By: Ivy McGraw

One time I was babysitting a 4 year old boy and he pulled his piggy bank out of a dresser drawer. 

He wanted to show me all of his coins. We poured them all out. I remember thinking, what a great learning opportunity — I’ll show him how to distinguish pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from each other. I started picking out the quarters, then the dimes, then the nickels, designating each to their own piles. My little friend had other ideas, like little kids often do (or maybe it’s just me). He shoved the remaining pennies into the dime and nickel piles, merging the coins again. I patiently explained to him that they were different coins with different worths: 25 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 1 cent. 

“See? See how they are different sizes? It’s easier to count them in their groups.” After getting them back to their segregated state, I saw that my friend had already started merging them again. He had a confident look on his face. 

“No, they go like this. I like them like this.”

“But don’t you want to count them, know how much money you have?” I thought he was proud of his money. He should like learning how to count coins.

“I do know. I have this much!” He swept his hand over the assortment.

Isn’t it human to want to categorize things? And to know whether you have 50 pennies or 50 quarters? 

“But…you don’t want to know how much money this equals? We can count it together!” Persistence is vital with this kid. 

He wasn’t interested. After this dialogue, he moved his attention to a new toy nearby and began to show me how it works. 

That was it for the coins. To my dismay, it wasn’t going to be a fun, time-consuming math game — one that was personalized to his ownership! (And to all my babysitter comrades out there, you see all the brownie points of this activity). 

Nope, my 4-year-old friend did not want another’s perspective on his money. He was content with his collection, as well as his relation to it, and didn’t want any help analyzing it. 

I am reminded there are many people—older than this little guy and me—that do not want outside perspectives on their money. Their money. 

Go with me here for a second: relationships. These are unique, personal, sacred things to have; they are made of interaction with another living, human being. One to hear your point of view and keep your spoken thought in mind and heart and then respond back with a different authentic point of view. Relationships are really valuable, so valuable that we can hardly call a relationship a ‘thing’ or ‘possession’ because they’re so dynamic, not static. Relationships are almost always prone to change because people are actively changing. Yet they’re vital to us. (I could go on, but I won’t.)

If someone comes in, uninvited, on a relationship you have with another, and says ‘hey I have an idea on how that should work a little better than what you’re doing,’ you’d probably look at them and say something like, ‘You’re not in this relationship; you don’t know. Go away.’ Of course, this is assuming the relationshipees didn’t ask for outside opinion.

Now, what does this have to do with money? Well let me ask you this: Are you in a relationship with your money? Are you devoted to your wealth? 

If someone tried to butt in on you and the chemistry you have with your money, would you say ‘buzz off, we’re comfortable where we are’? My hope is that a person has security in something other than just money, and therefore has little to none identity on the line, if and when they find themselves addressed, or even threatened, financially.

Now, I’m not saying I think it is helpful or constructive for someone to enforce their ideas and plans about one’s money onto him or her, unwelcomed. I cannot expect a 4-year-old boy to orchestrate his bank of coins the way I suggest. 

I have a lot to learn about finances, honestly. But I’ve watched and seen and noticed: money comes in and feeds out. I’ve noticed that humans are more important and more exciting than money and even all the things money gets. I’ve witnessed those who ’have it all’ and yet pay for happiness daily, purchase after purchase, devoting themselves to the lifestyle. 

My advice: if you’re in relationship with your money, take a break. Seriously. Try to see how long you can go without depending on money for instant gratification (like buying treats or online shopping) or security (like grabbing all the open work shifts you possibly can because you want extra spending money) or entitlement (selfish frugality, keeping it to yourself). 

Money is a gift we can steward within relationships with people, not the other way around! Amen?