Most personal finance resources around (blogs, books, etc) do a great job of telling you what to do with your money. Rent! Buy! Sell! Hold! Earn! Save! Spend!

For as much time as we spend talking about what to do with money, I think we’d all benefit from taking a step back every once in a while and having a discussion about what money really is, what it means to us, and how that meaning shapes our behavior.

It is Only Money and It Grows on Trees by Cara MacMillan does exactly this. With a super-readable narrative, Cara explores how different cultures, religions, and personal backgrounds shape peoples’ views of money and how those views can lead people toward or away from happy, productive lives.

I was fortunate enough to get this book by happenstance; a fellow blogger (Elsie at Gundo Money) had gotten a copy and mailed it to me as she thought I might enjoy the analysis.

There are about 100 pages of core content as well as a really useful workbook section at the end that guides you through discovering and exploring your own perception of money.

My advice is to do the workbook along the way - don’t save it for the end like I did or you’ll probably have to go back and re-read some portions.

This is an easy read and well worth the time for the introspection you’ll go through as you read it (Tweet this )

Something for Everyone

Hindus do not see money as evil. Interestingly, it is seen as a duty in the middle stage of life to want money, to pray for money, and to earn lots of money.

The book is set in a fictional classroom with a professor meeting with her students to talk about money. Cara skillfully uses characters with a diverse set of backgrounds to help portray the different cultural and religious views of money not just in theoretical terms, but with “real people”.

One thing I really appreciated was how the book highlighted each culture or religion’s view of money in a way that focused on the positive learning that could be gleaned from that mindset.

Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, or anything else, you’ll learn something about yourself and others that can help you better understand your money.

Covering the Fundamentals

Financial management is a gift we give ourselves; when we get to wealth, we can give back even more (Tweet this )

Another highlight of the book was the way that Cara broke down money and business to their fundamentals. She explains pricing, money as a medium of exchange, stocks and business ownership, and a variety of other topics in fairly approachable terms.

If you’re not strong on the technical details of money, this book could be a great resource for you to get a basic understanding.

Solid Guidelines

Change the way you spend. Be aware of what you spend, and you are on your way. Choose to spend less (Tweet this )

Beyond this, the book does a good job giving some sound guidelines for good personal money practices. These are the things we all know we should do, but may not find ourselves doing on a daily basis.

Cara puts them in a way that explains not just what they are, but what experiences and influences in our lives have made it tougher for us to actually follow through.

This book tackles marketing, consumerism, investment, and charity; giving you a solid foundation on which to build your own belief set.

Beyond simply covering these in the book, Cara puts her money where her mouth is: 10% of revenues from sale of her book go to a charitable organization (Development and Peace). Pretty cool :)

Summary

Overall, It is Only Money and It Grows on Trees is a great resource to help you to pause and reflect on where your views about money come from and what you can do to approach money in a healthier way.

With that new knowledge and the lessons you’ll learn about the other views out there, you’ll find yourself in a better position to make sound choices about how to handle your money and build a better future for yourself and those around you.

To get your own copy, here’s a link

It Is Only Money and It Grows On Trees cover

What does money mean to you? Success or stress? Obligation or opportunity? Freedom or burden? How does that meaning shape your behavior?