by Michael Garrett

In this time of severe economic upheaval, characterized by a troubled mortgage industry, a shaky banking system, trillion-dollar budgets and spending programs, billion dollar bailouts, million-dollar bonuses and rising unemployment, the subject of money is a constant thought for many people today. For many of us who are blind or visually impaired, it simply boggles the mind to think in terms of millions, billions and trillions of dollars. For some of us, that's just too many zeros to count. But, whether we have a lot, a little or barely enough money, the thought of it consumes us. The question is, how do we view money? What is our money attitude?

I've thought long and hard about money, having worked in an industry where I came in contact with a variety of people, some of whom were very wealthy and others who lived from paycheck to paycheck. I've developed my own attitude toward money, which I'll share with you, but I believe everyone should ask him- or herself a few pertinent questions. These might include: is the quest for money the number 1 priority in my life? How can I get more money? If I had lots of money, would that make me happy? Am I consumed with the infectious greed that grips much of corporate America today? How much money would it take to make me financially secure? Can I be content with what I have?

It appears to me that there is a natural tendency for us to desire more money, the rationale being "if I have more, I can do more." That's good in theory, but folks often fail to realize that money can either be a powerful tool or an instrument of doom. Managed wisely and strategically spent, the dollar can enhance lives, open doors of opportunity and provide emotional and economic security. But the issue of money has also resulted in failed marriages, wrecked homes, ruined business relationships, destroyed organizations and put nations in peril.

So, how can we arrive at a proper attitude toward money? I believe that, in order to view money in its proper perspective, we have to strike a balance between understanding whether money is a vehicle that controls us or a commodity that we control. Who's in control when a guy has $13 billion; he loses $6 billion, but he commits suicide? Or, is it the person who is on a fixed income but manages to meet his expenses?

Money is, indeed, a necessary vehicle to help us sustain our well-being. But it is also a commodity whose quantity changes and whose value fluctuates. Banks constantly manipulate the supply of money in the economy; the stock market's ups and downs can result in some volatile swings; and the prices we pay for goods and services can change rapidly. How we respond to these actions goes a long way in determining our financial success.

I subscribe to the theory that "attitude determines action" or ADA. In other words, what you believe about money will ultimately determine what you do with it. Even in today's tough economic times, I believe you can still be financially successful. Of course, each individual situation is different, but I would suggest folks start with our parents' standard advice, that is: subscribe to the three "S"s: sharing, saving and spending. Sharing: What works for me in terms of sharing is I give a tithe and offering at my place of worship and try to help in other areas of my choice. Saving: It takes discipline to save. But, if you adopt the rule that I'm going to save something out of everything that comes into my hands, it will grow. Now, that may mean not buying that extra Coke or cutting out a trip to McDonald's, but it really works. Keep doing that until you develop a systematic plan for saving; that could grow into various types of savings vehicles. Spending: Realize that you have enormous buying power. Work on eliminating debt. Shop for everything; try not to pay full price for anything. But, most of all, remember that money is a powerful tool; if you work with it, it will work for you.

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