We are restless by nature. We want what others have. “If only I had his job,” or “her income,” or “their house, then I’d be content,” we say. The true source of discontent is not financial or material, though. Although money may ease or inflame discontent, it comes from a much deeper place. Paul says in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Paul’s secret was not a better job or a bigger house. He continues, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Being content no matter your situation is important to your spiritual and emotional health, but it actually has more benefits than just spiritual and emotional. Being content is key to your financial stability too.
It reduces your spending
The English philosopher John Stuart Mill stated, “Men do not desire to be rich, but to be richer than other men.”1 The constant habit of comparing yourself to those around you is expensive and unsatisfying. It requires buying things you don’t need or that are out of your price range because you feel pressured.
You may need more reliable transportation. There are many reliable, affordable vehicles, but people are often pressured to buy above their means because family or friends have similar vehicles. Or your peers may regularly eat at expensive restaurants, have memberships to exclusive gyms, or buy trendy clothing. While none of these are inherently wrong, you need to have extra money to do them. They are luxuries. If you do not have money for luxuries, you must be honest with yourself and not allow what other people think to drive your spending.
It helps you avoid unwise decisions
Contentedness lets you think and make decisions more clearly. It helps you make financial decisions based on whether or not you need and can afford an item, not based on what others will think about you.
When your head is clear and your mind is sharp, your decisions will reflect this. You will more closely follow your goals, adhere to your morals and listen to reason. When you are discontent, emotions will control your thoughts, restlessness will be reflected in your spending and impulsivity will drive your decisions.
It improves your well-being
Financial contentment also improves your emotional well-being. A study on well-being conducted by five college professors and published in 2004 asserts that, “The strong valuing of extrinsic (relative to intrinsic) goals is negatively associated with well-being. In other words, people for whom it is highly important to amass wealth, present an attractive image, and become popular or famous tend to report ill-being.”2
Extrinsic goals often involve being discontent with your financial or societal status. They involve wanting what others have and devaluing what you have. Intrinsic goals, on the other hand, involve “personal growth, emotional intimacy, and community involvement.”2 Intrinsic goals do not come from a place of financial discontent. Examples of intrinsic goals would be improving your spiritual relationship, building your knowledge, or spending more time with family.
The study states in conclusion, “people seeking greater well-being would be well advised to focus on the pursuit of goals involving growth, connection, and contribution rather than goals involving money, beauty, and popularity.”2
Contentedness is essential to your financial health. You will never feel financially stable unless you are content in whatever situation arises. Being content does not mean being apathetic, unmotivated or lazy. Being content means not coveting what others have, making decisions based on goals, morals and reason rather than emotions, restlessness and impulsivity, and having intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) goals.
- Mill, John Stuart. Posthumous Essay on Social Freedom, Oxford and Cambridge Review, 1907.
- Sheldon, Kennon M., Ryan, Richard M., Deci, Edward L., Kasser, Tim. The Independent Effects of Goal Contents and Motives on Well-Being: It’s Both What You Pursue and Why You Pursue It, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Apr. 30, 2004.