When did we start letting numbers define us as human beings? The amount of money you have in the bank, your credit score, your net worth – these all indicate something important in our modern, currency-driven world. But the one thing it shouldn’t define is who we are.
In this latest episode of Intuitive Finance, join us as we dive into bringing relationships back at the heart of personal finance and redefining what it really means to be successful in our money stories.
- [02:59] The quantifiable versus the experiential
- [04:26] Bringing relationships back into focus
- [06:59] From “I’ll get the next one” to creating currency
- [09:03] The creation of debt instruments
- [11:40] Proposing a new financial revolution framework
- [11:59] Being human-centered
- [13:53] Establishing meaningful interactions
- [15:45] Redefining success
[00:00:00] Intro: We’re saying goodbye to the rigid numbers and strict budgets, and putting relationships back at the heart of personal finance. This is more than a podcast, it’s an invitation to reimagine your money story, and journey with us through a landscape of intuitive strategies and abundance. Join a community that nurtures transformative financial mindsets. Welcome to Intuitive Finance. I’m your host, Dylan Bain.
[00:00:36] Dylan Bain: It’s March of 2021 and I’m out in my garden working on the tomato plants and putting them into the ground, with the hope that I’m going to have a lovely garden of fresh vegetables to can with my wife and my kids come the fall. And while I’m doing this, I’m listening to this podcast and I’ve got it in my ears.
[00:00:53] And I’m just mindlessly allowing myself to just sink into the work, when I suddenly hear the guest on the podcast comment that the foundational problem with people’s relationships are their emotions and their inability to heal and process them. And he said it in such a way that it came through crystal clear, cutting through my concentration, and I stopped with my hands deep in the dirt, putting the next tomato plant into the garden realizing, I gotta go back and listen to that.
[00:01:23] And I do, and I listen to it again. And he’s talking about these relationship workshops that he’s putting on and for the first time, sometimes after 30 years of marriage, couples are having these conversations about what they really like in the relationship. Everywhere from the kitchen, to conversation, to the bedroom. And I’m having such cognitive dissonance because, aren’t these things more or less separate? Like yeah, emotional life is real, but it’s over there, and me as a man, my job is to get shit done and to be able to just turn the crank and get the cookies. And more cookies for my family, the better.
[00:01:59] And I’m really struggling with what this man is saying on this podcast. Ladies and gentlemen, this idea that our emotions make decisions for us without our consent and that our relationships to ourselves and to other people are so paramount to our ability to live a life that is worth living was, at the time for me, completely revolutionary. I had never had this idea before and I had never really felt the weight of the truth of what this man was saying.
[00:02:33] And in my world at the time, I had bought the house. I had set out to get the house with the yard, with the steaks and the grill, and the kids playing, and the compliment from my wife. That was my vision that had taken me through five years of unbelievable hell and hard work. And here I was in my backyard gardening, reflecting on my relationship with my wife, which was deteriorating rapidly and divorce was on the horizon.
[00:02:59] See, I believe that people were quantifiable. If I was just good enough with my data and my spreadsheets, that I could spreadsheet a person and be able to understand what they tick, and figure out what inputs would give me the outputs that I wanted.
[00:03:13] Because at the time, my entire world was intellectualized from the neck up. I was in my head, it was all data. The data, what does the data say? How much data is in — does this make sense given the data? But what this man on this podcast was telling me was, you can’t measure relationships, they’re not quantifiable. You can’t think your way out of this. You have to feel your way through this. You can’t measure relationships. Or joy. Or the feelings of safety and security that your children have. Or any of the other things that make human life flourish. These are things that are felt, that are experienced. We are experiential creatures that are bringing in this information into ourselves.
[00:03:58] I can, on paper, explain why. Well of course, you know, yes there’s a thunderstorm and it’s dark outside and the power is out, but you’re perfectly safe, my little child, you’re going to be fine. But of course, any parent who listened to this, you know that the child doesn’t care what you say. They don’t care what preparations you have. They care if they can feel you relaxed. Because if Mama and Papa are relaxed, then they know they’re safe. And that is what makes the difference here.
[00:04:26] What I’m working on, what I’m building, is I’m building a financial revolution that puts relationships back at the heart of the conversation. This financial revolution that I envision, that I want, would create a significant change for how individuals and societies and institutions think about, manage, and engage with their money in a new fundamental way that we can start to understand what’s actually going to allow for human flourishing.
[00:04:51] No longer the data and the spreadsheets, even though those are important tools to this process. That’s not the focus. They’re tools, they’re things that help us be able to black and white, be able to look at these things so that we can identify what is invaluable to us. This would be a transformation in foundational principles for the financial systems, both on institutional levels and on our personal levels, and all of the behaviors that are associated with them. It is something that’s completely new, that we haven’t seen, that is almost foreign and forgotten in today’s world.
[00:05:24] When was the last time that you asked what the money is going to do for me rather than what I’m going to do with the money? When was the last time you asked what do I really want to order here at the coffee shop? What satisfies me and will help me engage with the world in a more fundamentally rich way, versus I slept like crap and I didn’t do anything but I gotta get to work so let’s just get the caffeine, and just numb out from that reality and just go.
[00:05:52] We want to be able to shift into a more human-focused standpoint so we can see the humans that are in the system — the thing the system is supposed to be serving, not the other way around. We want to be asking the questions of, does this add value to my life? What do I long for? What is it that’s nourishing to me? What do I want to bring into this? What is the thing that satisfies me in a very true and deep way? Not what just checks the box and turns the crank and gets the cookie. We want to start asking, how does my money impact and inform the way that I’m showing up in the world and with my relationships?
[00:06:32] This is a huge order, and I might be saying this to a group of people who are now starting to go, haha get the guys with the white coats and the net because Dylan’s going off the deep end! And maybe I have, but it is no sign of health to be well-adjusted in a profoundly sick society. And I, for one, think it is high time that we have a financial revolution that puts our relationships back at the heart of the conversation.
[00:06:59] And this is not actually without historical precedent. We have had financial revolution after financial revolution. Right up to the invention of currency back almost 10,000 years ago, because before that time, you were working in your own local economies, you worked on the — I call it the college pizza model, but it’s the, I’ll get the next one. You need a sheep, I got a sheep. And when I need something, you’ll be there for me. And because we’re in a small community, we self-reinforced that. And when we would go to markets, we would barter with that in between these tribes. But a lot of times, these tribes had longstanding relationships. And on some levels, when you went to market, you were seeing your sister who had married off into the other tribe, or your brother who had decided to go homestead over there. These were things that we saw, but then we created this thing called currency that we could use as a medium of exchange, so that we could exchange with people that we never had seen before and would probably never see again.
[00:07:55] And that was a revolution because it changed our dynamic, and our economies, and how we related to one another. No longer was it, “Don’t worry brother, I got the next one.” It’s now, “Do you have the gold? If not, too bad.” Another example of this was the idea of private ownership of property. And I mean this on not the nobles and kings where like, “This is the king’s forest,” but the idea that property — land specifically, could be commodified and sold. This was a Dutch idea that eventually became the basis of what we think of as capitalism. But at the time, it was a massively radical idea in the conservatives of those days.
[00:08:32] So there’s just no way, the land and all the resources have to be controlled by the king so that he can manage them effectively. There’s no way we can trust all these unwashed masses with the idea. It was revolutionary. And this created this small country into an economic powerhouse, such that the crowned heads of Europe shook in fear of it because it created such a huge amount of wealth. And then slowly but surely, the rest of those European powers moved over into the idea of the private ownership of property.
[00:09:03] Let me give you another example: the creation of debt instruments. These are things like the federally backed 30-year fixed mortgage. Did you know that prior to the 1930s, that the idea of a 30-year fixed mortgage was ludicrous because these were all private things? So if you were going to try to buy a piece of property, you would need 20% cash on the barrelhead when you bought the property, and your mortgage would be for like 10 years. Because what bank wanted to be wrapped up in 30 years with this money? Especially when you consider that prior to the 1930s, we had a banking crisis every 10 years. So who knew if the bank would ever even see that money? Because chances are good within the next 10 years, it was going to go belly up and disappear.
[00:09:46] But in the 1930s, we had this financial revolution where we said, “No, we want the American dream to be private ownership of property where people can buy a single family resident.” And we created this institution called the FHA or Federal Housing Administration, and they created this debt instrument that was federally backed and insured, that would allow for a 30 year fixed mortgage with less than 20% down. This was revolutionary. This was a bonkers idea. And there were people who wrote editorials about how crazy it was, and it’s unrealistic! And yet now here in the United States, we are the only country in the world where this idea of a 30 year fixed mortgage is actually a reality. It’s massively federally backed, and it’s what’s created the world we live in today.
[00:10:33] Or the fact that most of you listening have credit cards, with the democratization of credit, which started in 1950s with the very first credit cards, but really got going in the 1980s, where now it was, I can buy now and I’ll pay later — creating an entire consumeristic culture that we live in today.
[00:10:51] Or let’s not forget the shift of risk from institutions to individuals, because if you’re like me and you are below the age of 70, chances are good you don’t have a pension. But in the 1950s, the world of my grandparents, the risk of things like retirement and social supports were born by institutions and society.
[00:11:13] And we had a financial revolution that took the risk from those institutions, like the corporations, and moved down to the individuals — particularly in the 1990s and early 2000s, when companies started filing bankruptcy solely to get out of having to pay pensions to people that they had promised.
[00:11:30] These are all examples of financial revolutions that fundamentally changed how we as a society look at ourselves and are in relation to our money.
[00:11:40] What I’m proposing in the idea of a financial revolution is not actually that crazy. It’s in fact an ongoing thing that’s always there and always evolving. What would it look like on the other side of this? What would the framework be? Well, I think it comes down to three things.
[00:11:59] Number one, the new framework would have to be human-centered because that’s what we want. At the end of the day, a society that does not support the flourishing of its citizens is a profoundly sick society. You don’t judge a society based upon how well the wealthy are doing. You should judge it based upon how well the least of them are doing because that would demonstrate the true benefit of that society for its population, not necessarily for those few privileged individuals.
[00:12:29] A human-centered framework would acknowledge the idea of, the increasing complexity of our financial systems leads to the dehumanization of the people using that system. And as we continue to move forward with this, we can see this with how credit cards and credit scores — by the way, when you stop and think about it, credit scores are a great example of this. We have this increasingly complex, convoluted, data-driven idea in which we sign people a number, and people are freaked out about this number. But have you ever wondered like, where it came from?
[00:12:58] Well, it came because at some point, these companies started collecting it and created a product they could sell. You are the product, ladies and gentlemen, and you have no option to opt out of being a product. When they look at China and they go, they have this social scores thing, that’s a dystopian — but like, man, in the United States, we invented this. It’s dehumanizing that you’re somehow your value, your dreams, your ability to finance your opportunities. It’s all boiled down to one number that you have no control over and no idea of how it actually fits together.
[00:13:32] When we focus on the metrics, we remove the human who is affected by them. So I want to flip that on its head and start being human-centered and look at this human. Don’t look at the credit score, look at the human. What is the human doing? How does this human flourish? How does their relationships with money and with other people help them become what more of what they already are?
[00:13:53] Number two would be the establishment of meaningful interactions. This goes back to a Jesuit concept called cura personalis — and I went to college at a Jesuit college — and this idea of cura personalis, care for the whole person. Look at it from a holistic standpoint, and —
[00:14:09] Let me give you an example of this. I need to harp on this a little bit, and I don’t really feel bad about it, but the idea of going to that Seattle-based coffee chain and getting your grande latte in the morning, and there are just a legion of articles of people like, well see, this is why millennials can’t afford homes. They’re spending all their money on lattes. Well, my whole point to this is, I got a question. Is that person taking that latte and savoring it and it is setting a level for their day in which they’re going to be able to go through it on such a more robust and holistic level, are the humans who are consuming this latte better for consuming the latte?
[00:14:49] Is their life — have the colors turned up a little bit? The music is a little more sweet, the food tastes fundamentally different. Is the latte having a human-scale impact? That’s a powerful question. Because if it is, that latte stops being optional. This is something that this person needs to level set their entire day.
[00:15:08] Flip it on its head, if that person is going to the latte because they just don’t get to sleep at night and they’re tossing and turning because they’re worried about their credit score, and now they’re just exhausted so they’re getting that latte to just limp their way through the day — this isn’t human flourishing. And their metrics might actually even look good, going back to point number one and to say like, oh well, they’re really productive at work. Well, yeah, because they have stimulants coming out the ears. But the human is not flourishing. The metrics are, but the human’s not.
[00:15:34] Cura personalis, care for the whole person. My brother- and sister-in-drowsiness, you need to sleep. Get to bed early, treat yourself, do things on a human scale.
[00:15:45] And third is, we need to redefine success on our terms. What is success? Why do we look up to all these people who have a certain number of numbers in their bank account or their net worth or whatever?
[00:16:02] There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a high net worth. It’s in fact, I would argue, fundamentally good to have a high net worth. But it doesn’t say anything about you as a person. This goes back to what I talked about a couple of weeks ago in the idea that a healthy relationship is one in which your sense of self-worth and your sense of self are not tied to that thing. I am not my credit score, or to quote Fight Club, “You are not your khakis.” But yet, we define success based upon how many digits are in your bank account, and people will say, “Well, you know, hey man, your marriage really isn’t great.” Yeah, but I got a million dollars. So I can just, you know, I buy the bitch anything she wants.
[00:16:40] And I look at that and go, that’s not conducive to human flourishing. Maybe we should redefine success, because your kids are strangers to you. Your wife hates you. And your friends are suspicious of you. And you have no relationship in your life that’s beyond the surface. But yes, we all agree that you can make money, but I wouldn’t say that that person is successful, because the way that I’m going to look at success in this post-revolutionary period is the wellbeing of the humans in the system.
[00:17:09] We are successful when our wellbeing is high, and that’s extremely difficult to measure. We’re successful when our relationships are sweet, and that they’re mutually edifying. Where I’m enhanced by this person, but I’m not dependent on this person, or this institution or this thing, or this idea of myself.
[00:17:27] My relationship is solely dependent on me and how I reinteract with myself, and this other person comes in, if you can think about it, it’s like an H. There’s two people, and there’s a connection between them. But if the connection were to fall, those two people would be just fine. Versus an A, where there’s two people who are leaning against each other and there’s this connection, but if the connection were to go away, they might both fall down.
[00:17:52] Redefining success based upon your relationships would mean that we’re starting to look at it and go, are these relationships serving me? Are they nourishing me? Am I better for these relationships that I have? With whatever it is — my job, my wife, my friends, that local sports team.
[00:18:09] Maybe we should redefine success based upon the impact we’re having on other people’s lives. Are people better because I’m in it? I want, and I thought about this once when I was having a gathering. There was like 10 adults in my house, we were playing a bunch of games. And I thought to myself, this is the impact I want to have. At this table are several adults, many of whom until tonight had never met each other, collectively cooperating at a game, laughing, breaking bread, and enjoying each other’s company. This is the impact I want to have. That’s success. Am I a value add when I’m in the circle just because of my presence, and because of who I am? Not because of my service, or how many hours I put in, or how much I’m willing to grovel. But because I’m me, that I’m here, because when people are just excited to have me there for me, that’s success.
[00:19:00] The financial strategies are now being designed to reflect our personal values and aspirations rather than some sort of metric and formula. They’re focused on the humans. And that’s how in my mind, in my idea of what’s after the financial revolution, this is what it is. It’s human-centered. It establishes meaningful interactions that redefine success on our terms. It’s a lot, but it’s also worth it. And so, as I was sitting there in my garden with my hands on the tomato plant, thinking I have to go back and relisten to this podcast, brushing them all off of my coveralls, and then sitting down to actually intensely listen to what this man was saying, it all clicked to me.
[00:19:42] The problem in my marriage wasn’t my success on the financial battlefield, because there I was God. It was the fact that I had completely abandoned all the other places I needed to be in life. I had stopped focusing on the relationships.
[00:19:57] And I went to that man’s event, it was fundamentally impactful and changed my life on a very core level. I learned things about myself and other people, and how to interact with men that, until that moment, couldn’t have possibly even articulated I was missing in my life. And as I’m recording this today, I look back at that time and I am so grateful that I was listening to that podcast on that day because it’s led to a better marriage, it’s made me a better father, and it has helped me reimagine a better money story.
[00:20:29] Outro: Thanks for listening. The conversation doesn’t end here. Please share the show with friends and make sure you keep up with all the latest updates on Instagram and Threads @TheDylanBain, and dive deeper into the world of finance with me at DylanBain.com where you’ll find insights, resources, and strategies to reimagine your money story.