Honesty Is The Best Money Policy
"Speak the truth and speak it ever, cost it what it will.
He who hides the wrong he did does the wrong thing still."
— Children's memory gem
Many of us adults may have vivid memories of being taught the importance of speaking the truth and being honest at all times, back when we were children. Parents and teachers alike drummed it into us that we should never tell lies, even if we thought that we would be punished for some wrongdoing.
Despite the reinforcement that we received about this critical life lesson, I'm sure that some of us will also remember those times when we ignored the warnings about honesty. The fear of getting into trouble was often too strong to allow us to freely admit to our sins and shortcomings.
There were probably occasions when we thought we had gotten away with telling lies. Perhaps no one saw us break the plate or take the last dumpling off the stove, so we believed that our secret would remain hidden forever. No doubt our shrewd caregivers would have corrected that idea in due course!
ARE YOU FINANCIALLY DISHONEST?
If asked this question, I believe that most people will emphatically state "No!" This is because we usually associate financial dishonesty with stealing money from others. However, there are many instances in which we may tell lies to ourselves and others without considering it to be dishonest.
For example, many people live in a state of financial denial because they refuse to acknowledge that they are living beyond their means. Using credit cards and payroll loans as their crutches, they portray a picture of success to the world, while they are really just one pay cheque away from bankruptcy.
Another way in which persons are less-than-honest about their money is when they refuse to take stock of their financial situation by making a budget plan. They prefer to continue fooling themselves that everything is okay, instead of facing the fact that they are not earning enough to meet their needs.
"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
— Sir Walter Scott
While ignoring our money challenges may just be to our personal detriment, financial dishonesty becomes even more serious when we deliberately tell lies to obtain benefits or avoid penalties. These actions can have devastating repercussions in the future when they are eventually discovered.
One common practice by some persons who are trying to obtain loans from financial institutions is to give inaccurate information about their other obligations or about their income. They try to present a profile that will be acceptable to the lending agency so that they can get the financing they want.
The problem is that most times these persons end up getting into deeper financial woes when they are unable to service the loans, and their indebtedness increases from interest charges and late fees. They would have been better off without borrowing instead of telling falsehoods to secure funding.
ARE YOU A FINANCIAL CHEAT?
I know that most of us would not consider ourselves cheaters or thieves, but we must understand exactly what we are doing when we refuse to pay our rightful dues to the Government. Although we may dislike taxes, it is the law of the land; if we try to evade them, we are being dishonest.
If we earn extra income from side jobs or by renting out our homes, and fail to declare our earnings, then we are guilty of dishonesty with our taxes. If we own businesses and pay no income taxes, or run personal expenses through company accounts, then we make false declarations about our obligations.
Financial cheating also includes buying expensive items overseas, hiding them in suitcases, and walking cheerfully through the 'Nothing to Declare' line at Customs. We can also defraud private entities, for example, by using someone else's health card to pay for doctor bills or prescriptions.
"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:32, The Holy Bible
If we keep committing 'little' offences such as evading taxes or undervaluing customs declarations, then other forms of dishonest behaviour may become more appealing to us. Once we cross the line between truth and deceit, then we run the risk of losing our ability to discern wrong from right.
Can telling the truth be sometimes inconvenient? Yes, there are occasions when you may have to suffer from bureaucratic hindrances or pay large sums of money, while dishonest persons seem to get away scot-free. However, the truth will leave your integrity intact, even if it comes with a financial cost.
Truth be told, there are very few people who can frankly claim that they have been honest one hundred per cent of the time when it comes to their finances. Let's make an effort to be aware when we are tempted to do the wrong things with our money, and let's try to make honesty our only money policy.
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Read more on money and business matters at financiallysmartadvice.com and entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.