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Are You Buying Stuff Cecause of Low Self-Esteem?

24/06/2013 11:36 BST | Updated 23/08/2013 10:12 BST

Today I am finding myself fascinated by Professor Maslow. Fascinated because when coupling the hierarchy of Maslow with Ethics of the Fathers 3:17 we can learn something profound about what drives our decisions.

Disclaimer - I am not a theologian but rather an observer of human behaviour, an economist raised at the teat of "rational behaviour" who is constantly amazed by irrationality. My work, which is my calling, brings me into contact with people, young and old, with diverse attitudes towards money and varying levels of financial capability - many of whom rarely act in their own best interest.

Part of my drive in promoting financial education is borne of the idea that without financial freedom there can be little financial dignity. It is a controversial statement and I must define financial freedom before continuing.

Financial freedom is not a Pollyanna'ish vision of a lifestyle bereft of funds, nor is it the idea that one can easily generate sufficient passive income to fund a desired lifestyle without having to do any actual work.

These are unrealistic. They present a view of the world not rooted in reality and make a mockery of the incredible amount of work that has to go into becoming an overnight success! Financial freedom, as I understand it, is the idea that you can pay your bills, minimise and eliminate your debt and have some savings in the bank. Living your life within your means.

It is the idea that you can live without financial fear, without debt feeding your sleep with nightmare.

It should be an attainable goal.

50 years ago this was, for most, simply considered basic housekeeping. But then the challenges were different. Credit was less available and peer pressure on a global scale, magnified by celebrities funding a lifestyle we cannot imagine, didn't exist or dominate our airtime and aspirations.

It was, in many ways, an easier time. A life of minimal debt, a culture of savings and living within one's means was simple the norm. Today the great divide is an ever growing gulf between those who have more money than month and those who have more month than money.

A Halifax survey in April (2013) found that 46% of households admit to having run out money before the end of the month over the last year, and almost one in 10 (9%) say they ran out of money every single month and that is a terrifying concept.

To misquote the aft-used expression is money the root of all evil? No.

Money like a car, is simply a vehicle. It can be a way of getting from one place to another, or can be a dangerous weapon. Whether it causes harm is in the hands of the driver.

It is the lack of money which is the problem and I would venture that many people struggling each month to look after their family would agree.

It is written in the Ethics of the Fathers (3:17) that without bread there can be no learning. That is a more logical view of money... which brings us to Abraham Maslow.

Maslow was a psychologist who became famous when in 1943 he stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth.

He did this by clearly defining our needs in a hierarchy, a pyramid.

At the bottom of the pyramid are our base needs, our physiological needs - those things without which we can not survive for very long (food, water).

At the top of the pyramid are the more esoteric ideas of esteem (the desire to be accepted) and self actualisation (the need to become what we feel we must become).

What I find intriguing is the idea that those who feel they are not getting what they need at any one level will regress, that is go down, to the level of the pyramid they find to be easier to achieve and will park their life there.

What does that mean? It means that the accumulation of stuff, the unstoppable spiral of spending, and the unrelenting pressure to purchase merely numb us from seeking our true potential. Or excuse us from the pursuit.

The mirror of that is that if we don't have the lower levels satisfied, if we don't have access to adequate supplies of food, water and shelter we can not hope to reach our potential.

Without dignity there can be no freedom.

Without satisfying our base needs we are unable to pursue our dreams and potential, and without pursuing our dreams and potential our base needs become merely animalistic.

Just something to think about.