The Myth of Money as an Indicator of Existential Worth

The Myth of Money as an Indicator of Existential Worth

What factors influence an individual deciding whether or not to make a major life transition? The following example highlights ways in which we may become hoodwinked into believing we have little choice because a monetary value placed on options interferes with our real feelings of worth.

Imagine a woman, let’s call her Jan. Her relationship with her partner has always been a compromise. They have different aspirations and dreams and very different ways of approaching problems. She is optimistic and seeks solutions to new challenges; he sees the negative side and blames the world for everything that happens to him.

Following numerous traumatic events, including job loss, dramatically changed financial circumstances and serious illness in the family, the differences between the partners becomes more obvious. She becomes very unhappy, realising that these events only serve to highlight ways in which she is unable to fully create the life she wants. So she seeks legal advice regarding a divorce. What happens next is intriguing because it highlights the myth of money as a tool for evaluating the value of her choices. Her lawyer advises that a divorce settlement must acknowledge all assets available to the partners. Because she owns a percentage of the house her father left her (and which her mother still lives in), she learns that she will owe her husband in excess of $150.000 following divorce, despite being unable to gain access to the house.

Existential Worth?

Instead of feeling liberated that the division of spoils will be her ticket to freedom, the inflated price of the parental home means she will owe her partner money, should they divorce. What does she do? The price of her freedom would seem to amount to no more than $150,000. She decides to stay saying ‘I really don’t have any choice. How can I walk away from everything I have put in!’ She starts to justify her husband’s different view of the world, blaming her inability to accept his differences. In effect, she hoodwinks herself into denying what is really happening. She uses finance as the reason for not creating the life she wants. In effect, $150,000 is the value she puts on her life. Then, instead of confronting this and owning this choice, she appeals to logic or social and cultural expectations of what the wise thing to do is.

The price she places on the precious currency called her life is the sum of $150,000. If a ‘0’ were removed, would it make any difference? If the cost was $15,000, would that be a price that would justify her freedom?

How can we evaluate our state of being by placing a material price on it? The value to be gained by choosing what she truly wants, is being measured by a monetary figure attached to some notion of fairness, effort invested, a fictitious myth that previous investment negates any future choice – when, in fact, the previous investment myth is the unquestioned assumption that the worth attributed to her state of being, ‘her life’ is a function of previous investment. The cost of relinquishing an investment (of time, money, effort, denied choices etc) is not the true cost – the true cost is time and effort wasted in the future, not spent on chosen desires, which are denied as she focuses on perceptions of previous investment lost.

This assumption highlights the myth that limits us in truly ‘showing up’ as beings choosing their existence purposefully with the knowledge that this choice exists. By attributing a monetary or material value to our choices alone, we miss the real cost of denying our freedom. The cost? A life that lived with duty and obligation rather than purpose, creativity and meaning.