[#RapplerReads] ‘Happy Money’ didn’t really teach me about money management

Julian Cirineo

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[#RapplerReads] ‘Happy Money’ didn’t really teach me about money management
But it did help me start resolving relationship issues both with money and people

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team.  We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

I don’t usually read books about managing money mostly because I feel like I’ve read or heard it all. But when my sister-in-law recommended this book called “Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money”, I was curious because I have this impression that she and my brother handle their finances well and seem generally happy about life. So I picked up a copy and began flipping through the pages.

I’m not going to lie, it was a hard read in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, Ken Honda, a renowned author often called the Zen Millionaire, wrote beautifully.

It’s just that I started my career in media helping produce a show about personal finances and worked on it for years, and so I was exposed to different perspectives about money earlier on, and had a tendency to get jaded at the subject. I’m also not fond of toxic positivity where people simply tell you to look at the brighter side with little to no sensitivity on nuanced situations.

I was coming in thinking there’s nothing here that I don’t already know about, and boy was I wrong. Not only did I gain a new way of thinking about saving and spending, but I also unlearned many ideas that I assumed were set rules in the pursuit of happiness and financial security.

The idea of happy money came to Honda as a woman asked him if she could see his wallet, and mentioned that all his money “looks good.” Curious, he asked her what she meant, to which she answered that all of his money was smiling.

This would be the beginning of Honda’s assessment of whether money can be happy or sad, and how he himself has found happiness and contentment despite taking on a path that others would have deemed ridiculous (staying at home to care for his daughter as well as writing books and tutorials about money for free).

[Buy Happy Money by Ken Honda from Fully Booked for P999]

If you’re looking for a book that will teach you about strategies and hacks for saving or investing money, this isn’t for you. What this book teaches, however, is the amount of emotion we unconsciously attach to money and how to overcome them to have a happier outlook in life. And along the way, you also learn a number of life lessons that could help empathize with other people, family members most especially.

Honda writes that money holds so much power over people despite it being a construct that we, ourselves created. For some people, each purchase is riddled with so much overthinking and even remorse, while some get caught up in the pursuit of success that they lose sight of things that could make them happy now instead of later.

He explains that much of what we do with money today was influenced by experiences we’ve had from our parents and grandparents. He calls this our “Money History”, and that making peace with it and realizing what could be changed will help us find peace in life.

Realizing how my own views of money have been affected by my parents (and theirs by their own parents) helped me understand both my dad and mom more. Talking about money is a sensitive subject in every Filipino household, and so I was left with more questions than answers with each financial decision I hear them make. It’s only now after reading this book as well as becoming more financially independent myself that I’m beginning to understand them better.

I can’t explain it as eloquently as Honda did, so I would suggest you read the book if this intrigues you. But the gist of what he wrote is that more often than not, we would be raised with a scarcity mindset: that we don’t have enough now, and must get more, and that other people were born luckier than us because we think they have more.

This results in how we think of other people’s gains as are our losses – that just because a friend or colleague is earning more, we are losing that opportunity as if money is a finite resource. The reality, however, is that our lives and happiness shouldn’t be dependent on other peoples’ successes. We’re responsible for our own happiness, and chances are there are many things in your life that can be wellsprings of happiness now.

Honda writes that in order for us to break away from this cycle, we need to have a more abundant and grateful  mindset. In fact, he literally tells us to start thanking money more as it flows through our life. He says that we should be willing to receive the happiness and abundance that money brings us, and be thankful as it leaves our lives in exchange for things that bring us comfort and joy.

This was a shocker to me because most finance gurus would shame you for a luxurious purchase (even something as trivial as an expensive cup of coffee), but Honda writes that if these are things you enjoy, then you should enjoy them wholeheartedly.

That isn’t to say that we should be irresponsible with our purchases. But by creating a more grateful and happy relationship with money, we begin to realize what we really value in life. Realizing this helps us learn to respect the hard work it takes to make and save money more. “If you’re going to save money, save it while you imagine the many fun ways to spend it,” Honda wrote in his book.

These could be vacations you can have with your family or friends, or maybe even investments that could earn over time for future needs and experiences.

Reading the book created an opportunity for me to reassess my life’s priorities, and hopefully yours as well. What are you striving for now, and will that really make you happy? Are you working towards that goal actively and enjoying the fruits of your labor along the way?

I’m far from fully understanding and applying all the lessons that Honda wrote in his book, but I’d like to think I’m making good progress. I’m more appreciative of my own money now and don’t impulsively spend. Instead, I take careful stock of what opportunities having money opens for me. Ken Honda’s “Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money” wasn’t a money management guide for me, but more of a guide to becoming less anxious about success and enjoying life as it is today. – Rappler.com

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Julian Cirineo

Julian is a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap. Before joining the team, he worked for an NGO focused on plastic pollution, and was also a managing editor for a magazine. He started his career as a producer and writer for a TV news network.