Money doesn’t buy happiness

Part 1 of An interview with Brad Hewitt,
Author of Your New Money Mindset

Now that we’ve approached the second week of January, all of the Christmas decorations have been packed away and most of us have already cheated on our diets or broken another resolution are two. Even the gifts that topped our Christmas wish lists have lost a little bit of their shine. After all, the joy we expected the latest gadget or comfort item to bring didn’t quite live up to expectations. Perhaps it’s the child in all of us that thinks that a particular item will make things better. Even as adults, we often have that mindset with material goods or simply money in general. “If I just had more.”

However, as Brad Hewitt, President and CEO of Thrivent Financial writes in Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale House Publishers written with psychologist Dr. Jim Moline), the belief of simply having more will solve all of these problems is completely false. Through personal anecdotes, scripture and timely research, the authors reveal that security has much more to do with one’s relationship with money rather than money itself. They invite readers to spend more time examining their fundamental attitudes toward the money they have and aligning those views with their core values.

Q: Many books talk about the nuts and bolts of financial planning. How is Your New Money Mindset radically different from all of the other books out there on the subject of money?

Before you can remake your habits, you need to remake your heart. You have probably tried to “do better with money” through brute force, bringing willpower to bear on what you identify as problem areas. But a better relationship with money begins with the heart. Altering how you think and feel is the only realistic way to bring about a lasting difference in how you act. We think calling attention to this primary issue is unique among advice you will hear about dealing with money. The truths we share have been effective in helping ourselves and many others.

Q: You write that in both your personal and professional life that you have seen the need to talk about money as a heart question, not just a head question. How is money a heart issue?

When we look at what we want money to provide, the reality is that it usually goes quickly beyond providing basic needs (food and shelter) to all sorts of wants. Additionally, we are often looking for things money can buy that we believe (with the help of marketing messages) will bring us happiness, security, independence and a feeling of success. The truth is, once our basic needs are met, money never buys us these things, at least during the long run. Our hearts establish our motives and priorities. Without examining our relationship with money from a heart perspective, we run the risk of continuing to make financial decisions that don’t align with our faith and values. The heart often illuminates the void we are hoping money will fill more than the head does. Scientific research and Biblical truth teaches us what brings true joy in life: spending time with family and our community, giving to others, sharing our time and treasure and fulfilling our purpose or calling through our work or avocations. Wise money planning can help us achieve these life-giving goals. Starting with the heart allows us to develop a realistic view of our motives leading to a heart-healthy relationship with money.

Q: What observations during your financial career prompted you to write a book about the relationship we have with money?

First of all, I looked at my own struggle with wisdom toward money and joyful generosity. As I started working with Christians in the financial services field, I found they had similar struggles. It became clear to me we need to talk about money in a different way. While this money motivation issue is nearly universal, we just don’t talk about it in this way. I have found most financial planners give advice about the mechanics of money management and tactical goals, such as debt repayment, retirement planning, college funding and the like, without talking about the heart motivations. From virtually all the new behavior economics research we know money motivations have profound physiological and behavioral implications. Based upon how much money is talked about in scripture, we believe there are spiritual implications too.

Q: What is a “money relationship”? What does a healthy relationship with money look like?

Our money relationship is our everyday attitudes and actions toward money — how we think and feel about money and how we use or misuse it. Like any relationship, it can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, on the upswing or on life support. Unfortunately, almost everywhere we turn we observe unhealthy dynamics around money. We notice it not just in grown-ups struggling to keep up in a culture of discontent. We also observe it in young people trying hard to make their way in the world. To be honest, we see the battle raging within ourselves.

For me a healthy relationship with money is when I see money simply as a tool — nothing more! A form of stored-up service and love to be used as God intends — a two-fold blessing for our family and our community.

Q: Why does a larger salary not necessarily equate to feeling more financially secure?

Clearly it is easy to move toward financial security if you have more income, but financial security isn’t security. When the phone rings at two in the morning with bad news, or the doctor gives you the news no one wants, security isn’t just about your bank account or your salary — it is about family, friends and community.

Q: In our materialistic world, what advice do you have for cultivating contentment?

Understand God provides. Scripture celebrates that God lovingly provides what we need and tells us that things will never satisfy us in any sort of ultimate way. The Bible resounds with encouragement for us to work hard to acquire what we need and to avoid the trap of believing that money or things will make us happy or content. It tells us to use and enjoy things without letting them cause us discontent.

Work toward a tithe. Tithing means taking 10 percent of what you earn and giving it for God’s work in the world. This is another generosity discipline we want to encourage you to consider. It’s a practice for learning contentment regarding what we earn and own. Often the theme of tithing comes up in the context of giving to a local church. We want you to think of it as a yardstick for giving in general — not as a law but as an invitation and challenge.

Discipline of budgeting. A generosity discipline that goes a long way to cultivating this even-keeled attitude is budgeting. Many people find they stop worrying about having enough when they start planning. The writer of Proverbs puts it well: “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (Proverbs 21:5, MSG).

Manage expectations. Sometimes we need to be really honest with ourselves about what is realistic in regards to expectations in our lives. When we are honest with what we can expect to achieve and obtain, we can decide what it is we really want and start to live in contentment.

Q: How do you hope Your New Money Mindset impacts families and ultimately the Kingdom of God?

We believe that if people — especially Christians — could have a healthier relationship with money, it would change the world. We envision a world of human flourishing where both a financial sense of well-being and a joyful generosity prevail. We believe change can happen better, faster and further than any of us thinks possible. We truly believe people can be free from the slavery of a consumer culture by having a right relationship with money as taught by Jesus and other voices of Scripture, and as a result, they will live openheartedly with their time, energy and money.

Learn more about Your New Money Mindset
and Brad Hewitt at