Two grandmothers sat sipping tea and quietly lamenting over their relationship with their grandchildren.  The first spoke: “I am so sad.  It seems my wonderful grandchildren have grown up now, and they rarely ever visit me.  The second replied: “Yes, I know.  I only see mine when I send them a check for birthdays, graduation or Christmas.”  The first spoke again, “What?  I do that, too.  But the checks don’t buy me any time with them.”  The second one laughed, “Oh, my checks always result in a visit, because I conveniently ‘forget’ to sign them!”


We marvel at the brilliance of the strategy and laugh at the humor, even as our hearts drop silent tears in sadness.  Feelings of loneliness and disconnection are common struggles, a major source of unhappiness and a greater threat to physical health than diabetes or high blood pressure.  When searching for causes I find an often overlooked culprit.  While social, psychological and relational factors are definitely involved, money is a major player.  


Sometimes money is the source of the problem, as having insufficient income drives family member to work grueling hours leaving little time for connection with others.  At other times money becomes the anesthesia t0 numb the relational pain long enough to allow for relaxation, comfort and joy, creating an environment to work on the real underlying issues.  Either way, money seems to be intricately interwoven with core human desires for connection, significance and happiness.   I’m not sure why, but I have some thoughts.

For me, the mystery begins at the very beginning—a time and place of complete joy and tranquility.  Yes, I’m in the Garden of Eden!  Whether you take the ancient story literally or metaphorically, something in the human psyche believes we were meant to live in relational peace, harmony and pleasure.  Our minds relish the thought of the lion frolicking with the lamb, of gardens that supply luscious, nourishing food and fragrantly beautiful landscapes—all watered by underground streams which require no irrigation or work.  We envision a home where all needs are met, and all longings fulfilled.  No loneliness or emotional distress.  Paradise!  Yet, as I read the ancient account of the story, I find a shocking surprise – a reference to money!  Yes, there was apparently money in Paradise.  Check out this statement about the river, Pishon, in the book of Genesis:  . . . it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.  (The gold of that land is good…). These words written about 1500 BC recognized money as a component of the perfect land of Eden.  Wow!  In the beginning, money was an intricate part of life and happiness.

Defining Money

Before moving forward with this discussion, I want to define money.  Most of what we casually call money is actually currency.  Paper dollars, debit cards and all digital entries on your bank ledger are currencies.  A currency is defined as a medium of exchange and a unit of account used in trade.  A currency must be: (1) portable –  so we can carry it around, (2) durable – so it will not easily disintegrate over time, (3) divisible – so we can make change, and (4) fungible – so that a dollar in my wallet has the exact same value as a dollar in yours.  While money must meet all these requirements it has a fifth one that sets it apart from currency.  Money must be a “store of value” that does not diminish over time.  Ancient people recognized gold and silver as money and began as early as 638 BC minting coins to transform gold into usable currencies.  

The concept of “storing value” is where money seems to intersect with human emotions like sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression.   My totally bold conclusion is this:  Money is actually a store of “human” value.  This statement comes dangerously close to demeaning human value, until I consider that the value we carry on planet earth is encapsulated in time. Time, a non-renewable resource, is the essence of life.  Money deployed effectively is one way to store our time.  We spend our time to work for money, which can be spent now, saved for later, or left as a legacy.  Each of these uses, with wise implementation, promote and support the relationships of life that bring enjoyment and satisfaction and ward off loneliness.  Somehow our sense of peace, tranquility and wellbeing is magnified when the money is right, and the gold of our land is good!


Loneliness, anxiety and low self-esteem have many layers.  Interwoven within these layers is an element of money.  The issue isn’t just having or not having, because all people—wealthy or poor—fall prey to these emotional distresses.  The money factor involves financial literacy and deployment—understanding the forces driving the financial world and utilizing sound personal money strategies.  Failure to know and apply appropriate money strategies gives rise to emotional distress.

The question becomes: “How can we best deploy energy, emotions, efforts and time – life’s essence – to bring about the good results we desire?  Money will always factor into the equation.  It can be spent today for support and enjoyment which foster connection.  It can be saved for tomorrow, to meet unexpected needs and take advantage of opportunities to enjoy life with family and friends. It can be planted where it will grow and become a legacy that will outlive us, to nourish and connect future generations.

We look to understand forces, factors and communities to help us find the gold in the land.  When the gold in the land is truly good, all variations of emotional distress have difficulty taking root.  Money is designed to be a store of value, denominated not in stuff, but in the only asset that really matters – wellbeing of the human being.   So, it’s okay to use it to bribe the grandkids, as long as the end goal is laughter and hugs and time spent together.

Read more of Gail’s article on Plaid or connect with her on her website.