Book Review: The Art of Money

Many of us carry around a huge money blind spot, regardless of how much we earn.

Can I recommend a book I struggled to finish? What did I learn from something I wanted to hurl across the room a dozen times reading it? Maddening, repetitive, with way too much overshare, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness by Bari Tessler is short on practical advice on budgeting or investing, but long on the deep wisdom of unpacking psychic money baggage.

To get through it, you’ll have to wade through endless accounts of hiking and the importance of organic food and meaningful money talks with her husband, and countless self-congratulatory mentions of munching on dark chocolate before balancing her checkbook. (Prompting the recurring urges to set the book on fire.)

But dammit if Tessler doesn’t also have super smart things to say about money’s psychological truths: how we obsess, check out, fantasize, rationalize, and lie to ourselves about one of the most important resources in our lives.

Tessler does something vital, pointing the way on how to get clear on the stories we tell ourselves. Her simple observation: many of us are proficient in certain basic aspects of money management like earning, budgeting, debt repayment, saving, investing, and spending. However few of us ever master them all.

As examples, there are those of us who are great earners, but who never have any idea where the money goes. Others of us never feel like we have enough, because we’ve never sat down and figured out what that number might be. Some of us will eat ramen for weeks to pay off a debt, but won’t set aside a dime for a rainy day.

Ramp up the emotional complexities in scenarios like loaning, sharing, donating, inheriting, or withholding money from loved ones, and it’s easy to see that most of us lurch through life never really getting clear on what this vital resource means to us, and how it affects our most important relationships.

One of her most important insights is what she calls your “money story,” or your earliest money memory. Tessler points out that at a very young age, we decide what money means. Money is dirty. Money is power. Money equals love. Money belongs to other people, not me. People with money make the rules. These messages can take on even more meaning in sex work.

Our formative ideas can be soaked in shame, fear, resentment, helplessness, envy, as well as love, joy, and fulfillment. But we can only get clear on these dynamics if we take time to consciously focus on it. Tessler offers simple, gentle exercises for stepping into a more grown-up, and ultimately, more joyful relationship with our finances.

I must have taken several hundred notes in this book, and I know I’ll read it again soon (skipping the silly parts.) A book I recommend for sex workers struggling with any aspect of their finances --- earning, saving, spending. This book may be a huge New Age pain in the ass; it’s also as wise as anything I’ve ever read on the inner life of money.

Until next time-- be sweet to yourself-- Lola D.

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