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 Ten Songs that Have Informed My Thoughts about Money

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Financial literacy is important. You can improve yours through books, podcasts, workshops, or… music? Yup, you read that correctly. If you listen closely enough to the following songs, you may gain some valuable financial lessons. I encourage you to listen to the songs as you read!


“She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer

Okay, the song’s protagonist is not a good role model when it comes to career choices. But the title of the song does impart an important lesson. You can’t rely on luck or lotto tickets to make a living. You’re going to have to work to earn your income. What’s more, you’ll also have to manage your money properly to make the most of it. That takes some work, too.


“Money” by Pink Floyd

This satiric take on capitalism starts with the literal sounds of money—a cash register dings, coins jingle, a receipt tears. My takeaway is that money is paradoxical. We want everyone to have the money to make ends meet…as long as it doesn’t come out of our share. They say money is the root of all evil, and yet…not very many people are giving it away. Money is complicated, tied up in emotion, psychology, social norms, current events, and many other tangled webs.


“Mo Money, Mo Problems” by Notorious B.I.G.

Money can’t solve all your problems. If you’re struggling to pay your bills (more on that in a minute), making more money is a huge relief, of course. But Biggie got me thinking: at a certain point, maybe more money can in fact create more problems. Perhaps you end up buying more than you need and suddenly find your house overflowing with material things. Maybe your family or friends lean on you for financial help. More money could make you feel like you have to change your lifestyle to fit your means. It’s a helpful reminder to know money isn’t the be-all, end-all.


“Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child

I learned two things from this early Beyonce ditty. First, can you pay my bills? Please? Okay, perhaps you can’t rely on someone else swooping in to cover your expenses each month. But “Bills, Bills, Bills” does emphasize the importance of paying your bills—telephone, automobile, and otherwise.

Second, don’t keep lending money to a so-called friend or partner! That is, unless you want to and can afford to after paying your own bills. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bad credit like Beyonce.


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“If I Had a Million Dollars” by The Barenaked Ladies

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, if Donna Summer taught us not to rely on lottery luck, then what are the Bare-Naked Ladies doing on this list?” Aside from listening to good songs about money, I assume part of why you’re reading this blog is to increase your wealth. To that end, what would you do if you were a millionaire? What are your goals, both financial and in general? What do you need in your bank account to live out your dreams? Close your eyes, hum along, and start thinking about how you’d make the most of your million dollars.


“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by George Thoroughgood & the Destroyers

This lesson is short and sweet: PAY YOUR RENT (or mortgage). Don’t spend it on alcohol. Clearly, George Thoroughgood never listened to Destiny’s Child.


“Rich Girl” by Daryl Hall and John Oates

Hall and Oates also taught me twofold. First, money can change you. Whether you come into money or came from wealth to begin with, let this song be a lesson not to be a…bad person. As part of being better than this rich girl, don’t flaunt your wealth around others.

Second, don’t rely on your old man’s (or other people’s) money. It’s empowering to earn your own income, and it can help to know you have a bit of a safety net, whether that’s your family or your own rainy-day fund.


“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers

Think of this song as a metaphorical game of poker. We’re all dealt certain cards in life, and all we can do is play the hand we’re dealt. Should you hold ‘em, or fold ‘em? Consider what cards you’re holding (your life situation) and how many chips you have (your finances). Then, make the best decision you can with the information you have (how to spend, save, or invest your money). Every choice is a kind of gamble, a decision that will earn or cost you money, perhaps as potential returns on an investment you didn’t make. Hint: it’s almost never a good idea to go all in!


“Roses Are Free” by Phish

This is a Ween original, but I prefer the Phish cover. The lyrics still impart the same advice: “Don’t believe the florist when he tells you that the roses are free.” Very little in life is free (roses especially!). I often think of this lesson when I see “sales” in the supermarket. You aren’t saving money just because it has a fluorescent “Weekly Deal” sticker.


“Money, Love, and Change” by Trey Anastasio

Lesson #1: “Time is money, money love.” One way I like to spend my money is to almost literally buy myself time. This might look like buying prepared meals, hiring cleaners to come every two weeks, or paying extra for early daycare drop-off so you get to work on time, to name three examples. Now you have more time to do the things you love—read a book, write that novel, or go for a long run.

Lesson #2: “Some live their days hidden from themselves, afraid of money, love, and change.” Don’t be afraid of money! There’s a lot of fear around making enough, saving enough, or “properly” spending money. Instead of being afraid, use money as the tool it’s meant to be. Whether it’s adding to your record collection, saving up for a trip to Hawaii, investing for an early retirement, or something else entirely, money is one tool you can use to live your full life and be your authentic self.

You do you—including finding your own money-making music lessons!


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Nick Bohlen

About Nick Bohlen

Nick Bohlen is a communications strategist at VSECU, sharing ideas and information with staff, members, and Vermonters. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring Vermont’s great outdoors with his wife, daughter, and dog.
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