Earlier this summer, a publicist asked me to review a personal finance book written by one of her clients. I’d never been asked to do something like this and gladly accepted. Unfortunately, the timing coincided with our overseas move to England, and while I finished reading the book for the first time in early September, it took another two months for me to re-read it and put in the necessary time to complete a proper book review.
It Is Only Money and It Grows on Trees!, was written by Cara MacMillan, a thought leader in sustainability and financial management. It tackles personal finance from a perspective I had never really seen or thought about before, providing stories of how money and finances are viewed by various cultures and religions around the world.
To be clear, I am not receiving any compensation for this review.
The story begins with a guest professor named Catherine entering a classroom full of students. The word “MONEY” is written on the board and this sets the tone for the ensuing discussion that takes place over the next ten class sessions.
As the students throw out answers for what money means to them, it’s clear everyone views money a little bit differently, and it is this view that defines our relationship with money. These views are shaped by the culture in which one is raised. Throughout the book, the reader is introduced to the ways multiple religions from Christianity and Judaism to Islam and Hindu view money. It was interesting to discover where these views overlapped and where they differed.
Because the book is written as a discussion between classmates and an instructor/facilitator, it is an extremely easy read. Most readers should find the examples presented to be relevant to their own lives. Several times throughout the book, I found myself nodding in agreement or imagining someone I knew who had faced a similar situation.
What really stood out to me as I read the book for a second time was how everything, not just one’s relationship with money, boils down to how an individual chooses to see the world. You can either choose to have an attitude of scarcity or abundance.
Those looking through a lens of scarcity live with a fear-based mindset and believe money is in short supply and difficult to make. This unhealthy attitude can lead to a miserable life where one may never reach their full potential because they are afraid to take chances.
On the other hand, those with an abundant mindset believe that not only money, but opportunities and resources are abundant. When faced with challenges, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they harness their talents and change the currency of their lives.
Cara goes on to provide several examples to illustrate how changing one’s attitude and sharing one’s talents and skills with others transcends finances, strengthening relationships and improving happiness, a true measure of wealth. As you can probably tell, a person’s wealth is measured by more than just the size of their bank account.
For those already well-versed in a wide range of personal finance topics, nothing in this book will be ground-breaking. However, for a high school or college student or someone struggling with their finances, this book covers just about every topic you could imagine, and does so in a way anyone could understand. With that in mind, It Is Only Money and It Grows on Trees! could make a perfect graduation, birthday, or holiday gift.
This book is filled with poignant short quotes and one-liners that, for me, really got to the heart of personal finance and our relationship with money. I jotted down dozens of them as I was reading. To conclude my review, here are some of my favorites broken out by topic.
“Our attitude defines our relationship with money.”
“For so many years I did not think that I could ever be wealthy. To be honest, when I think back to those years, the only reason I was not wealthy was because of my thinking.”
“In so many ways, they taught me to be dissatisfied. They taught me that money limited you, or I guess I should qualify that—the absence of money would limit me for the rest of my life.”
“We are each given talents, and we each have a different starting point. Yet we also have the power to choose where we go in life and in our financial life.”
“There are always consequences from action and inaction.”
“Make more or live within it. You have a choice.”
“So in a way, by not saving for unexpected expenses, they’re choosing to be in debt.”
On feeling trapped
“We become trapped without even conscious awareness… We unconsciously choose to become unhappy, unhealthy, and unwealthy.”
“We were middle class. But the truth is, we felt trapped.”
“That is why we must save so that we do not become stuck in useless work.”
“You see, when you don’t have to worry about money, you don’t feel trapped.”
On societal influences
“Research shows that we are brainwashed to consume and spend.”
“It’s in the bank’s best interest to keep these clients in debt.”
“We impulse buy. We react when something is broken or when we need something quickly.”
“Sometimes the most fun is the simplest.”
“It is not things that make us happy, it is our relationships and experiences.”
On building wealth
“Building wealth is simple. We make it complicated.”
“In every situation, I can learn, develop, and create.”
“Be aware of what you spend, and you are on your way.”
“You work very hard for your income; keep it.”
“The truly wealthy share their wealth.”
“Cars are not an investment. They do not increase in value.”
“Everyone can do this… This is not about giving up anything. It’s about waiting, discerning needs and wants, and enjoying life through experiences not things.”