Let’s talk about money

03 July 2023
7 min read
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Only financial awareness can change the economy

Precisely because we know that money isn't everything - it's not the measure of a person's worth - it's time to affirm that money is important. It’s important as a tool, to grow, to realize our own projects, and to protect the things that matter most to us.

We usually don’t talk about money

We don’t talk about money. Talking about money isn’t appropriate. It's not classy, it's not convenient: money is a subject that, with few exceptions, we’ve been raised to avoid since childhood. It's a taboo.

It could be the legacy of Catholic culture, or perhaps even progressive culture associates money with "guilt" unconsciously, but the result is that, on average, we are economically illiterate. We know very little about the basic mechanisms of the economy, we struggle to manage our personal and family budgets consciously, and we often need to seek help from professionals and consultants.

Financial education practically has no place in primary and secondary schools, yet the economy is one of the forces that has the greatest influence on our lives. For "ordinary" people, finance is a mysterious discipline, as distant and inaccessible as quantum physics. Yet, not only global trends and geopolitical balances depend on financial fluctuations, but also our daily lives: we’ve witnessed this with the rise in interest rates, mass layoffs in the tech sector, and even more evidently with the crises that arise from unknown financial dynamics that impact everyone's lives. It happened in 2008, and some fear that the chain of recent bank failures could trigger something similar.

Greater widespread economic awareness wouldn’t just help us manage our savings better, plan our investments more effectively, and make our earnings more profitable. It could also serve to challenge the dominant economic model: if no one really knows how the economy works or how money moves, it becomes difficult for alternative ideas and experiments to emerge. It's hard to imagine a different way of relating to money.

Yet money talks about us 

The more we refuse to deal with money, however, the more money controls us. It imposes dynamics and life choices on us, decides what we can and cannot do, regulates the flow of our days through work, and - no matter what anyone says - plays a fundamental role in determining our well-being.

In recent years, the overwhelming transformations of technology have profoundly changed - as they’ve done to a certain extent with everything - also our relationship with money. On one hand, our perception of money has become virtualized, more abstract and fluid: apparently it has freed itself from bureaucratic constraints and mediations. On the other hand, however, the volatility of money has increased uncertainties, has made individual planning even more difficult, and above all, has brought out trends of reduced growth and a decline in the availability of money.

The way we spend money has changed significantly from how our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Looking at the data, a major difference emerges, for example, in spending on a house. Housing accounts for about 35% of our budget, with no particular difference between generations, and has increased our individual budgets.

The problem is that such an increase in expenses hasn’t been followed by an equal increase in salaries. The result? We no longer save; and we’re quite convinced that our children will be financially worse off than us.

Meanwhile, apps and services that allow you to pay for anything in installments without interest (the so-called Buy Now, Pay Later) are all the rage among younger people. Although it’s true that these services have made the relationship with money more flexible, doubts and reflections are starting to arise regarding the risk of potential uncontrolled debt. While a happy hour is being paid in installments, it seems that many people, especially those among the youngest generation, struggle to pay their bills on time.

We want to regenerate our relationship with money 

For some years now, the most important countercultural movement in the digital field has been linked to money. The technological revolution linked to blockchain and cryptocurrencies stems from the need to invent a different way of exchanging value. Blockchain protocols have been designed in direct opposition to the way mainstream platforms handle user data and monetize their interactions.

In addition to creating alternative currencies to the official ones, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, this movement above all advocates for the creation of autonomous and decentralized communities. The goal is to no longer delegate control of any transaction to anyone and to ensure that the value generated by a community remains entirely at the disposal of the community itself.

Decentralization addresses the issue that the digital economy, and in particular the platform economy, has strengthened and made the extractive logic of traditional capitalism even more widespread. In other words, it has enabled a few major global players to produce value not only from our work but also from our free time, our relationships, our passions, and the time we spend "doing nothing."

For a brief moment, we believed that digital platforms could enable a sharing economy. However, we soon realized that a logic devoted to maximizing profit was prevailing in the digital economy, often at the expense of people's well-being and social cohesion.

From the movements that fight for decentralization, however, arises a suggestion that can be applied more broadly: to overturn the extractive model into a community model, where the value produced by people returns as much as possible to people, remaining within the communities.

Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar, together with other economists and researchers, have developed a regenerative marketing model designed to circulate money within communities as much as possible, transforming everything that is spent into a potential investment that improves places and shared spaces.

It’s an idea that goes beyond the model of "social responsibility." It isn't just a concession that companies and economic entities make to the respective regions or areas. It’s a model that operates based on a community approach and can potentially integrate economic growth, the redistribution of well-being, and environmental protection.

So we do need to talk about money

To achieve this model, however, we have to talk about money. We must promote a greater awareness of the dynamics that regulate the movement of money and its impact on people's lives. We must have a clear idea of ​​business, of what it means to design products that work, of how value is produced.

It applies to communities and individuals alike. Only through a deeper understanding of economic mechanisms can we become more capable, on a personal level, of "defending ourselves" from the pressures of the environment and taking control of our financial lives, and therefore our lives as a whole.

Because right now, in a historical moment when we’re all more aware that money isn’t everything, it’s not the measure of a person's worth, and it’s not the end of life, it’s even easier to admit that money is important. It’s important as a tool, to grow, to realize our own projects, and to protect the things that matter most to us. It’s important for people and organizations, and it becomes even more so in times of uncertainty.

Speaking more openly and consciously about money will help people to better orient themselves in the possibilities for saving, spending, and investing. It will enable experiences and best practices to be shared, thereby fostering widespread financial education. This is the work being done by communities like Rame, which has made it their mission to break the taboo surrounding money and discuss it openly, without filters, shame, or mystery.

In the future, talking about money will mean highlighting where it goes, what it’s for, and how it can be spent for the collective good. Talking about money will involve understanding the impact of money on people's lives. If, as suggested by regenerative marketing theories, we begin to see that money spent in a certain way has a concrete impact on our daily lives, on the places where we live, neighborhoods, streets, squares, then our commitment to maintain and strengthen this mechanism would become stronger. Then perhaps talking about money will be the way to change not only our relationship with money but also reshape the very idea we have of the economy.

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