We’ve recently covered the fact that bipolar disorder can wreak havoc on our finances. The good news is that there are lots of resources that can help us change the way we think about money. I, for example, have Free Printable Money Worksheets. But what I’m here to draw your attention to today is Ken Honda’s magnificently weird – and possibly paradigm-shifting – book, Happy Money.
What on Earth is Happy Money?
Happy money, according to Honda, is money that you acquire and spend in a state of appreciation and gratitude.
Without a sense of stress.
In a world where homelessness, hunger, and lack of healthcare (hello, my mentally ill friends) are pressing concerns, does an idea like Honda’s hold any water whatsoever?
Happy Money presents its arguments about “smiling money.” The idea is that happy money is an extremely practical and even liberating way of managing money.
So, what gives?
Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money, A Review
This is a bizarre book. It comes straight at us, flinging itself at our bare, unprotected heads, and then hits us on the noggin with brand new ideas.
Ken Honda looks beyond the budget. Beyond the spreadsheet. Beyond the expense tracker and the slick new banking or investing app.
He asks the question: what is money? He presents an answer: a neutral force of nature.
And, once he separates money (the force of nature) out from its representations (coins, bills) he says that money is an energy flow.
An energy flow that, much like a body of water, can flow in lakes and pool in rivers and stagnate in ponds.
And then he teaches us how to shape a beneficial flow of money through our lives – how we spend it, how we save it, and how we earn it.
Honda starts by explaining that when we worry about money, we are usually worrying about the future. However, he says, the solution to feeling more secure about the future isn’t to get more money in the bank.
What is the secret to true secret to security? The solution, he goes on, is to cultivate a network of friends who will let you live with them for a week or a month when you need help.
With those social bonds firmly in place, you have no fear of going hungry or being homeless.
Therefore, with those fears laid to rest, you can focus on receiving and releasing money with a sense of appreciation and gratitude: money becomes a natural flow of energy that winds through your life.
He goes on to suggest that the best way to begin a flow of money is to give money to others as gifts, gift loans, extra tips, extra payment, or buying from people you like. Then you save some money up for a stock of funds, spend some money on life-enriching experiences, and give money to people and causes that you believe in.
Well, okay. These are Ken Honda’s ideas. I hope I’ve done them justice.
But how well does the Happy Money model work for people who have bipolar disorder?
Well, when someone’s distracted (read: (hypo)manic) or depressed, Happy Money offers some helpful soundbites. Here are some (paraphrased) examples:
- The best way to prevent yourself from being homeless and hungry is to develop strong friendships.
- Money is an expression of gratitude, so if you do work that makes people grateful, you will make money.
- If you enjoy your work, you are more likely to do work that other people appreciate – and that helps with that whole grateful part. Win-win.
- Money is best spent on experiences and contributions, so invest in trips and people you love.
All of these can help us take a breath, check our attitude with regard to money, and make some strategic financial plans when we’re mentally stable.
We know that one of the most common ways in which people with bipolar destroy their finances is by giving overly generous gifts. That we quit steady jobs to pursue new entrepreneurial ventures or investment opportunities.
It would be all to easy to rationalize these risky financial behaviors by using Happy Money as an excuse. Happy Money makes real sense as a long-term, slow and steady, baby-step-taking journey. It doesn’t make sense as a splashy full-body jump into a whole new way of doing things.
I suggest approaching Happy Money through a series of baby-steps and assessments, not as a “bold, new” change.
Is There a Better Personal Book Than Happy Money?
If you want a more basic book about money – something that will teach you the fundamentals of personal money management – I recommend Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. She’s great at pointing out solid financial priorities and methods.
Happy Money is thoroughly refreshing. It takes on the topic of money from a completely different perspective. Its unconventional approach draws on some elements of the mystical (Honda mentions the Law of Attraction more than once) but it also has several nuggets of highly practical insights.
While this book won’t teach you how to make a budget or set up your investments, it will help you make all-important lifestyle decisions. And those lifestyle decisions are crucially important – after all, they create the expenses that you’ll end up spending money on, and how you’ll earn that money to begin with.
My rating: 8/10
Easiest place to buy: Amazon
(If you buy this book through any of the links on this page, I’ll get a cut of the profits and that will help me keep this site afloat at no additional cost to you.)