Today I am finding myself fascinated by Mr Maslow. Fascinated because when coupling Maslow with proverbs we can learn something profound about what drives us.
Firstly I am not claiming to be a theologian but rather an observer of human behaviour. My work at Blackbullion, which is my calling, brings me into contact with young and old people with diverse attitudes towards money and varying levels of financial capability.
Part of my drive in promoting financial education is borne of the idea that without financial freedom there can be little financial dignity. I must preface that controversial sentence by defining financial freedom as I feel it should be defined. Financial freedom is not a Pollyanna’ish vision of a lifestyle bereft of funds, nor is it the idea that one can easily generate sufficient passive income to fund a desired lifestyle without having to do any actual work.
These are unrealistic. They present a view of the world not rooted in reality and make a mockery of the incredible amount of work that has to go into becoming an overnight success. Financial freedom as I understand it is the idea that you can pay your bills, minimise and eliminate your debt and have some savings in the bank to live a desired lifestyle.
It is the idea that you can live without financial fear. It should be an attainable goal.
50 years ago this was, for most, simply considered basic housekeeping. But then the challenges were different.
Property was more affordable, jobs guaranteed (regardless of educational attainment), credit less available. Peer pressure, on a global scale, magnified by celebrities funding extravagant lifestyles, didn’t exist or dominate our airtime & aspirations.
It was, in many ways, an easier time. A life of minimal debt, savings and living within one’s means was simple the norm. Today the great divide is an ever growing gulf between those who have more money than month and those who have more month than money.
According to the Money Charity 9.45m (35%) households have no savings and another 2.97m (11%) have less than £1,500. Also a recent survey found just 1 Briton in 10 make it to payday with money left in their bank account and to bridge the gap, many are turning to debt, with more 68% borrowing to meet everyday costs like food.
So is money the root of all evil? Money, like a car, is simply a vehicle and whether the vehicle is a way of getting from one place to another, or whether it is dangerous 1 tonne missile able to maim and kill, is in the hands of the driver.
I would argue that a lack of money is the root of all evil and, I would venture, that many people struggling each month to look after their family would agree. The expression should not be interpreted as money being an evil in and of itself. It is written in the book of proverbs that without bread there can be no learning and I find that a comforting flip side of the coin.
Which brings us to Abraham Maslow, a psychologist who became famous when in 1943 he stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. He did this by clearly defining our needs in a hierarchy, a pyramid.
At the bottom of the pyramid are our base needs — those things without which we can not survive for very long (food, water).
At the top of the pyramid are the more esoteric ideas of esteem (the desire to be accepted) and self actualisation (the need to become what we feel we must become).
What I find intriguing is the idea that those who feel they are not getting what they need at any one level will regress, that is go down, to the level of the pyramid they find to be easier to achieve and will park their life there.
What does that mean? It means that the accumulation of stuff, the unstoppable spiral of spending, and the unrelenting pressure to purchase merely numb us from seeking our true potential. Or excuse us from the pursuit.
The mirror of that is that if we don’t have the lower levels satisfied, if we don’t have access to adequate supplies of food, water and shelter we can not hope to reach our potential.
Without dignity there can be no freedom.
Without satisfying our base needs we are unable to pursue our dreams and potential, and without pursuing our dreams and potential our base needs become merely animalistic.
Just something to think about…