Money is always lurking in your mind, right? We have so many emotions around money, and there are so many ways money affects us. We worry about not having enough, how we spend it, and how much we need to save. We experience occasional guilt over purchases. We may use money as a way to feel good, or to atone for some fault, or to reward ourselves for some achievement. Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead without Leaving Your Values explores our complex relationship with money and helps to unravel some of the twisted thoughts we have so money can more comfortably fit into our lives.
Loaded is a great book. It is part education, part story-telling, and part workbook. The author, Sarah Newcomb, PhD, tells us in her introduction about her upbringing and her studies in math, financial planning, and psychology. I have not thought much about how I came to think about money the way I do, and I expect that is true of many readers. But our parents or grandparents instilled certain attitudes in us that we may still exhibit today, for better or worse. Newcomb tells us that our relationship with money is a “social and cultural phenomenon,” and after reading her book, I must acknowledge that it is.
In the chapter titled “Money Messages,” Newcomb helps us to evaluate how we came to think about money the way we do. Some of our thinking may be clear to us, but there are also aspects we may give little thought to. She challenges us on our values about money. She makes us question our core beliefs and we are forced to think about where our attitudes or values came from.
Just think about some of the phrases we have heard (and used) over the years: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, “You must think I am made of money”, and “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Did your parents say these to you? Another phrase, “Money is the root of all evil”, is very common, although those who earn even a moderate income may disagree with the thought. And even though the true Biblical quotation is, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), we may still feel some guilt because we admit that we do love money (or at least like it a lot, or prefer it over its opposite, hating money).
In the great section, “Poverty, Privilege and Prejudice”, Newcomb discusses the social and psychological aspects of each. Poverty, of course, has many well-documented societal impacts, but the psychological aspects are also significant and affect our well-being. There is a story about a child who was so ashamed about his parents’ lack of money that he isolated himself from friendships in school and didn’t invite friends to his home. Although this could also be caused by other factors connected to not being proud of our parents or family, this is not an uncommon experience, and think of the lasting and widespread damage to people over time.
And many of us have opinions about privilege regardless of which side of society we are on. Humans have long divided their communities into haves and have nots. But even people who move from one side to the other, through education, hard work, or other reasons, often have difficulty becoming comfortable with their new persona.
You may be wondering where the title, Loaded, comes from. Aside from how “loaded” some of our money issues may be, Newcomb has devoted the final lengthy chapter to “The Loaded Budget,” in which she helps us to create a new type of budget. Forget the typical income and expense budgets, which track cash flow and make all expenditures seem bad. Newcomb has a different and valuable approach for budgeting. She discusses what makes an asset for us, including some possible surprises. She describes good debt vs. bad debt, but her concept of what constitutes a “need” is remarkable. We may think of a need as housing or a utility bill. She takes us into the psychology of how and why we spend and what we get from it.
Throughout the book, readers are directed to the workbook section, which includes self-assessments so we can personalize our situation using Newcomb’s questions. Numerous exercises follow those. Personally, I didn’t always like to do these worksheets, but it was helpful to put my thoughts into words.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to others who are intrigued by money and its hold on us. You may be surprised, but also enlightened, by what you read.
Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead without Leaving Your Values Behind
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., April 2016
Hardcover, 208 pages