Money: Making It, Spending It, and Giving It Away
An interview with Frank J. Hanna III, one of the leading Catholic philanthropists in the USA
Recently, Deal Hudson sat down with Hanna to discuss his recent book, What Your Money Means: And How to Use it Well (Crossroads Publishing, 2008).
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Deal W. Hudson: With the current financial crisis, do you think more people are asking themselves what their money means?
Frank J. Hanna III: Absolutely. There was some concern about the timing of this book, given the election year, but the current financial crisis has made people more interested in reflecting on how they have used their money. I'm seeing an anxiety today that wasn't being experienced a month ago or six months ago. People are wondering if they are too attached to their money and other material goods. They're asking, "Is the way I am spending money helping me to be a better person?"
Hudson: You talk about the earth being a "pure" gift from God, along with other goods He has bestowed upon us. But you add that what we've been given is not a "free lunch." What do you mean by this?
Hanna: Just because we have the freedom to engage in imprudent financial endeavors doesn't mean we have license to do so.The extension of credit is a wonderful thing. It can start a business or provide for a child's college education. When we condemn debt, we forget it is the other side of credit. The word "credit" comes from "credo" or "to believe," and like all good things it can be abused through imprudence or greed.
Hudson: You say we have the responsibility of learning to manage our money well. Are you seeing a breakdown in management in our financial institutions?
Hanna: Sometimes, but I reject the notion that greed was the cause of our current money crisis. It's not intentional malfeasance but an emphasis on materialism combined with a benign neglect of how to manage our money.
John D. Rockefeller said, "It is harder to give money away than to make it." I don't agree with him, but I do think we should be deliberate in how we use our money.
Hudson: I don't think I learned growing up how to use money as a tool. I wasn't taught this except by looking around and seeing how others did it. How did you learn this?
Hanna: I'm not an author; I'm a businessman and investor. I try to be deliberate and thoughtful on how to use my money well. In seeking guidance on how to do this, I found snippets of information. This subject of how to use our material resources isn't taught today.Of course, there is much ancient and medieval wisdom on this very subject, but there is no systematic philosophy being used today to teach people how to use their resources wisely.
Hudson: Books about money and how to spend it are normally relegated to the business section pages of the newspapers, news magazines, and cable news shows. You've treated the subject in the context of the general morality and the virtues humans should practice in using their material resources.
Hanna: We divide too much of our lives into sections, like a newspaper. But when we do this, we have too much segmentation. When as human beings we eat together, converse, spend our money, play sports, engage in commerce, and we segregate these activities, we lose some of the integrated whole. We tend to act with one type of morality or spirituality with each segment and, I think, we do damage to our souls.We should not be afraid to talk about and discuss money. Our children should be taught how to think about using money instead of letting the popular culture do this.
Hudson: My parents were a product of the end of the depression and World War II, and so I was taught to save to the point that I was tired of hearing about it. I never learned about spending money but rather that I was supposed to save it.
Hanna: There is a perception that there is something "dirty" about having money. In fact, money is one of God's gifts that allows us to have transactions, relationships, and build prosperity.However, it is such a powerful instrument that it's subject to abuse if we become too attached to it -- and if we do, something sordid does occur. We've all seen this in our own hearts, and so we start to associate that sordidness with the money itself, and we back off ...
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