Money is a good servant but a bad master.
Old French Proverb
The basic meaning of this proverb is obvious and is often stated in various other similar maxims. For example, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” The poor are working for money. Their money is not working for them. In the most extreme instances bad debt has so choked their life that for all intents and purposes they are trapped in a modern form of slavery.
However, this proverb is true on other levels.
Consider the middle class. The middle class live month to month. Let me take a minute and introduce you to my former neighbors. We will call them Jack and Jane. Jack just turned 40. Jane is still in her thirties, just barely. They live fairly near our former church in a house valued in excess of $550,000. Together they earn a little more than $175,000 a year. She is a biotech researcher, works at NIH. He is a middle manager at a major investment banking house. With two mortgage payments, a leased Lexus SUV, payments on a new Chrysler mini-van, and the credit card debt if one of them looses their job, the family would be in trouble within six months. They have essentially no savings. If they were to both loose their jobs, the family would be in bankruptcy court within three months. Their life revolves around those paychecks and their monthly payments. Just like the poor they are trapped in our modern form of debt slavery. Money is their master; not their servant.
Insidiously, even the rich can find that they are the servants of their money. If you have made your financial world is so complex that it is in essence a full time job, you have made money your master. I am not stating that everyone who earns a living in finance is a slave of their money. What I am saying is that if managing your money is claiming an unreasonable amount of your time and emotional energy, just as a poor person trying to pay back a payday loan, you are a slave to your money. If you have no time for your God, your family, or your friends because maintaining your fortune is too demanding something is out of balance. Something is very wrong. It can get worse. Fear of losing your possessions or fearing people who may take advantage of your wealth can poison your ability to have a normal relationship with anyone. Listen to Oprah talk about her so called friends and family members who are always looking for a handout. Even parents can become so fearful of their own children that they essentially cut them out of their lives over money.
Take a look at your life. How much of your time is devoted to paying off your debts and your monthly bills? How much of your time belongs to you? Is your money a good and faithful servant that is quietly doing its job so you can better enjoy freedom or is it a harsh taskmaster that has sucked the joy out of your life? No matter whether you are rich, poor, or just an ordinary middle class American you can have a healthy relationship with your money or money can be your master.
Remember the proverb: Money can be a very bad master.