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression. This can in turn lead to even more debt; sufferers sometimes try to relieve their depression by treating themselves to a shopping spree or some other mental getaway. But all that does is lead to more debt, which leads to more depression and despair.
What is stopping us from furthering our financial knowledge? Why are we hesitant to take steps to understand all that we can about our personal finances? There are no other aspects in our lives as vital as money that are as overlooked, or even ignored. The debt statistics mentioned above show that the current ‘bury your head in sand and hope it’s all OK’ approach is not solving the UK’s financial problem. In fact, it makes it worse.
Although financial education is slowly gaining traction in this country, gaping holes remain in the financial knowledge of the nation. A financially savvy population would benefit society, and individuals, in a multitude of ways. It’s time to take financial education out of the shadows and shine some light on it; it’s too important to leave to chance.