The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I realise that life isn’t black and white. It’s usually multiple shades of grey. Often, there are no right or wrong answers – just what’s best for the current situation.
I know most people crave certainty. Many people come up to me and ask, “What’s the best way to invest?”
The truth is, I’m not a prophet so I really don’t know.
Now, I’m going to break away from the safe “it depends on your situation” answer and tell you my rules for money. I’m going to share the 10 Commandments of Money that apply to everyone, everywhere. Yes, everyone.
You may or may not recognise these “Commandments”. After all, they were inspired by ancient religious texts. But I know them to be true. And you probably do too.
1. You shall have no emotions before money
For most people, money is a very emotional thing. Try taking RM50 out of your colleague’s wallet, and see what happens.
But being emotional about money is bad for you. (So bad that I wrote an article about it.)
When we get emotional about something, we normally make bad decisions. Like the saying goes, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
So here’s the first and hardest commandment: don’t be emotional about money. If you are emotional, at least admit it first – then we can start dealing with those emotions.
2. You shall not worship money
Money isn’t a religion, but judging by how some people treat it – you’d think it’s their god. Some people devote all their thoughts and energy towards making more money.
I’m not saying money isn’t important. It is. And because money can do great things for you (especially when you’re struggling), it’s very easy to feel that money should be the main focus of our lives.
It’s also very easy to get caught in a destructive cycle where you’re constantly chasing for more, because it never seems enough.
But look deeper – focusing all our thoughts on money isn’t going to solve all our problems. It’s definitely not going to make us happier either.
Our lives are a lot more than a balance sheet of how much money you have. What about the more important things like family, friends and fun?
Money is just a tool to be used in our lives, not a god. We make it our slave; not become slaves to it.
3. You shall not underestimate human stupidity
You will never master money if you don’t understand human behaviour (and its associated stupidity). Thankfully, we live in an age where it’s so easy to study history and human psychology.
We know that humans are irrational. We know that without conscious effort, people normally make bad decisions. Even the smartest ones among us are susceptible to biases, greed and moments of madness.
So when we get overconfident and say, “I know I’m right! I know this investment is guaranteed to make money!” we check ourselves and say: Stop being crazy!
4. Remember to rest; health is more valuable than money
Theoretically, money is unlimited. If you play your cards right, you could have more money than you know what to do with.
But time is not; time is the real limiting factor in life.
Would you kill yourself at work to earn just a few hundred ringgit more? It would be really sad if all that extra money went to paying for hospital bills.
Nobody lies on their death bed wishing they had spent more time trying to make more money.
5. Honour your father and mother. Use money to be nice to people
If it’s acceptable in your culture, give money to your parents.
Use your money to help others, including the poor. Be nice to other people and build relationships with them.
Not because you want to get their money or use them for favours someday. It’s because you’re the kind of person who gives to people.
If you’re kind to other people, especially those who are in difficult situations – whether you believe in God, karma or the circle of life – you will be rewarded.
6. You shall not only consume. You should create value
We live in the golden age of consumption where it’s easy to just take, take and take.
We can spend all our time on Lazada, buying new things to make us feel good. But living like this makes us forget that money is generated by producing, not consuming.
Consumers don’t earn money; they pay money.
And endless consumption numbs you. It kills your creative senses and your ability to make money.
But when you create value; what you’re really doing is creating money. After all, money is an effect of value. If you want to be rich, you have to give value to people.
Don’t just be the guy buying the latest iPhone. Be the guy creating the latest iPhone. Or at least the latest iPhone app.
7. You shall control your lust
All of us have lust. Some of us lust for beautiful cars, some of us lust for exotic vacations.
But when it comes to money, you need to control your desires. Does that mean you should never buy another iPhone in your life? No, I said control, not remove.
Control means you decide what is most important to you and focus your money on those things. Choose just the few important ones and forget everything else. Then set a budget for these things, and follow it. This is financial discipline.
Eating avocado sandwiches won’t make you broke. But trying to have a combination of a BMW, international vacations every month, Starbucks coffees every day, and avocado sandwiches every lunch will.
8. You shall not steal
You need to be honest in the way you make money. How honest?
I know you don’t steal anything from your colleagues (except their lunchtime French fries), and you don’t pay bribes to government officials (right?) – so well done!
But I’m talking about deeper honesty issues. Like not stealing extra expenses when doing your travel claims. Not stealing ideas from your colleagues without giving them credit. And not stealing company working hours to run your side business; but instead doing your best for the job you’re entrusted with.
I know, everyone else does that. Even if they do, you could be a role model for honest living. We complain about corruption all the time, so why not do something about it — personally.
Honest living leads to self-respect. Healthy self-respect leads to success. Plus you’ll sleep well at night too.
9. You shall not betray trust
We’ve already talked about honesty, so now let’s talk about her delicate younger sister: trust.
Trust is the magic that makes human relationships work. Trust is the soft silk string that binds us all together. Break it and you break our ability to do business with each other.
Some people think they can lie, cheat and swindle to get the money they want. This is a lie. And it only works once.
Once trust is broken, relationships are never the same. Nobody wants to give money to a liar.
10. You shall not be jealous
I know how it looks. Everyone else’s life seems to be cooler than yours. They get to go on holidays all the time. They drive a nicer car and have a bigger house.
But what we don’t see is the sacrifices they make to achieve those things. Maybe they go on vacations frequently because they hate their jobs. And maybe they’re drowning in debt because of their overpriced house and car.
My point is, everyone’s on a different journey in life. Why should we worry about anyone else’s journey apart from our own?
The only thing we need to check is if we’re one per cent better today than we were yesterday. Let’s stop comparing with anyone else, because it only makes us unhappy and do stupid things with money.
What happens if you break a commandment?
Don’t worry. Like I said, money isn’t a religion and this isn’t a religious sermon.
There’s no money god who will punish us if we occasionally break the rules. So be easy on yourself if you fail – nobody’s perfect.
It’s not easy to follow the 10 Commandments of Money. It’s a difficult path. Just don’t give up; pick yourself up and do better the next time.
You might just get to financial heaven.
Aaron Tang is a former Leaderonomer and is the founder of mr-stingy.com. He is an expert in personal finance, money management and cryptocurrency. This article first appeared on mr-stingy.com.
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