As humans, we need food, security, intimacy, self-esteem, and purpose. But we need money to fulfill these needs.
In this episode, Dylan discusses Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, how money impacts that hierarchy, and how understanding that hierarchy can help us build better, long-lasting relationships.
- [03:46] Why finances are critical to relationships
- [07:36] What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
- [08:13] Tiers one and two as the service to self tiers
- [10:27] Tiers three and four as the service to others tiers
- [12:12] Tier five as the tier of self-actualization or service to a higher purpose
- [12:46] The problem with “tier zero” people or the “unaware”
- [15:16] Why tier zero people struggle to move up the hierarchy
- [16:45] The challenges that tiers one and two people face when moving up the hierarchy
- [20:46] Who are the “sensitive seekers”?
- [21:54] The truth about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
[00:00:00] Intro: We’ll get the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. Today, we’re gonna be talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
[00:00:22] And I wanna relate to you a discussion I had with my wife, or if we’re being honest, I was fighting with my wife. And I been picking up the phone and I’m calling a therapist friend of mine because I am feeling that I need to really talk to somebody about what’s going on. I mean, why was I having these fights with my wife after I accomplished so much? We had gone through grad school and come back to the States. She’d gone through grad school. I had quit my teaching job and I had gone through grad school. I’d worked really hard to use my networking opportunities to help her find a job in the industry that she wanted. That was right exactly what we came back to the US for her to do. And I didn’t fully understand. I’m not understanding why it is that we’re not being able to connect. And I’m on the phone with my therapist friend explaining all of this to him and telling him that I’m just gonna soldier through like I always do. And there is the deafening silence on the line as I’m starting to feel the cold and chills of a delivery that he’s about to make because I know it’s gonna be big. And he starts saying, “Dude, you’re looking for the fight because it’s your comfort zone.” And I just stopped. The fights are fun? What is he talking about? My comfort zone? Who likes to be in the middle of a fight?
[00:01:48] I mean, at that point in my life, I’ve spent the last five years going through hell to try to establish us as a family. And now, he’s trying to tell me that this is fun for me, that this is my comfort zone after all of the pain and suffering and late nights that I endured. And as I’m thinking these thoughts and as I’m monitoring my internal state, I realize I’m getting excited. As the more I think about the fight, as the more I think about the struggle, I start getting excited like it’s almost like my kink because I knew if I could reduce this into a fight, I could win. And I was excited to win. At the same time, I’m starting to understand that there’s going to be no real learning or growth left here because I already know I’m gonna win. And as I’m in this point in the silence after my friend’s declaration, I’m resolving then to move beyond my current level and into something far more uncomfortable and scary. Moving into being able to work on my relationships not just with my wife but with myself in relationship to me and my needs.
[00:03:05] It’s a story that plays out in many relationships across the United States. If you look at divorce statistics in the US, and this actually plays out regardless of where you are in the world FYI, the number one reason that people end up divorced is because they start having money issues. And if we wanna get a little bit more to the point, one of the greatest indicators of male suicide is relationship and money issues. And we struggle with this a lot because money is misunderstood. It’s an indicator. It’s a need in our life. But it’s also misunderstood and we think about it as a lot of things that it’s not.
[00:03:46] So here’s what money is and why finances are so critical and core to relationships and mental and physical health. Because money is emotional. Money is your time, money is a need, and money is stored power. It’s things that you’ve put into it as a store of value, a store of your power, a store of your time, a store of your needs, and has an emotional representation and impact.
[00:04:11] What money is not is the root of all evil. And that quote, and I use the term loosely, actually comes from the Bible where it says the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s actually very quiet on the money itself because money is, like I said, emotional. It’s a representative of time, it’s a need, it’s stored power. It’s a lot of things, but it’s not evil. And people treat it as evil. People try to argue all the time that money is this emotionalist number-based thing, that somehow there’s a logic in the money and they can think their way out of it. And ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you you can’t. Because money is required to fulfill the needs of humans. Without money and modern society, and this is true in all modern societies with very few exceptions and those exceptions being extreme examples, money is required to get your basic needs met — to feed yourself, to make sure that you have warmth, water, food, you know, partnership. All of those things are dependent on money.
[00:05:14] Money is also a journey. And as you progress through your money journey, and really any journey, you will have to make a decision at every step on that journey. Do I keep going, evolving, learning, putting in the effort? Or is the view up the mountain good enough and I’m satisfied with where I’m at? But I’m here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that when you start down the path of self-improvement and your possible starts to expand, what previously you thought was out of your grasp suddenly it is easy to see that it is good enough rarely is.
[00:05:48] And so, we need to have money to fulfill our needs, but what are the needs that we’re trying to fulfill? So I’m going to invite you at this point to stop and really think about what are the needs that you have in life? And as you are thinking, you’re probably going, well, I need to be able to breathe. Okay, that requires air, and that air probably should not be toxic. I need water. Yeah, that’s true. I need food. I need shelter. I need warmth. Perhaps I need air conditioning. That is increasingly becoming a need. I need companionship. There’s lots of needs. I need to feel safe and secure. Okay, yeah. I need partnership. I need friends. I need respect. I need a relationship with God. Those are some of the things that people will list out, and the answer is, well, yeah, all of those are. We’re human beings. We’re all built on the same chassis. We all have needs and denying those needs leads to a lot of crazy stuff.
[00:06:44] Going back to my story at the top of the show, part of the reason I was not being able to connect with my wife was because we were having a mismatch between what needs I was trying to address and what needs she felt that she had not had fulfilled. And there is a process to going through this, to be able to have this conversation, to continue the money journey my wife and I started together, but also to keep our marriage intact because the other financial issues that people talk about in terms of divorce, in terms of male suicide, in terms of a lot of other things in society that we look as maybe negative, actually stem from a change in the money situation because when couples start to advance in their money, the age-old adage of “mo’ money, mo’ problems” is absolutely true. It’s actually not more problems. It’s different problems. And the tools that you used before are not gonna address those new problems.
[00:07:36] And so today, we’re gonna take a really deep dive on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because if you want to play the game, you gotta know the field. And today, we’re talking about the human beings that are playing the game and actually having to play the game for ourselves internally on an emotional level. So Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a common way of understanding what are the needs of a human being. And there are basically five tiers. And you can think about it like a pyramid. So the very bottom layer is tier one, and then above it is tier two, and so on. So we’re gonna start in bands. And we’re gonna start about talking about tier one and tier two. And I also talk a lot about the hierarchy of service.
[00:08:13] And so, tier one and tier two are in the hierarchy of service — the service to self. Tier one is your physiological needs. That means that this is your clothing, this is your food, this is your air, this is your water, this is sex, this is, you know, all of those things that are physiological in nature; that when human beings get them satisfied, they maintain a certain level of homeostasis. Right above that is tier two, which is safety and security. Now, this is the tier of service to self because these are the things that you a.) Have to provide for yourself at the end of the day. And they’re also focused on me. How do I survive? They’re the survival tier. So service to self. This bottom tier is the foundation for all tiers above it. And you’ll notice that relationships were not included in here because they’re in the next tier up. This bottom tier though, if you don’t have access to food, if you don’t have access to water and shelter, you’re going to be spending your time trying to procure those things because those base-level needs must be satisfied before you can move to the next one.
[00:09:17] Another way to think of this tier one-tier two, the service to self tier, is this is the domain of the Barbarians and the Vikings because the attributes of this domain are all about the self-interest. And a lot of times, they are ruthless, goal-orientated, and they are hard individuals. The downside is, is that staying in this tier and being dedicated to this tier also means that the people who live in this tier tend to be cold, calculated, and compartmentalized. What I mean by that is that they kind of don’t give a fuck about what they have to break to get their food, to get their shelter, to get their safety and security. They tend to be calculating because if they are in this tier, a lot of times when they’re dysfunctioning or dysregulating in this tier, they think of things as a zero-sum game. And they’re compartmentalized, and this is an attribute that comes with any areas of stress because you’re looking at it and saying, okay, yeah, I might have stolen that food, but I’m gonna compartmentalize it away because that’s not really me. I was insert reason here. And there’s some valid reasons for that. But compartmentalization also leads to disconnection in the social realm. But this tier has to be satisfied.
[00:10:27] Next up is tier three and four. So once you have tier one and two, the service to self tier, you can start moving up into getting tier three and tier four needs met, which is the service to others tier. Now, that service to others, again, we’re not only moving up Maslow’s hierarchy needs, we’re also moving up the hierarchy of service. So we went from service to self to service to others. And tier three is, of course, others-focused, right? Tier three is relationships, and these relationships are interpersonal relationships, romantic relationships, relationships with your kids, with your neighbors, with your community, all the places in which you are in relationship with something. This is tier three. And tier four is esteem. And esteem is when the people that you consider your peers will view you in a high light. It’s social capital.
[00:11:18] So if tier one and tier two, the service to self tiers, are the Barbarian and Viking levels, this is the level in service to others. It’s the tea ceremony level. Because here, we are much more esoteric, we’re much more communal. We’re much more about the steps to get to the end and how we actually do the thing than the thing itself. So it’s, you know, another way to think about this is tier one-tier two, you just gotta get food. Tier three and tier four, I want good food presented well. The attributes of this layer in tier three and tier four are more communal, heartfelt, present-centered, so they’re here in this moment, and they’re soft. The downside is that people who are dysfunctioning or dysregulating in this level tend to be aloof, they feel bypassed, and they feel holier than thou.
[00:12:12] Tier five would be the service, the tier of self-actualization, the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And it is self-actualization or service to a higher purpose. This is when a person can become who they fully are and their true self. This is also where you see, you sometimes hear the term “service to God” where you’re serving something higher and bigger than yourself. Service to community is sometimes posited here. But this is where the person truly blossoms into the masterpiece that every life can and should be.
[00:12:46] Now, I bring all of this up because you might be thinking, where am I in this tier? Well, wherever you’re at, you can’t get to the tier above it until you’ve mastered the tier that you’re in. And there’s lots of problems we’ll talk about soon about where people go wrong in this. But the majority of people actually aren’t even concerned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and these are the people that I term the tier zero people or the unaware. Now, the unaware, the tier zero person, is the person who gets up every morning, mindlessly goes to work, collects a paycheck, comes back home, and thinks everything’s fine. They’re dependent on everything, from Netflix for their social entertainment, booze to be able to regulate their emotions, you know, their job to keep them in money, the grocery store. If the world went to pieces, these people would have no idea that they even had dependencies, let alone that those dependencies ruled their lives. They are falsely secure. And they live a life of unintentional actions, if they live a life of actions at all. They’re keeping up with the Joneses, buying the car that they’re told to buy, doing all the other different things that advertisement has them chasing. They are completely and utterly unresponsive.
[00:13:58] And this is where I was when my principal asked me to commit fraud that led me to leaving education. I was a tier zero man. And I immediately came to the realization that I could no longer stay here. That in fact my tier one and tier two needs, my physiological needs and my safety and security, was actually not taken care of despite my full-time job. And this is the point, ladies and gentlemen, where I went from tier zero and I entered into the Barbarian and Viking level: service to self. I no longer wanted to walk this civilized and approved path of, I went to college and I got the job and now if I just stayed at the job and I just worked hard enough, eventually I’d be rewarded. Newsflash: that’s never gonna happen. And I think that’s true for all tier zero people. That requires some sort of vent to realization to shock them out of the tier zero, to realize the hierarchy of needs exist at all. And there’s a ton of tier zero people. You may be one of them who are tier zero people, are aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but think that it’s some esoteric thing like the rings of Saturn that, yeah, it’s cool to know about, but it doesn’t actually apply to me, so who cares? Well, you should care because this is the anti-sovereignty, to be dependent and a tier zero unaware.
[00:15:16] So when the tier zero man comes out of tier zero and suddenly finds themselves in the land of Barbarians and Vikings, they get real Viking on life and break a lot of glass. And you see this in my own journey. When I went back to my principal and told her that I was not in fact going to change those grades, I invited her to do something physically impossible with that in a very uncomfortable place, and you can fill in the gaps there. An example of me breaking glass. And when people said, but what about the children? Being able to come to the realization that staying in education for the kids was like staying in an abusive relationship for the kids. I just wasn’t gonna do it anymore because I was worth more than that.
[00:15:56] And these people at this level who become masters of it, they end up making more money, they start having savings, which creates, you know, financial resilience. And that means that they start securing tier one and tier two needs because when you realize you’re tier zero, you suddenly realize the threat to the bottom of the pyramid. This is also the time where you get people who will say, “Well, he changed.” Well, yes, I certainly hope people do because that’s part of the journey of life. But do you think about the people you went to high school with or maybe college who lived kind of carefree lives and then eventually one of their circles was just like “Fuck it” and went and got a corporate job and started making money and promotions and then suddenly was, you know, driving a nice car and bought a house and all this other stuff. And they go, “Well, that guy’s changed.” Guarantee you that that person went from tier zero into this space.
[00:16:45] Now tier, these Vikings, and I’m gonna continue to call them Vikings or Barbarians, generally have decent income. But this is where they typically stop. See, the event was they suddenly realized that tier one and tier two were not secure, and that freaked them out and that became their sole focus. Do you remember when we talked about them being cold, calculated, and compartmentalized? This is exactly what I’m talking about. They focus solely on that, they’re willing to break the glass, and they are serving themselves first. And there’s nothing wrong with serving yourself, but you need to understand that there’s going to be a limit to this and that if you wish to actually get to that self-actualization piece where you become the man or woman that you are meant to be, the husband, father, community leader, if I’m talking to men, everything else that I would ascribe to women, if you’re listening, you gotta move beyond this.
[00:17:33] And so, after you’ve conquered the bottom two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people typically want to have relationships. And so, when they start to approach relationships, and this is where I think we all know somebody who fits this mold, the Viking comes in and kicks in the door, they charge in only to find out that at tier three-tier four, the service to other tiers, the rules are now radically different. No longer is it smash and grab, every man for themselves, I will keep what I kill. The metrics for success have radically changed. It went from being good at fighting, just like I was in the story at the top of the show, to a struggle to have good tea ceremony. Completely different scenario here.
[00:18:14] And so, these Vikings in the tea shop are now suddenly confronted with three options. They can trash the place, which is they basically do what they’ve always done. And haven’t we all had to deal with people who are trashing relationships because it’s their comfort zone? They can return to the battle, which is they just turn tail and run back to the fight. That’s what I was doing at the beginning of the story. I wanted to be back in the fight in the battle because it was my comfort zone. And I got a lot of praise and pats on the head, and people tell me, “I could never do what you do.” And that was really, you know, self-affirming and validating for me. But that was in fact my comfort zone. And rarely they’ll take the third option, which is they put their acts aside and they learn how to boil water. The basic simple step, step one of having good tea ceremony.
[00:19:05] The resistance to this growth that comes into the Viking in the tea shop, the reason I bring it up is that it’s part of the process; that when you find yourself to have conquered one level of this triangle, one level of this journey, one step up the mountain, you have to make the decision. Do I wish to make the next step into a higher tier to get more of what life has to offer, the nectar that’s in life? Or is the view where I’m at good enough? And good enough almost never is. And so, when you conquer those two levels, when you learn how to make money, and you eventually turn to say, I want to have relationships, you’re going to have to learn how to put aside the tools that have made you very successful at securing your physiological needs and your safety and security, and learn how to boil water so you can give good tea ceremony. And of course, there’s resistance to growth in all of this stuff. It’s not that people don’t want their needs met. It’s just that they don’t believe me when I tell them that the only way up the mountain is to go up. Yes, there’s many paths up the mountains, but ultimately you have to go up.
[00:20:12] So tier zero people, they’re scared of looking at their life and realizing that they are in danger at all times; that they’re dependent. And so, they judge the Vikings as just being Barbarians and hurting people. And they focus on that cold, calculating, compartmentalized nature that these people who are masters of those bottom two tiers but have never gone higher are. And they look at the tea drinkers as holier than thou, as soft, as incapable, and just not understanding their life as a tier zero person.
[00:20:46] There’s also a separate group of people, and I’ve run into these people quite a bit in my own journey that try to bypass the entire bottom two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because they’re afraid of becoming the Viking. Or to put it another way, becoming their fathers. And these people, I call them the sensitive seekers because what they’re trying to do is they think if they’re just sensitive, if they just have access to their heart, if they just knew their next chakra, and do the next retreat and can just be you read the next book and just be totally in relationship enough, then the bottom two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will take care of themselves and they never have to learn how to be hard, how to charge in the battle, and how to break glass when needed. And of course, we all know these people, and their lives typically aren’t that great because they are not secure. Even if they can approximate good relationships, the lack of confidence that comes from not being able to break glass when needed, to be able to go to battle when it’s time, means they’re never gonna be secure enough to be in good, healthy relationships for the long term.
[00:21:54] The reality, ladies and gentlemen, is that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is like a mountain. If you wish to summit, there’s exactly one option: go up. There are several paths. But at the end of the day, after all is said and done, you have to go up. And you have to go through every level of the mountain in that order. There isn’t another option. Nobody can step from tier zero to tier five. Everybody has to go from tier zero to one and two and so on. And there’s lots of paths that will waste lots of time around the mountain as you endlessly circle the entire mountain range, doing lots and lots of things, but never actually going up because that would be the hard part, the scary part. And at the end of the day, you’re expending far more energy than if you had just decided to scale the cliff face right now. There’s exactly one path up the mountain. It goes up. And if you’re not going up, then you’re wasting a lot of time and energy and effort.
[00:22:55] Ladies and gentlemen, I bring all of this up to hammer home the idea that we’re playing a game here. We need to know the field. Our field is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the end of the day. And getting those needs met are what’s gonna drive a lot of the emotional aspects of money because money represents a lot of getting those needs met.
[00:23:13] And this reminds me of a time when my wife and I sat down after we had both gotten jobs that paid the bills. And I’m talking to my wife about retirement savings. And she continues to come back to this $5 and $10 expense that’s in her budget. And I’m looking at her with bewilderment because I don’t understand why these $5 and $10 are so important to her because we are at a financial level where that shit ain’t really material to us anymore. So I’m at a loss for what’s going on with my wife. I continue to ask her, “Honey, why is that so important to you? If we save that $5, what would change for us?” I’m trying to appeal to her logic rather than her needs. And it dawns on me in this moment that she doesn’t feel safe; that she’s returning to the battle for comfort; that she’s doing what we’ve always done that we’ve had to do together as a couple for over a decade at this point; of pinching two cents out of every penny, and then we’re gonna squeeze that until Lincoln squints. She’s returning to what’s important to her: her feeling of comfort and safety. She’s worried about losing her physical needs and her safety and security while I’m talking about wealth accumulation. I’m in a different tier trying to get a different need met. I’m in a relationship tier. She’s in a survival tier. This mismatch between us means that I have to practice good relationships with her to help her understand that she is going to get her needs met and that she is safe and secure in her physiological needs and her security needs.
[00:24:53] And in this moment, I find myself going back to my learning all the different things I’ve done on an emotional level, on a psychological level, so that I can help bring my family forward. And I start listening to her concerns, embodying a level of curiosity, thinking about where she is at Maslow’s hierarchy, and what it will require for her to feel that her needs are being met, to create the safety so that she can blossom into this relationship with me. I can handle that part until she’s ready. And in that moment of curiosity, finding that I am a better partner for my wife because I focused on what’s important to her and her needs as we started to move forward.
[00:25:35] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.