The Dangers Of Money

Maybe you have heard this story before.

A husband and wife who went shopping together. The husband wandered off, so his wife texted him and asked where he was.

He hates to text, so he called her.

“Remember that jewelry store we went to 10 years ago?” the husband asked. “You saw that beautiful diamond necklace, and I said that I couldn’t afford it then, but one day when I had a little more money, I would buy it for you.”

“Yes, I remember,” his wife said, trying to catch her breath.

“Well, I’m at the donut store next door to it.”

Money can potentially accentuate romance! (Or it can cause hurt and division.)

Point: Essentially neutral, money can often be dangerous.

At the start of a New Year, we can take a fresh look at the influence money has in our lives, and if needed, make decisions to change how we personally view money. As independent financial professionals we can also re-evaluate how we advise others regarding money.

Bottom line: We should urge people to be in charge of their money, and not the other way round.

The Dangers of Money
The Harvard Study of Adult Development conducted what may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For more than 80 years, they tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, and their health. As of 2015 psychiatrist Robert Waldinger was the director of the study. In a November 2015 TED talk (with over 40 million views) he summarized the findings: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”1

As independent financial professionals, we want nothing more for our clients than happy, healthy lives. What impact does money have, first on relationships, and subsequently on health and happiness?

In a 2015 report entitled “Paying with Our Health,” published by the American Psychological Association, the contributors summarized their discoveries: “Stress about money and finances appears to have a significant impact on Americans’ lives. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of the adults surveyed report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time and 22 percent rate their stress about money during the past month as an eight, nine or 10 (on a 10-point scale).”2

Money-related stress impacts important relationships. From the same study:

“For those Americans who feel the burden of stress about money the most—parents, younger generations, lower income households and women—it seems that emotional support is even harder to come by. Even within families, talking about money and finances can be challenging. Only 37 percent say they talk with their family members about money often and 31 percent of spouses and partners say that money is a major source of conflict or tension in their relationship.”3

Another study published in 2018 made this observation: “One in five (19 percent) Americans said they have financial disagreements with their significant other at least monthly.”4

Problem: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier, but the burden of stress about money negatively impacts our closest relationships.

Money and Relationships
Amanda Clayman is a financial therapist who counsels individuals and couples about their issues involving money. She says, “Money issues are never just about money.”5

What is behind the conflicts that couples and families experience regarding money?

  1. Money can create a false sense of independence. People who are extremely affluent may conclude that they can spend their way into or out of just about anything, including relationships. This has a deleterious effect on long term commitments.
  2. Money in abundance can lead to a sense of superiority. People with money often look down on those without. One spouse who earns a significantly higher income can treat the other spouse as inferior. Financial success can lead to pride and prejudice.
  3. Money that is easily accessible can lead to weakened resolve. Desirable things seem more affordable. The downside of a poor financial choice begins to lose power. Author and speaker Paul David Tripp wrote: “Money can be dangerous because it removes a restraint—affordability.”6
  4. More money does not necessarily make a person more generous. When a person’s income translates into a high hourly wage, even the generous gift of time becomes a scarce commodity. Relationships require time to be built and strengthened.
  5. Money shortage creates heightened scrutiny. Suddenly, each spouse is under the watchful eye of the other. How children spend money, and on what, becomes a bigger issue. Money scarcity can cause people to judge one another’s decisions and choices.
  6. Debt and financial encumbrance looms over everything. Even times of celebration (birthdays, holiday gift-giving, anniversaries, etc.) can be despoiled by the oppression of debt. The scarcity mindset can impact whether the important people in our lives feel appreciated.
  7. Comparing one’s assets and money to the holdings of others is rarely a good thing. Comparing leads to competing which leads to complaining. Friendships can dissolve under the weight of envy.
  8. Financial comfort often reduces a person’s empathy toward the less fortunate. The idea comes to mind that one’s financial success was a result of our own hard work, so others just need to do the same. Our lives are the cumulative effect of deposits other people made in us. We are rarely self-made. The reality is that we determined neither our own genes nor our circumstances. Riches and humility are often inversely proportional.

Bottom line: Money can change the way we think about ourselves (and others).

What Is an Independent Financial Professional to Do?
Once we recognize the dangers of money (in particular, the deleterious effect money can have on relationships) what then are we to do?


  • Every recommendation we make has implications for the client’s relationships. In addition to discussing risk/reward, opportunity cost, asset allocation, tax benefits, and the like, we need to also urge the client to consider the relational ramifications. Who might be impacted? How will successful implementation impact others who are depending on the client? How might the client’s financial success lead to greater generosity?
  • In giving financial advice we inherently bear the responsibility to consider the total impact on our client’s human flourishing—to which relationships are integral. There ought to be a “who” behind the “why.”
  • Telling stories is how we change thinking. More than facts, better than trend analysis, above logical presentations, our ability to share stories will inspire people to make behavioral changes. In our practices we have seen money both build and destroy close relationships. Without sharing names, we can use these experiences to add greater impact to the recommendations we may make.

Caveat: Independent financial professionals today operate in an environment of moral relativism. Caution should be used when adding relational guidance to financial advice. It is best not to categorize possible issues involved in financial matters by using terms like “greed,” “stinginess,” “selfishness,” or “prideful superiority.” Instead, it is better to state everything in positive terms.

Ask questions, like these:

  1. “What beneficial impact might this action have on the people nearest to you?”
  2. “Who beyond your own family might be positively impacted by this potential success?”
  3. “Are we considering all the ways this might strengthen your closest relationships?”
  4. “Do these steps lead you to greater opportunities for you to generously impact the people in your life?”
  5. “When the proposed financial outcomes occur, will you be freer to invest in other people’s lives?”

Money can change the way we think about ourselves—and others. Independent financial professionals serve their clients best when they remember that relationships are key to full and healthy lives.

Tom Ferry is founder and CEO of Ferry International, one of the real estate industry’s leading coaching and training companies. He exemplifies the art of blending relationship-mindedness with business and financial success.

Tom shared his story: “When the market crashed from 2007 to 2009, I focused on how to serve clients in this new reality. I adapted to market conditions. I doubled down on the business of helping clients (realtors) manage this transition in their own business. I helped them go from a traditional retail business (listing and sales) to a diversified approach where they worked with banks to sell bank-owned homes, distressed assets, and short sales. Because this encompassed a significant number of homes sold during the crisis, the business survived.”7

This is the key: “I went all in on giving back and adapting to tough times, creating more relationships and bringing more value. That made all the difference in my business.”8

We can excel in our work as independent financial professionals by helping our clients to give back, create more relationships, and bring more value to the people in their lives.

Who knows, but maybe how we and our clients use money in this life may have implications for the life to come.

One spiritual leader said this:

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”9


  3. Ibid.
  4. Northwestern Mutual. “Planning and Progress Study 2018.”
  8. Ibid.

CLU, ChFC, FLMI, is a director, vice president, team leader, speaker and mentor for Global Leadership Partners.

For nearly four decades Murphy worked in the financial services industry, and has held positions in sales, marketing, product development, training and development, distribution, agency management, and recruiting. In his latest role he was responsible for managing National Account relationships. In this role he shared business leadership and practice management concepts with business owners, marketing organizations and independent financial professionals. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and a keynote speaker at industry events.

After 37 wonderful years in financial services, it was time for Murphy to give back, to share with others the training, development and experiences he enjoyed by God’s grace, and encourage others who are just starting out or seeking to grow.

Global Leadership Partners identifies, equips and sends business leaders to speak at leadership seminars in partnership with organizations primarily in Eastern Europe, but eventually, around the world. The intent is to foster development of foreign leaders who will courageously stand for strong values and a high ethical standard. This work is based on the belief that the world will be a better place when filled with leaders who lead according to proven values and bedrock principles.

Murphy is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and is available as a keynote speaker for life insurance industry meetings and training events. He can be reached by telephone at: 312-859-3064. Email: Twitter: