Money is neutral, but we make it mean something

The power of thinking of money as a neutral force

Oz Chen
4 min readFeb 3, 2022

We’ve all heard the phrase money is the root of all evil.
Other people say money is the solution to the world’s problems.

I invite you to think of money as neither good nor evil. Money is neutral.

But first — why do we project so much meaning onto money?

Humans are meaning-making machines. We love to project our values onto others. The fact that we make meaning out of everything, in of itself, is neither good or bad. It’s part of the human condition, so much that I believe the meaning of life is… to create your own meaning.

Naturally, we’re going to make money mean something. (Say that 3x fast).

What happens when we think of money as good or evil?

Beliefs about money drive our behavior with money. Excerpt from the 4 Money Tendencies:

Money avoidance: “It is not okay to have more than you need.”
Money avoiders tend to think that money is the root of all evil and that they don’t deserve money.

Money worship: “Money would solve all my problems.”
Money worshippers obsess about money while deprioritizing other things life like health or relationships. The flipside? The worship of money is usually driven by a scarcity mindset that there will never be enough money.

If we think of money as neutral, we give ourselves a healthy distance from it.
This helps us develop our own relationship with money, rather than run off of outdated beliefs.

When we have an extreme view of anything, it’s harder to understand what seems to be on the other side. If you think money is evil, you will roll your eyes when you hear positive things about money.

It’s a far less psychological distance to travel to “money is neutral” rather than “money is good.”

3 ways to shift money beliefs to neutral

If you’re still questioning whether money is neutral, then consider these 3 other points…

  1. Money is a tool

Is a fig tree plant worth 10 seashells? Is the sweater off my back worth an hour of labor? Barter in this form is inefficient and inconsistent.

Money is just a tool that helps us be more efficient in how we trade resources. When we can all agree “yes, this is money” then we don’t have to spend all this time and energy with trades that are hard to agree on. Money is a consensus tool.

2. Money is an exchange of energy

In a way, money represents stored potential energy. Instead of learning how to fix your car, you can pay someone else who’s invested time and energy to learn mechanic skills.

When we think of money as an exchange of energy in this sense, that could help us get to neutral ground. Energy is not inherently good or bad. It’s how that energy is used.

3. Money is just made up as collective belief.

Money is not real, but it can cause real world impact.

Why is money not real? Because its value can go up and down arbitrarily.

Money is just pieces of paper, and digits of code in a bank system. At some point we just agreed that these pieces of paper are a more efficient means of trade (see belief shift #1).

Imagine the countries that undergo hyperinflation, like Venezuela. All of a sudden the value drops and things cost 10x more.

Think of a stock suddenly jump up 100%? It’s because the collective belief about its future prospects have suddenly shifted — even if nothing has changed too much with the company offering the stock.