Money: The Tool That Destroys and Uplifts

Tiller Founder, Peter Polson and Derek Olsen from How Do I Money at FinCon16 in San Diego

Tiller Founder, Peter Polson and Derek Olsen from How Do I Money at FinCon16 in San Diego

I’m just back from the 7th Annual FinCon Expo, a gathering of people passionate about personal finance. The gathering in San Diego was over 1,200 people strong, including Tiller friends Joe Saul-Sehy and Kathleen Celmins from Stacking Benjamins, Derek Olsen from How Do I Money, Talaat and Tai McNeely from His and Her Money, and Joshua Sheats from Radical Personal Finance.

That’s a lot of energy and passion focused on money!

Many of these people run their own businesses as blogs, podcasts, and profitable media outlets. I love hearing personal stories, so I often ask: how did you get started, and why are you putting your time and energy into personal finance?

The Destroyer

A surprising number of these stories tell the tale of financially dire circumstances. Patrice C. Washington bravely told her story of building a seven-figure business then going bankrupt. The real estate meltdown destroyed her financially, and she found herself $2 million in debt. She was raising a daughter so it was imperative that she claw her way out of this pit. Now she is part of a radio show with five million listeners where she teaches people about finance. She’s committed to ensuring others don’t suffer from a similar slippery slope. She’s a passionate and articulate woman on a mission, and you can’t help but feel that energy when you hear her talk.  

The uplifting

I also heard many inspiring stories about people who have enough money and so they choose to use it in beautiful ways.

Doug Nordman reached financial independence from his military pension and a blogging businesses he created. He’s now financially independent and doesn’t need to earn anything more to support his life as a writer, surfer, and military advocate. He and his family don’t live a life of luxury. They pursue a life of meaning.

He gives all of his earnings from his book, The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement, and others he’s written, back to military charities. Every penny. He understands that the men and women serving our country have huge needs, from personal finance training to re-integrating back into the working world after their service.

Why does he give all of his royalties away? Because he has enough money. Sure he could keep that money to increase his standard of living. I’m certain he could find ways to spend it, but that’s not his priority. He chooses to spend according to his values.

Money is a tool.

I love these stories because they demonstrate that money is a tool.

At the moment, a pile of firewood outside our home is waiting to be split. Fire is our main source of heat in the winter, and I need to be swinging the axe a lot these days. It’s a powerful tool. Used poorly, it will tear into my flesh and send me to the hospital, or worse.

On the other hand, and used wisely, it is a great tool that helps stock wood for winter. I’ll be stronger for using it, too. However, only a fool would say that the axe is the goal. Firewood is the goal. A warm house for my family is the goal. Waking up early on cold mornings, lighting a fire, and reading by the woodstove is part of the goal too. These all bring me joy.

If you gave me a second axe, I’d keep it. It’s helpful to have a spare. Thanks!

If you gave me 1,000 axes, well, that’s a bit much. Where will I put them? Do I need to build a new shed for them? Maybe I start a collection, but that’s not really what matters. In fact, it’s quickly going to distract me from my goal of heat for my family.

Values give life meaning.

Money. Axes. They’re both powerful tools. They can hurt us, and they can be critical ingredients in a good life. They’re tools that have their purpose, even vital purposes.

If we focus our life on our tools, we’ll lose ourselves and our meaning. When we use our tools to achieve our goals and live according to our values, our tools empower us to pursue a significant life.

How are you putting your tools to work for you?

-Peter Polson
Tiller Founder