“If money can fix it, it isn’t broken.” These words, said by a friend during a recent conversation, grabbed my attention. Her statement challenged my definition of “broken.”
The passenger side mirror on my car recently clipped the side of the garage. While certainly it isn’t working properly, I am getting it fixed. My roof, gutters, and siding were pounded by hail this summer. Through my homeowner’s insurance, I am getting them fixed.I once dramatically discovered that it’s not a good idea to use a glass casserole dish on the stove top. (Note: don’t try this at home.) The resulting “Humpty Dumpty” shower of shattered glass was such a mess that the king’s men didn’t even try to put it together again. A new dish cost $20.All these broken or damaged things were easily fixed. All it took was money. Enough money for a car repair, for insurance premiums, for a casserole dish.And there’s the catch. Because, of course, “if money can fix it” really means “if I have the money to fix it.” If a damaged item could easily be repaired or replaced, but I can’t do either because every penny of my paycheck is needed for essential expenses like rent and food, then to me that item is broken.
Then there are things that all the money in the world can’t fix. Those are the things that are the most broken of all.
Money couldn’t fix my former business partner, who snapped his spinal cord in an accident and lingered for two years before he passed away. Nor could it repair the heart of my friend and mentor who died from complications after a surgery that went wrong. Eventually our bodies irreparably wear out. Money can’t keep us alive forever.Neither can money fix a heart broken by the unbearable hurt and sadness of losing a loved one. Money can’t repair a broken marriage, friendship, or business partnership that’s gone irreparably south. Money can’t bring back a species that has gone extinct, glaciers that have melted, or coastlines lost to rising tides or destructive hurricanes.If money can’t fix the broken things in life that matter most, then why should we care if we have any? Why does money even matter?Because money can help ease our path. Money can’t repair a broken marriage or partnership, but it can help us deal with the resulting legal, emotional, and logistical complications. It can’t bring back a loved one, but it can help us manage the changes in our circumstances and access support groups and counseling to assist us through the grieving process.Having money in the bank means a car repair or a medical bill is not a crisis. Having an emergency reserve fund means a job loss is a serious setback rather than a shortcut to homelessness. Having money gives us the means to maintain our homes, our health, and our well-being. It allows us to help our families and communities. What is a catastrophe if we don’t have any money can be reduced to an inconvenience if we do have money.This is the essential reason why I preach frugality, saving, and financial planning. Building financial security is not about greed or selfishness. It is about taking care of ourselves and our families as well as creating a fulfilling life. Having enough money to manage life’s mishaps and setbacks relieves a great deal of stress.Money certainly won’t fix everything, but as an all-purpose tool it’s even better than duct tape. It can do a great deal to help us cope with life’s challenges—including the inevitable hardships that money cannot fix.