How To View Money As A Tool, Not The Goal

Money is a funny thing. It’s paper and metal, yet has powerful hold on us. We measure ourselves and others by how much we have. The truth is money is a tool. Your life changes when you view money as a tool, not the goal. 

In my garage I have many tools. Each is useful for something. My shovel is useful for digging holes. I don’t collect shovels or display shovels. If I didn’t have a yard, I would get rid of my shovel because it’s just a tool. It has no value to me beyond digging holes.

Money is a tool – yes, a very useful tool – but a tool nonetheless. Unlike its tool cousin, the shovel, money has tricked us into thinking it’s more than a tool. We’ve become convinced it’s the goal.

When Money Is The Goal, We Lose Perspective

Money takes on a life of its own when we believe it’s the goal. This belief messes with our perspective. Here are a few ways:

  • We estimate our self-worth by money. Two groups hired me to speak the same month. One was my ideal group: 30 people ready to take action on what I spoke about, but the fee was minimal. The other group was a dozen people required to be there by the CEO, which is never fun, but the fee was really good. I felt internally conflicted at both events. My values lined up with the first group. But a voice inside me kept judging the events by the fee.
  • We feel falsely self-confident with money. Back in my early 20’s I went out for burgers with a friend. He pulled out a money clip with a $100 bill on top. He heard that if you carried a $100 bill in your pocket you’ll feel more successful. It don’t work. He saved for two weeks to get the $100 bill and was constantly afraid of losing it!
  • We feel a sense of security with money. A friend had $75,000 saved to buy a house someday. He was set. Then the stock market dropped – at the exact time he needed to buy a house. Money is fleeting. It comes and goes. (Mostly goes, it seems!)
  • We always need more money. How much is enough? The honest answer is: more. More is based not on our needs. It’s based on our desire to keep what we’ve got and get more. Anytime I’ve had a bump up in income I’ve thought to myself, “Ah, that’s perfect, with this extra money we’ll be fine and I don’t have to think about money anymore.” Unfortunately, that thought lasts only a short time.

To counter these problems, some people try to not think about money at all. This is a mistake. The Bible says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The problem is our perspective on money, the love and eagerness for it, not its existence.

5 Ways To View Money As A Tool

Money isn’t the problem. Our mindset about money is. Money is tool. It’s a means to get something done – easier, faster, and in a bigger way. Here are 5 ways to have a healthy perspective on money:

  1. Money is necessary. Obvious? Not for many leaders I coach. I heard Stu McLaren say, “More money, more impact.” This statement goes against the thinking of most nonprofit leaders. They have a huge vision to change the world, yet when it comes to finances that’s where their vision stops. Somehow they believe they can change the world with a budget that won’t support the transformation of a city block.
  2. Too much money can hurt you. Can you have too much money? Yes! When there’s plenty of money we get lazy. We’re less likely to work harder, make changes, and pay attention to the needs of our customers. There’s a healthy pressure that comes from having to pay for what we do.
  3. Work for impact and income. I focus on two “i”s – impact and income. Here’s why: You can earn income without making impact, but that’s not fulfilling. Do this for long and you’ll kill your spirit. You can also make impact without earning income, but that isn’t sustainable. Eventually, the impact will stop for lack of means to continue it. You’ve got to generate both impact and income. Income is a tool to produce more impact.
  4. Impact provides meaning, not the income. Money is really a metaphor. It has no meaning in and of itself. The meaning is in what it represents. In my work, more money means we can make a greater impact in the lives of more and more leaders. The meaning is the increased impact, the income is a tool to get it. Focus on the meaning, the end results, not the tool.
  5. Evaluate how much money you need to get it done. If we’re treating money like a tool, then make an assessment of what tools you really need to do the job. Money will be near the top of the list. To change metaphors, money is a like a wild card. You can play it to solve many different situations. Be realistic about what’s needed, then examine your system to see if it will generate that. If not, change your system.

I still struggle with money not being a goal. Society has conditions me to view it that way.

I have to think about money if my work is going to continue, but how I think about money is up to me. I choose to think about money as a tool. A very useful tool to live out my calling.

Reflect on the 5 ways to view money as a tool. What challenges your thinking?

Question: What would change for you if you viewed money as a tool? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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