What’s your Money Motivation?

Knowing the answer can solve your money problems forever

Adriane Nicol
5 min readFeb 10, 2021
Photo by Travis Essinger on Unsplash

When I talk to my coaching clients one item that tends to come up repeatedly is issues around money. When there’s a lack of money there’s a tendency to focus on that and think about how we can get more money or continually worry about how we are going to pay bills or afford a better house or things that our children need. By always focusing on the problem from that angle we are not focusing on any solutions.

At the end of the day, we believe if we just had the money that would bring us happiness but that is not the case. Instead, we need to focus on WHY we want the money, not the immediate why of paying that bill due next week, but the end goal we have in mind. There are 3 main reasons people want more money:


Many people crave recognition or want to feel as accomplished as their peers or someone they admire. In this case not having the money just reinforces to them every day that they don’t have what others have, haven’t reached that point in their career, gotten recognition for their work, or attained the level of respect they desire. For example, I have a client who has been a writer for a long time, however, they still work a 9–5 job and have never attained the level of success they want with their writing. This person laments that if they just had the money they would be able to have the time, energy, and drive to focus on their writing and finally achieve that level of success they desire. However when I ask if they’ve submitted anything lately or made any progress on their novel they tell me they just don’t have the motivation. I suggested this person start small, try to submit something every month or two, even if it’s just a short story, to the many publications out there.

Once he started to receive positive feedback on his work and even some small amounts of money for his writing his entire outlook changed. It wasn’t about the money, it was about feeling appreciated for his work and the acknowledgment that he is a writer worthy of publication. In fact, the more he writes the more likely it is that someone does pay for his novel or consistently pays to publish shorter works and gives him the money as well as the accomplishment he craves.

This can apply in nearly every career, if it’s accomplishment you crave then figure out what you can do to further yourself in your career even if it is a small thing. Can you become awesome at one task that you see your peers lacking? Is there a course that would boost your knowledge or skills? Is there a future change in the industry you can educate yourself on so you are ready to shine when the next phase comes? When you start to work on those things often you will feel more confident, see more opportunities open up and the money will follow.


For some people not having money gives them such a feeling of insecurity that they focus on the lack of money to the point that it makes them extremely unhappy. In most cases, a person who sees money as security is someone that grew up in a household with not a lot of money or in a family where money was a roller coaster (sometimes they had a lot, then they’d lose it and not have money, repeat cycle). I’ve noticed many clients with this issue are on a money roller coaster themselves, they have times when they are doing financially well and times when they aren’t, and whether they are doing well or bad the concern about money is constant. This is because money is fleeting to them or something they can’t seem to hold onto.

For those with a money = security mindset, the best thing for them to do is pursue things with a steady money flow. For example, a client who was an aspiring actor and sometimes waiter was constantly worrying about money and where his next payday would come from, he also had this belief that one day he would hit it big and money would no longer be a problem. After not talking to him for several months I ran into this client at the grocery store, he seemed very happy and said he’d just bought a condo in the neighborhood and was so glad to not be dealing with roommates and moving every 6 months. I asked him if he was currently acting in a tv show or movie I might have seen (assuming that his newfound fortune was due to landing a great role). He told me that he had “given all that up” and had been working as the assistant to a well-known casting director. Turns out he was enjoying still being in the industry but did not miss the “roller coaster” or financial stress that came with acting.

If you are a person who equates money with security you will be unhappy working in a freelance/commission-based/project-based kind of business. It will just add to your overall anxiety around money and continue the roller coaster. Think about what you can do to have a safe, stable money flow, it will increase your overall happiness and peace of mind.


The other money motivation that drives people is the need for freedom. For people with this money motivation (myself included) feeling that we are stuck is a major issue. The inclination is to think that we would no longer be stuck (in the 9–5, with a particular partner) if we had money. Here again, the money is not the issue.

When I was younger I wanted to travel the world, however, I knew that I needed money in order to travel so I thought I would work in a high stress, high reward environment (Finance) to make a lot of money to fund my travels/lifestyle. However, what I soon realized was that I had put myself in a place where I felt very stuck and unhappy. It took me a long time to pinpoint that what I craved was not money but freedom. I wanted the freedom to choose when and where I traveled, what times I worked, etc. When I stopped chasing the money and the real goal of freedom I was much happier and more content.

The irony is that once I pursued the goal of freedom it led me to write, coach, and other things that are just as lucrative as my previous high-stress job that I thought I needed for money.

Finding your money motivation can be a game-changer for not only your future happiness but also for your finances. Instead of focusing on the immediate need of where the next dollar will come from, find out what your ultimate goal is with money and start working towards it. Whether you desire accomplishment, security, or freedom pursuing that goal will lead to a more abundant future.

Find more strategies for staying positive, changing your outlook, and creating a happier, healthier, and longer life in my book The Path to Positivity. Check out the first chapter for free on Amazon.



Adriane Nicol

Bestselling Udemy course creator, writer and spreadsheet geek. Writes about earning outside your 9-5, finance, and personal development.