Money and Security

moneyHow much money does it take for someone to feel really secure?

This seems like a sensible question. Certainly, many of us have been dealing with  insecurity because of a lack of money.

In other words, there is a relationship between money and security.

On the other hand, over the years, we have never run into anyone who managed to achieve a sense of security by amassing money. The problem is that, while having enough money is arguably necessary to feel secure, the amount of money that is needed to allow one to feel secure is not that great, and money by itself is not adequate to achieve security.

There are many aspects of feeling insecure, and many things that probably contribute to security, but we want to focus here on the sense of being loved.

Not only is money by itself not enough to achieve security, but the single-minded pursuit of money often is destructive to relationships.

Despite the fact that the strategy is not successful, it is extremely popular. We have run into many people, seemingly especially those who already have a fair amount of financial security, who have become entirely focused on getting more money as the way to achieve overall security.

This morning, we were talking to a wonderful and very successful professional man. He is an attorney, who is married to an equally successful attorney. We’ve been working together for almost a decade.

One of the things that he first came in to talk about was his struggle to meet his wife’s need for “security” before she would consider giving up her brutal job in a high power law firm. He and I observed the clear destructive impact of this job on his wife’s health and their relationship.

Because he’s basically a very caring and devoted husband, he has spent the last ten years doing what his wife insisted he needed to do in order for her to be secure enough to quit her job: He has been investing his money in very successfully and running an increasingly lucrative business, all while taking care of their daughter and running the household.

The results would seem to meet almost anybody’s criteria for “financial security.” However, today, we had to jointly face the fact that there has been no progress towards the goal of allowing his wife to feel more comfortable about changing jobs. Her work environment has gotten worse, although that would have seemed impossible when we first met, yet she seems incapable of thinking about leaving her job.

Over the years, I had advised him on several occasions that I thought that this strategy was a mistake, that I had not found the financial security = overall security equation to work.

Why did he do it?

One of the reasons is surely that his wife has insisted that this is what she needs. Any effort on his part to suggest that maybe she is depressed (which seems quite likely) or that the sense of being disconnected from her family because of her crazy work hours might actually be making her more insecure, has been met with scorn.

Another reason is the allure of being able to measure progress. That is one of the tantalizing things about money – you can easily tell how you are doing.

The same problem often occurs in the medical field. There are many examples of how doctors got fooled into using a treatment because it clearly did something that “should” have improved people’s health (anti- arrhythmic medications which made the heart’s rhythm look normal… but, it later turned out, actually contributed to increased mortality).

Often the problem is that the thing that you are measuring (an improved cardiac rhythm) is pretty easy to measure and seems as though it should lead to the actual improvement (less mortality) but it doesn’t.

It also may be true that he was influenced by a pervasive bias against psychological or psychiatric intervention in society.

A study by a group of economists from Australia looked at how to spend your money if you want to achieve happiness (not quite the same thing as security). They found that one of the best ways was to invest in psychotherapy. That hasn’t had much effect on the sales of luxury goods, however.