Money and Nothingness: Existential Personal Finance

Are money and existentialism worlds apart? Not necessarily! While existential philosophers primarily grappled with questions about human existence, freedom, and meaning, some of their insights can surprisingly be applied to personal finance. In this article, we’ll explore thought-provoking ideas from existential philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, and uncover the financial wisdom hidden within their musings.

Buckle up for an intriguing blend of existentialism and personal finance!

Jean-Paul Sartre and the Currency of Freedom

  • Freedom and Responsibility: Sartre believed in absolute freedom of choice and the responsibility that comes with it. In the realm of finances, this translates to taking control of your money. Being proactive in budgeting, saving, and investing means exercising your freedom and acknowledging that your financial situation is the result of your choices.
  • Authenticity: Sartre’s emphasis on living authentically can be a reminder not to be swayed by societal pressures in our spending. Keeping up with the Joneses can lead to financial strain. Be true to your values and align your financial goals accordingly.

Friedrich Nietzsche and The Will to Financial Power

  • Overcoming Financial Nihilism: Nietzsche talked about the will to power and overcoming nihilism. Financial nihilism – the belief that “money doesn’t matter” – can be a roadblock in achieving financial wellness. Recognize the power that financial stability can bring to your life and use it as a driving force to achieve your goals.
  • Eternal Recurrence: Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence invites us to live as if we’re going to repeat our lives infinitely. Before making a financial decision, ask yourself if you’d be willing to make that same choice over and over again throughout eternity.

Albert Camus and The Absurdity of Riches

  • The Myth of Sisyphus: Camus used the myth of Sisyphus to symbolize the human pursuit of meaning in an indifferent universe. Similarly, the relentless pursuit of wealth can be Sisyphean if it lacks purpose. Having a meaningful financial goal, such as providing for your family or contributing to a cause, adds significance to the wealth-building process.
  • Embracing the Absurd: Camus believed in embracing the absurdity of existence and revolting against it through personal meaning. When the stock market is volatile, or a financial plan falls through, sometimes all you can do is laugh at the absurdity and continue to forge your own financial path.

Simone de Beauvoir and the Economics of Existence

  • Financial Independence and Liberation: Simone de Beauvoir, in her seminal work “The Second Sex,” emphasized the importance of financial independence for women as a means of liberation. This principle can be extended to all individuals, regardless of gender. Being financially independent allows you to make choices that align with your values and aspirations. For Beauvoir, economic independence was fundamental to personal freedom.
  • Creating One’s Identity: Beauvoir believed that individuals are not born with a fixed essence but instead actively create their identity through their choices and actions. In the context of personal finance, this suggests that your financial identity – be it a saver, spender, investor, or philanthropist – is not predetermined but something you can actively shape through your financial decisions.
  • Living for Oneself: One of the key takeaways from Beauvoir’s philosophy is the idea of living for oneself and not solely in relation to others. In personal finance, this means not letting the financial expectations or standards of others dictate your financial goals. Your financial journey should be tailored to your own values and desired lifestyle.
  • Engagement and Responsibility: Beauvoir’s emphasis on engagement can be related to being actively involved and knowledgeable about your finances. Rather than taking a passive role, educate yourself on financial matters, and make informed decisions. Engage with your money as an active participant, not a bystander.

Drawing from the thoughts of Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir, we learn that existentialism offers a profound perspective not only on the nature of existence but also on how we manage our finances. Embracing freedom, authenticity, power, meaning, independence, and engagement, we can craft a financial life that is reflective of our deepest values and aspirations.

Money, in this light, becomes not just a means to an end but an extension of our existential selves. So, as you tread the path of personal finance, let the wisdom of existential philosophy guide you in crafting not just a budget or an investment portfolio, but a richer, more meaningful financial existence.

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  • Anika Patel

    Anika Patel boasts an extensive understanding of financial markets from her tenure at Goldman Sachs and roles such as Portfolio Manager and Financial Advisor. With degrees from Stanford and Wharton, she's also an author and adjunct professor, advocating for financial literacy among marginalized communities. Anika's work, praised for breaking down complex concepts into digestible steps, centers on personal finance, investment strategies, and wealth management, with a keen interest in ESG investments.

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