Lesson Seven-E
Money Is No Moral Compass


To examine the value of "money" as an influence on decision making behavior of participants.

 1. Review the homework from the previous session.
 2. Point out that all of us make judgments, set priorities and decide things. Almost every decision we make has a moral dimension to it - i.e., or a choice involving some question of right-wrong, good-bad. Further, our action or inaction generates consequences for us (short and long term) as well as new situations to judge, prioritize and decide things. Many of our opportunities to choose have to do with the getting and spending of money. To arrive at wise judgments, set realistic priorities, and make effective decisions, we rely on our value system. Our value system helps us determine the right thing to do in each situation. In that sense, our value system acts as a moral compass providing direction and guidance in our lives. We acquired our value system growing up and have reinforced or modified it based on our lived experience. The value we place on money is one of those values. For some people the value of money has a significant impact on their judging, valuing and deciding behavior. Unfortunately, money alone or in a position of primacy tends not to be a good moral compass. (Provide some instances that participants would recognize: Menendez brothers murders, Whitewater scandal, Heidi Fleiss call girl ring, Tokyo stock trader who cause the Bank of England collapse, Daryl Strawberry's signature fraud of IRS). It tends to produce results that create new or increase existing problems. In this lesson, we want to explore some of the ways we think about money, how we value it in our lives, and how it can and has deceived us in the past.
 3. Ask participants to recall statements from their childhood regarding money. What are some of the sayings about money that you heard growing up? List their statements on the chalk board or newsprint. If participants get stuck, use some of the items listed below. Ask participants if they say these same things to their kids?
 4. Ask participants to list or recall "cautions" they were given about money. List these on the chalk board or newsprint.
 5. Distribute the handout Some Sayings and Cautions About Money. Ask participants if they recognize any of these sayings. Pick a few examples and discuss whether the statement is "good advice." Then, ask if participants follow this advice routinely. Ask has anyone failed to follow advice about money and subsequently regretted it.
 6. After some general discussion, ask participants why they think parents, teachers, and others say these things. List reasons. Some examples. To teach us to control our money, to keep us from spending money frivolously, to avoid regrets, etc. Then ask, "How do these kinds of sayings influence your behavior?"
 7. Introduce the case study It's Just a Matter of Money. Indicate that participants are to read the story and answer the three questions at the end. Ask each participants to share and explain their answers. If a participant recommends getting rid of their car, don't draw immediate attention to their response. After all have spoken, come back to the opinion of getting rid of the car. Ask why wasn't if obvious to everyone that this was the right thing to do? Argue that Jonnell could not afford a new car because affording a new car included the car notes, insurance, up-keep, etc. without jeoparadizing everything else she was trying to do. Point out that each one of the other responses creates additional "money" problems. Get each one of the other participants to articulate what these are likely to be (losing what you have, costing you more than it's worth, complicating your life, diminishing the quality of your life, etc.). Remember short and long term considerations. Conclude by saying that when we use money (or the things money can buy) as a moral compass, we often get led astray.
 8. Ask participants to read and respond to the three additional examples in Some More Money Matters. Discuss how these examples are similar to the first case study. Ask participants to share examples of other situations from their own lives.


Ask participants to write a true story about a decision or judgment that they made where they allowed money to be a prime consideration. Have them include what the consequences were. Ask them to describe how they would decide differently if that same situation occurred today. Finally, ask participants to describe what other values they believe they should consider before considering money.



Distribute the Self-Worth Checklist. Ask participant to reflect on their behavior during this session and honestly rate themselves. Ask them to place their evaluations in their portfolios and return them to the file cabinet.