Finance plays a major part in all our lives. However, few people directly relate character with finance. In fact, your character is revealed by your pattern of behavior, thoughts and feelings when dealing with in financial matters with regard to money, borrowing and investments.
The Importance of Character in Financial Matters
Money is merely a way to measure value and a medium of exchange. Since money enables the human act of buying goods and services, obtaining or having more money is a desirable value in our society. Everyone deals with money from an early age.
The old age saying “money is the root of all evil” recognizes money’s universal importance and essentially means that the worship of money ad material things is a source of evil. However, money is an inanimate object and therefore by itself is not inherently evil. But people’s obsession with and their actions relating to money may be evil.
Whenever you earn, spend, borrow or invest money, you create a distinct financial relationship between yourself and another. That financial relationship can be successful or unsuccessful based upon the character you exhibit.
All your financial actions have consequences. Sooner or later. every financial relationship has measurable consequences. The consequences of poor character in financial matters destroy relationships and can be extremely destructive to individuals, families, businesses, governments and society.
Honesty, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility
Everyone realizes that people who steal or swindle money have poor character. But what about people who are law-abiding, hard-working and well-meaning, who just lack financial discipline or self-control and who act based upon short-term desires, whims or bad habits, without proper planning or thought? As a result, they find themselves “in over their heads”, spend too much or make a bad investment, and they lose all their money. To get the answer, we cannot look merely at the result, but their actions that lead to the result.
For example, “John” is someone who spends more than his income. If he has no cash, he uses his credit card and borrows more and more each year. John is living beyond his means, running up excessive debt, while knowing that he cannot repay.
John is spending money that he has not earned, does not have, and does not intend to repay. He is also benefitting himself today, leaving someone else (his lender) to suffer the financial loss.
John has promised to repay his lender with interest. Breaking this promise by continuing to borrow without intending to repay is not only a form of lying and deception, but also represents taking money from another. John exhibits flawed character through selfishness, dishonesty and lack of integrity. He exhibits no fortitude or respect for his lender or his financial relationship. He is “getting something for nothing”. and letting someone else “clean up the mess” financially for his poor character. This is morally and ethically wrong.
Note that people of exceptional character in financial matters also can have financial problems, even though they run their financial affairs with responsibility, honesty, integrity, knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes unplanned financial reversals do occur. For example, a breadwinner may suddenly and unexpectedly lose his or her job and be unable to get another job. And a family may lose the ability to pay for bare necessities if its savings run dry. However, these unexpected problems must be distinguished from John, who exhibited poor character in his financial dealings.
Remember that sooner or later, every financial act has measurable consequences.
We must recognize the problem: not merely that John spent more money that he had and ran out of money, faced bankruptcy and ruined his financial relationships and his future ability to borrow. The problem is that he himself created his sad destiny because of his poor character in his financial dealings.
The lesson to be learned s that in most circumstances, negative financial outcomes are often caused by inappropriate, irresponsible actions stemming from lapses of character in financial dealings. If a person improves his or her character in financial matters, it will usually result in improved relationships and financial outcomes, as well as long-term success.
The solution is to teach everyone applicable character principles along with basic finance, budgeting and accounting, beginning at a young age.
Teaching Character in Financial Matters
While advanced finance can be complex and difficult, teaching basic financial principles together with character education, as do we at CITRS, is quite simple.
First, there can be no double standard – people must recognize that all the basic character principles taught by CITRS (Character, Integrity, Trust, Relationships, Success) that apply to everyone also apply to their financial dealings. By always acting with Integrity, you will create Trust, and foster good Relationships. This will result in Success in all your dealings, including your financial activities.
Second, developing a basic knowledge about finance is a prerequisite. At CITRS, we refer to this as, “financial literacy” and we teach it to students in age-appropriate ways.
An important measure of your character for your lifetime is how you deal with financial matters. Remember that every financial action you take reflects a relationship and will always have measurable financial consequences which will affect you long after your initial action. Therefore, have the strength, self-control and courage to do the right thing. Be knowledgeable, just and honest with yourself and have wisdom, vision and integrity in order to achieve trust, strengthen financial relationships and create long-term positive outcomes and success.