What is Your Attitude Toward Money?

If you’ve ever struggled with integrating your spiritual and financial life like I have, I’m here to tell you that author Brent Kessel (“financial planner by day, yogi by dawn”) is your ally. His excellent book It’s Not About the Money (HarperOne, 2009) takes on the unconscious forces that knock us out of financial integrity. Here are some of my favorite Big Ideas from his book.

Beyond Wanting
Legend has it that when billionaire John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money would be enough for him, he replied, “Just a little bit more.”

Kessel uses Rockefeller’s quote to illustrate “the Wanting Mind,” that part of us that can never quite be satisfied with how things are. “The Wanting Mind insists that things need to change in order for us to be happy,” he explains, “and money is one of its favorite objects to focus on.”

Most of us can identify with the feeling that we’ll finally be happy when [fill in the blank] happens or we have a bank balance of [X amount]. Kessel sees this as part of the human condition.

“I am not saying that it is wrong to have these desires,” he writes. “But can you see how each of these thoughts, with its underlying foundation in ‘not enough,’ actually undermines our life right now, just as it is? Every single one of these thoughts presumes that we’d be happier or more secure if something were to change. And there would be no problem with this strategy . . . if we actually ended up happier after fulfilling our wants. But we don’t. We usually just end up wanting more.”

How does the Wanting Mind leave its mark on our financial lives? It often produces significant debt and insignificant savings, or a big pile of money protected by a stingy, ungenerous attitude.

One important antidote to the Wanting Mind is Heartfelt Goals. According to Kessel, the Wanting Mind’s desires are characterized by a childlike urgency for personal benefit, often with a sense of petty competitiveness. Heartfelt Goals, on the other hand, are driven by our deepest values. They serve something bigger than ourselves, and are usually accompanied by a feeling of patience and a deeper sense of meaning.

Core Story
Kessel says that when we get knocked off course from our most deeply held financial goals, it is often because our financial decisions are being dictated by a Core Story.

“A 4-year-old runs your financial life,” Kessel writes. “Until you can identify and examine your Core Story, your outer financial life will be a mirror of your unconscious expectations.”

To get a sense of your own Core Story, Kessel recommends answering some intriguing questions. (To complete the full exercise, see the book.):

  • What is your most painful memory related to money?
  • What is your biggest fear about money?
  • What were you taught was important about money?
  • When have you been most positively or negatively moved by money?

Type Casting
According to Kessel, each of us has certain characteristic spending and saving habits consistent with one or more of what he identifies as eight financial archetypes.

“Archetypes can be thought of as energies within us. They are not personal but more like collective patterns that are manifested within us and recognizable in others,” he explains. “By bringing conscious awareness to what is unconscious, we can attain balance and a sense of control over our financial destiny.”

Here’s a quick snapshot of the eight archetypes:

  • The Guardian is always alert and careful.
  • The Pleasure Seeker prioritizes pleasure and enjoyment in the here and now.
  • The Idealist places value on creativity, social justice or spiritual growth.
  • The Saver seeks security and abundance by accumulating financial assets.
  • The Star spends, invests or gives money away to be recognized, feel classy and increase self-esteem.
  • The Innocent avoids putting attention on money and hopes that life will work out for the best.
  • The Caretaker gives money to express compassion and generosity.
  • The Empire Builder thrives on power and wants to create something of enduring value.

In my opinion, the optimal human being would be balanced among all eight of these archetypes,” Kessel writes. “Who wouldn’t want to be the person whose financial life was experienced as secure and abundant, pleasure-filled and joyous, powerful and creative, self-sufficient, significant and worthy, relaxed, generous, and compassionate?”

(See the book to take Kessel’s quiz for identifying your financial archetype.)

Abundant at Heart
While a great deal of popular financial advice revolves around a scrimp-and-save approach, Kessel suggests that a generous, other-focused attitude is actually central to a healthy financial life — and a healthy life, period.

True freedom comes from being secure and confident enough in our resources, and clear enough about our real needs, that we feel we have plenty to share, Kessel says. “We are free when we move from a focus on getting love, abundance, peace and freedom to being love, abundance, peace and freedom.”

Finding financial peace, he asserts, comes not from a magic number on a bank statement, but from cultivating a healthy sense of “enough” in the here and now.

By Brian Johnson, From ExperienceLife

5 Ways to Change Your Relationship with Money
Empower Your Relationship with Money

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago


Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell2 years ago

Very interesting...will study the article a bit more when have more time. Thanks for posting.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal2 years ago

The Innocent sounds like the Avoider, the persona I fit into more. What bill? If I I don't see it, there is no concern....

Loo Samantha
Loo sam2 years ago


Mary B.
Mary B.2 years ago

I think of money as something we need to have as a means of exchange. We could just as well use pebbels as long as an agreed upon value could be put on them.Now days we have electronic 'money' so nobody really knows how much is floating around the global economy. The economists can tell us whatever they want and keep us believing that governments must ballance their budgets because we have to do that in our homes, but I would think people aught to question that idea vigerously since congress wastes lots of time pretending to 'debate' the issue and trying to prove how financially responsible they are.Look at how much money gets dumped into political campaigns that gives us any on the ground structual benefit at all. None. It's just a high stakes game big egos play.So they can tell us how we have to curb our spending on needed social programs.

Interstellar Daydreamer
Cosmic Price2 years ago


Samantha C.
Samantha C.2 years ago

We are a want society and money is its god. Problem is we are not taught about money other than you have to have it in order to buy all the wants you see cause having the most = happiness. If we were taught how to properly use money and to manage our wants, most of us would be leading much better, happier lives.

Marie W.
Marie W.2 years ago

My favorite- "Money can't buy happiness- but you can damn sure lease it for awhile."

Carla van der Meer

I agree with Ken W, what money? When I do have money, which isn't earmarked for bills, food etc, I have to admit I tend to spend. I like to treat friends and though we are not wealthy by any stretch, we like to share where we can. You can;t take it with you and I have more stuff than I need. I cannot understand all these billionaires who whine and moan about having to work hard. Do they not have enough? MORE than enough? Sit back, relax and maybe give some away. I know I would love nothing more than to be able to have enough to give away and help to make other people's dreams come true. To me that would be the real meaning of prosperity.

Carol M.
caroline m.2 years ago