Humans are social beings. We’re built to be part of a tribe. We’re built to form relationships, walk distances, and value ourselves beyond our jobs, our vehicles, and our money.
So why does it seem like more often than not, we lose track of the very things that actually make us human?
Join us in our latest episode as we look beyond just our economic value, learn to build healthier relationships, and dictate our own money stories — only here at Intuitive Finance.
- [02:16] Humans as part of a tribe
- [06:26] Profit over people
- [10:48] The market will bear mentality
- [14:15] Onto relational finance
- [17:05] Getting rid of extractive relationships
- [20:21] What matters at the end of the day
Links & Resources
🟢 @TheDylanBain on Instagram
🟢 @TheDylanBain on Threads
🟢 @TheDylanBain on YouTube
🟢 Intuitive Finance on Facebook
🟢 Intuitive Finance on Twitter
🟢 Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
[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.
[00:00:25] Welcome to Intuitive Finance. I’m your host, Dylan Bain.
[00:00:36] Dylan Bain: It’s 2015 and I’ve just made the decision to quit teaching. This is a career that I chose back in 2008 that I’ve been doing for almost eight years and I love it. It is amazing. It’s fulfilling to work with the kids, but it’s also killing me because how much longer can I work three jobs and be in welfare and go further and further into debt?
[00:00:59] And this is so difficult to me because when I made the announcement that I was going to be quitting teaching, the very first thing that people said was, but what about the kids? What about these students? They need you. Dylan, you’re one of the best. And I’m finding myself in this double bind where I can’t win no matter what I choose, because on the one hand, my family needs me to be bringing in more money and more resources into the family. Because it’s not fair to my kids and my wife that I am gone so frequently working these jobs. And at the same time, don’t my students deserve a quality education?
[00:01:36] This is an example, ladies and gentlemen, of the way in which our current understanding of our financial situations are actually inhibiting our relationships. Because in the case of me being a teacher, it’s not just about the idea of me being a good teacher. The question of whether or not my students deserve a good education is yes, every student deserves a quality education with engaged teachers. And that’s still not my responsibility. It comes down to, we have to start looking at our relationships. Because my relationship to my job was not healthy, and therefore my relationship to my students wasn’t healthy either.
[00:02:16] Relationships are at the core of everything. Relationships matter because at the end of the day, they’re all that count. Yeah, we’d like to be able to say that we have a paycheck and we have our wealth, but it’s a relationships that make life worth living. And that’s what we have to get back to as we complete this financial revolution that puts relationships back at the heart of the conversation. Relationships are core to everything because humans are social creatures. We’re meant to live in tribes of 150 people tops. That’s how we’re designed.
[00:02:47] And think about what that context would even mean. You have multiple generations of humans that total about 150 living in a group and probably have been living on this land for almost a century. In this context, there’s no secrets, there’s deep personal relationships that you’ve had since birth. If your parents aren’t great it’s okay, because there’s a ton of other people around. You’re going to have secure attachment, and the attachment’s going to be with more than one person, and with the tribe in general. Nearly everybody in that tribe is going to know each other in a very deep and personal way. You’re going to have a shared history, and you’re going to have a collective shared responsibility for the survival and well-being of that tribe.
[00:03:27] That’s a relationship, and that’s a relationship that we are hardwired, that our biology determines this is how we think about it. Everything is about relationships — our relationship to the land, our relationship to our food, our relationship to our tribe. And I’ve talked about this before, when we conceptualize what the economy would look like for these tribal communities, a lot of people say, oh it was barter, right? I need a sheep, and so I’m gonna bring some grain, and we’re gonna exchange this grain for the sheep. But my question would be, how many bushels of grain is a sheep actually worth? We don’t know. Because we don’t have markets and sophisticated pricing techniques.
[00:04:05] And more to the point, in a tribal setting, we’re not going to be actually having the question of what is the market bear? What do we decide? Because they run on what I’ve called the college pizza economy. I’ll get the next one. And college is a great microcosm for how this would actually work. Because think back, if you’ve gone to college or if you’ve been in any type of early adulthood situations where you’re living in a more communal environment, there’s always this idea of, oh, we’re watching a movie, let’s order some pizza. And then one person says, I’ll just get it. And you guys can get the next one.
[00:04:38] And of course, for those people in that group who don’t get the next one, eventually they’re pushed out of the group, just like they would be pushed out of the tribe. So if you want to remain in the tribe, there’s an incentive for you to participate because the relationship is what you’re actually going for here. That’s what you’re doing in the college pizza economy. And that’s what they were doing with the sheep. Oh, you need a sheep? I got a sheep. I’ll get the next one.
[00:05:01] And so, when you start looking at what was our context as humans, like how did we grow up as a species? It started in these tribes, in these social bands. And what’s noticeable to me is that there’s no such thing as homelessness. And in a tribal setting, if one person doesn’t eat, it means that everyone else isn’t eating. Because that’s how they look at it. It’s the tribe. It’s the relationship that comes into this.
[00:05:26] And I’m not the first person to be saying this. I’m actually parodying back the research of other people like Sebastian Junger. Sebastian Junger wrote a book called Tribe, link to that in the show notes — but he talked about in this book, about how during the Blitzkrieg in the Battle of Britain, where the Nazis were bombing the living crap out of London, there were many people — men specifically, but this included women too — who were in mental institutions at the start of the war, who then became ambulance drivers during the war.
[00:05:58] In fact, you would think that if your city’s being bombed into submission, that morale would go down and mental illness would go up, but it was exactly the opposite. These people are pulling together. They were under attack. They’re really focusing on this. And mental illness goes down because now we’re all part of one tribe. There’s a common goal. There’s a common objective. We’re trying to keep this all together.
[00:06:17] He also documents in that same book a discussion about how people would say, I would never want to go back to the war, but man, I really miss the camaraderie that we had in our tribes.
[00:06:26] But when you stop and think about it, all of these things are organized in bands of about 150 people. This isn’t a mistake. This isn’t a coincidence. This is because relationships are the core of everything. But our current financial system overlooks this entirely. In fact, relationships are almost antithetical to our economic activity. Because you can think about this, people talk about the pay gap. But if you actually look at the pay gap between men and women, it turns out that it really is more of a mommy tax. The idea of having a family and being a mother is not valued by the economy, so your earning potential goes down.
[00:07:03] That’s not looking at the relationship. That’s looking at everything that isn’t a relationship. Our modern society is structured to be an economic engine, and that economic engine is dehumanizing and isolating, and it creates all sorts of dysfunction. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just go outside. Try to walk to your grocery store and you’re going to find out real quick that without a car, this is a dangerous activity. The default mode of human transportation is not designed for or valued in our economic society.
[00:07:33] The family structures are not valued in our economic society. We are not valued unless we’re doing something like earning a living. The idea of course, is that unless you are economically productive, mostly for someone else, you don’t deserve to continue living or at least be able to have any type of life that’s worth living.
[00:07:55] And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what we’re actually dealing with right now. It’s been an observation of mine for a while that there’s no profit in actually solving problems because the profit is in providing Band-Aids to the problems that other economic activity has created.
[00:08:11] The obesity epidemic in the United States is a great example of this. We look at this and we say, oh, it’s lazy people, people making bad decisions. They’re eating too many Oreos at the grocery store. But the reality here is, is the larger conversation needs to be on our food system, how much sugar we’re putting in everything, the subsidies on corn and soybeans, and the death of walkable communities, the default mode of human transportation.
[00:08:35] Our ancestors who lived in these tribal contexts, they would get about 15,000 to 20,000 steps in a day. And in America, the average amount of steps somebody gets in a day is typically 2,500. Is it any wonder that we’re actually having this problem? But it’s not economically useful to solve the problem in the food system because someone’s bottom line is going to be hurt. Someone’s bottom line is going to be damaged. So we stop looking at the humans and we focus on that bottom line and go, okay, so we want to leave that bottom line intact. Let’s look at how we can provide things like weight loss drugs or yoga studios or fitness trackers. And I’m guilty of that, I’m wearing two of them.
[00:09:16] And so like, this is what I’m talking about. Our modern financial system looks at this profit over people. We’re not looking at the relationships that are in it. We have this idea that we have an identity racked up in the economic engine. For example, I was at a training this weekend and it was amazing, but I did have somebody asked me at a dinner that I was holding, what do you do? And I said, I’m a good husband and good father. And they said, no, no, like for money. I said, oh, I’m a corporate accountant. And they said, really? Oh, okay. Tell me more about that.
[00:09:50] They weren’t interested in discussing me as a husband or a father. They’re interested in discussing my job because they’ve wrapped my identity in my economic value to this economic engine. There’s no connection between those things. If I were to stop in my corporate job tomorrow, I’m still going to be the same man as I was when I still had it.
[00:10:09] And this is not just into jobs. This is also into car and lifestyle brands. This is in the idea of whether you have kids or not, if you have fur babies, you know, what your favorite activities are. We wrap our identity into these things because we don’t have the identity of being the people, being part of a tribe where we define ourselves based upon our relationships. So now we define ourselves based upon the economic system that we find ourselves in. This, ladies and gentlemen, is also dehumanizing. It’s taking away from us from the core of what we are in the core of what makes our life worth living because relationships are core to everything.
[00:10:48] Let me give you one more example of our current financial system overlooks relationships — this idea of what the market will bear. And we say this all the time. I’d like to pay you more, but you got to be paid what the market will bear. You know, we see this with the inflation. Or greedflation, if you want to put a different term on it.
[00:11:07] You have Kroger, some other grocery store chain that’s raising their prices. And I say, our expenses went up. Okay, your expenses went up 5%. But the can of beans went up 20%. So what’s with the other 15%? Oh, we’re planning for the future. Oh, interesting. Because you keep raising prices. But that’s what the market will bear. Yeah, of course, because food’s not optional for humans. Turns out we need food, water, shelter, all these things. And without them, we don’t survive.
[00:11:37] And so, these are inelastic goods, of course the market would bear it. If all of the food went up 50%, the market would still bear it because people need to eat. There’d also probably be riots, and I’m not going to say that that would necessarily be the worst thing in the world, but we should be law abiding citizens, right?
[00:11:52] But we also see this with rents. There’s another French commentator who always brags about how much property he has, and when he said, yes, I raised my rents by 20% because that’s what the market would bear. And my question was, what about the families who are living in those units? Can they bear it? If they can’t pay it, then we’ll find somebody else who does. Okay, cool.
[00:12:14] So you’re not looking at the humans as humans. You’re looking at them as cashflow. You dehumanize them. You don’t see them as husbands and wives and mothers and sons or daughters or any of the stuff. You only see them as your economic benefit, something that you can actually strip mine dollars out of.
[00:12:33] The number of jobs that different companies provide. We think the market will bear us only having three accountants in this department. We got the work of six accountants. You know, we’re a team. We’re a team now, but we’re not a team when we had record profits. You didn’t pay me out. This again is this idea of oh, we let this — it’s the market, it’s not me. I’m not being greedy. I didn’t squeeze you more than you needed to be squeezed. It was the market.
[00:12:57] And of course, my favorite example of this is layoffs. How many companies have said, to stay competitive, we got to take away this factory in this small town in Wisconsin, shut it down and take those jobs to Mexico. And you say, okay, Mr. Car Executive, I just have a question for you. Was that factory not profitable? And they say, oh no, it had a great profit margin. We just get a bigger profit margin in Mexico.
[00:13:20] Oh, okay. So it wasn’t that these people weren’t producing for you, it’s that you can move it and get the same production at a lower price someplace else. And people will say, oh, this is great, but you just killed a small town in Wisconsin. My hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin literally has a car factory shaped hole right in the middle of it. And if you were to take a map and you go look at it, you can find it. It’s right along Auto Workers Way in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But for the cross streets, Auto Workers Way and 30th Avenue, and you’ll find it. It’s right by where the old Jockey used to be.
[00:13:54] And this is the thing. That plant was profitable and they shut it down and they took all that production to Mexico and you left this hole in the city. That’s not looking at the relationships. The company’s not looking at their relationship with the community that they’re in. They’re looking strictly at the spreadsheets.
[00:14:13] And the spreadsheets — and as a CPA, this is hard for me to say, they’re dehumanizing. The whole thing is meant to just squeeze as much as they can out of you and reduce you down to a number. A dehumanized number, easily deleted with the stroke of a key.
[00:14:32] But there’s a better way, and that better way is relational finance. To start thinking about our financial pictures in terms of the relationships that they’re actually interacting with. We have to regain a sense of ourselves to create a more human-centered outlook. And the relationships are the key to that human centricity. We have talked about this before. For me, I went to Catholic school for a long time, and I was Jesuit-educated in my undergraduate degree. And they had this idea of cura personalis, care for the whole person. We need to look at them because yes, your output is important. Your economic production is important. These things are important. But you’re more than just that. You’re more than these other things.
[00:15:16] Yes, I might be a corporate auditor. That’s what I do. That’s where I spend a lot of time in my day. That’s great. But I’m also a husband and a father and a son and a brother and a friend and a mentor. I’m all of these things. When I’m looking at my financial picture, I need to take all of those things into account and I need to start looking at myself holistically because the decisions that I make in terms of my budget, in terms of my savings, in terms of how my wealth creation — are going to impact those relationships that are actually making my life worth living.
[00:15:51] This is a huge undertaking, to shift our current perspective from, oh, it’s just spreadsheets, and that’s just easy to something that’s far more holistic and relational. And it’s not going to be easy, but it’s just going to be worth it.
[00:16:06] And you can start by just asking yourself some pretty simple questions. What serves me? And this can apply to your job, to food, to housing, to the vehicles you drive, and the list goes on and on. Am I eating this fried chicken sandwich because I’m just feeling overly emotional and I don’t want to have to feel those things, so I’m using it to numb out? Or is this nourishment that when I complete eating this and consuming it, I find myself feeling and thinking better than before I have it? That’s a great question.
[00:16:41] That latte I have on my way to work. Is that critical to me? Is it nourishing me or is it just disguising the fact that I didn’t get enough sleep last night because there aren’t enough hours in the day because I don’t have a good relationship with my job, and therefore they’re taking far more from me than I’m actually getting in return?
[00:16:58] Do I have a vehicle that suits my life or vehicle that indicates the lifestyle that I wish I was living?
[00:17:05] Here’s another question. How does this extract for me? And extraction is the difference between a good relationship, and a bad relationship is typically if the relationship is extractive. Extractive relationships are going to pull out of you. They’re going to take away from you. You’re going to be less when you are done with that relationship.
[00:17:25] And stop and think about it — and again, I will use the example of jobs. How many people go to their job and they work their tails off and they find themselves exhausted at the end of the day and they go home and they have to look at their budgets and they go, I just didn’t make that money. Oh my God, what am I doing? That’s extraction. That’s extractive because you are worse off than if you were doing something else.
[00:17:48] And then not all jobs are extractive. A lot of jobs aren’t. I wouldn’t say that my job is extractive because I feel like I’m paid very well. At the end of the day, I still have extra time and daylight to do some things that I like to do. But not all jobs are like that. And when I was a teacher, it certainly wasn’t like that. Because when I was done teaching, I had to go to one of my three other jobs. So you have to start looking at it and saying, is what I’m getting out of this worth what it’s taking from me? Because if it’s not at least equal, it’s extractive.
[00:18:19] Here’s another question you could ask yourself. If I stop this thing, who wins and who loses? Is it symbiotic? If I stop doing this thing, would we both lose? Or is it parasitic? If I stop doing this thing, they lose, but I win. Because if that’s the case, if I stop doing the thing and they lose and I win, I’m losing when they win. Now it’s a zero sum game.
[00:18:43] And teaching was very much that for me, and they would use kids as an excuse, but one of the things I found was like, staying in teaching because you’re trying to serve these students is like staying in an abusive relationship with the kids. You shouldn’t do it. You should get out of that situation.
[00:18:58] But if I look at it, how does this interface with teaching? They were going to be short staffed, math teachers were hard to come by. I was one of the best, I was told. But at the end of the day, if I stopped doing it, they were in a bind because of hiring decisions that they made because of salary decisions that they made. They just weren’t going back to a phrase, they weren’t paying what the market was demanding, and they were trying to find a way and other people to extract from.
[00:19:26] This is a decision that I’ve made multiple times in my life where I had to get out of extractive situations because it’s not serving me. If it’s not serving you, you shouldn’t be in there either.
[00:19:37] And ladies and gentlemen, there’s no real right answers to these things. These are all about our relationship and us, and how they serve us. I would love to be able to say, oh, here’s your diet. Here’s your budget. Here’s some percentages of how much you should be spending in rent. But I can’t do it, because it’s about you.
[00:19:55] When people come into my coaching practice and they say, Dylan, I’m looking to buy my first home. And I say, okay, great! What do you want in a home? And they’re like, well, I need a good tax strategy, and I’m looking for areas with good growth opportunities because I want this to be a great investment. Your primary residence, ladies and gentlemen, should never be an investment because you’re looking at it as a thing on a spreadsheet rather than a home for your family. That’s where you are going to live.
[00:20:21] So stop with the tax strategies. Stop with trying to predict the future to make a “good investment” and start looking to make a home. One that’s warm and full of life and laughter and love. Because that’s what’s going to make the difference. That’s what your kids are going to remember at the end of the day. It’s the relationships you’re building with it, and that’s what you need to start considering.
[00:20:47] And I know exactly how that feels because when I left teaching, I felt like I was pulling a piece of my soul out of my chest. I loved my job. I loved my students. I was excited to be with them every day, but that job was not serving me. And I had to come to terms with the idea that it was, in fact, not me that was hurting those kids. It was the system that had created such low pay where I couldn’t get ahead, where I had to live in a shitty apartment, down the street from a meth house, where I had to spend my nights bouncing at a local music venue, or shipping things in container vehicles while I’m barreling down the highway in the middle of a frickin’ night, or working in a tax office and not being able to tuck my kids in at night.
[00:21:35] I had done everything right. It wasn’t me. It was the system that had created that. Because that system wanted to extract from me, and I wanted to live for my kids and for myself. And fun fact, I had to make that same choice almost five years later when I left public accounting. We were short-staffed and the partner was so excited because he was making huge bonuses because we were so understaffed. We were running into massively profitable engagement.
[00:22:04] And when I left, they said, think about your team, Dylan. Think about your team! And I said, but what about me? I’m working a hundred-hour weeks and I’m not — I don’t get the bonus that the partner gets. He’s earned that. Really? Because he goes home at 3:00 and I’m still here at 3 AM, 12 hours later.
[00:22:21] That’s what I’m talking about. We should no longer accept this idea that we can be extracted from, that we can be just numbers on a spreadsheet. We should not allow ourselves to be put into the four walls of a cell in Microsoft Excel. Instead, I was able to build a better relationship with myself, with my work, perhaps most importantly, with my family.
[00:22:45] Outro: Thanks for listening. The conversation doesn’t end here. Please share this 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.