Money Is Not in the Math Department, It’s in the Psychology Department

Carl Richards
Jul 20, 2018 · 2 min read

This is a four-part series we’re calling “Talking About Money.” If you are new here, welcome! You can read part one here.

If talking about money is so important, why do we have such a hard time with it?

I think it’s because we’ve been taught — if we were taught anything about money — that it’s about spreadsheets and calculators. It’s a math problem. It should be rational and reasonable.

But then we go to open the credit card bill with our spouse or partner, and suddenly we find ourselves in a fight.

It’s a little bit like grabbing an electric fence you didn’t know was electric.

We all know that no matter how worried, scared, or excited we’re feeling, 2+2 always equals 4. But when it comes to money, 2+2 equals feelings. Because, as it turns out, money is not in the math department. It’s in the psychology department.

Since money is such an emotionally charged subject, it can be hard to talk about. I get that. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we get to avoid it.

There’s a pattern of behavior around money. Overspending, buying cheap plastic items thinking they will bring us happiness, not saving. In other words, not aligning our use of capital — in terms of spending, saving, and investing — with what we say is important to us.

Nobody’s ever taught us how to do this. So, it’s time we teach ourselves.

And this week’s very simple, narrow, focused lesson, is just this: Talking about money equals talking about feelings.

That’s it. Just let that sink in.

This is part two of a four-part series called “Talking About Money.” Read part three of the Talking About Money series here.

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Carl Richards

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Making things elegantly simple one sketch at a time. Creator of the New York Times Sketch Guy column.