Esteemed psychologist, Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970), developed the famous psychology model known as the “Hierarchy of Needs” to explain that people are primarily motivated by unsatisfied needs.
The five major needs are: physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualisation. At the bottom of the hierarchy, we have physiological needs, which include basic survival requirements such as air, food, water, sleep, etc. Next are our safety needs: shelter, the security of a home and the absence of fear. The central need is love and belongingness, which includes belonging to groups, being in a close, loving relationship or generally feeling loved and accepted by others.
The fourth requirement includes two types of esteem: (a) self-esteem and (b) recognition from others. Self-esteem comes from competence and mastery in a given task, whereas recognition from others is the need for admiration. Often, the people who drive expensive cars and surround themselves with lavish objects do so to raise their level of esteem.
The final stage is the need for self-actualisation, which is to maximise one’s personal potential and to make a lasting and significant contribution. As Maslow put it, “Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write, if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves”. When we have everything, we start to expand our true potential by becoming more expressive, creative, spontaneous, and more open for experience. There is a greater need for self-fulfilment, spirituality, knowledge and expansion.
The lower stages need to be satisfied, or at least sufficiently satisfied, before we can progress to the higher ones. For example, we may have progressed to “esteem” but if we are denied food or water, we will automatically fall back to the lowest stage. We immediately lose interest in seeking admiration from others until our basic physical needs are met. The stages build upon each other. If we do not have basic food and shelter, love is unimportant. We cannot self-actualise if we lack security or self-esteem.
Maslow believed that humans were essentially trustworthy, self-protecting and tended toward growth and love. It is only when our basic needs are not fulfilled that we resort to crime. That is why poverty is often the central cause of wars, crime, vandalism and violence. Maslow also believed that all four lower needs, from physiological through to esteem, need to be met before we are capable of acting unselfishly. It is only when we self-actualise that we are free to give of ourselves in a truly magnanimous way.
So where does money fit in all of this? If we follow Maslow’s logic, against popular belief, money does not ultimately lead to greed. To the contrary, if used wisely money can assist us in reaching self-actualisation and generosity. Money cannot buy us love, but it is essential in fulfilling our basic physical and security requirements. It can assist us in meeting our needs for esteem and once all four stages are satisfied, it can provide us with the financial freedom to do what we want to do and to become what we want to be.
Interestingly, studies have shown that along with job satisfaction and fulfilling relationships, being financially secure is one of the major factors that delay ageing and prolong life.
In "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind", Deepak Chopra lists the positive and negative psychosocial factors that gerontologists use to predict longevity. Financial burdens and being in debt are listed as “negative factors that accelerate ageing” and feeling financial secure and living within your means are listed under “positive factors that retard ageing”. As research has proven, learn to manage your finances and you can look forward to a long, prosperous and rewarding life.