There's a financial exercise recommended by money mindset coach Denise Duffield-Thomas that involves personifying money — thinking of it as an important figure in your life, so you can get to the bottom of how you two really feel about each other. (Is he there for you when you need him most? Have you treated him with disrespect, or squandered what you have together because you don't feel worthy and want to leave him before he leaves you?)
I enjoy this analogy – more so now that an acquaintance revealed that she’d decided to start thinking of money as a very specific person: Mr. Darcy.
I hope she doesn't mind sharing because I'm making the Pride and Prejudice heartthrob my money avatar too. Obviously the first reason I love this scenario is because it makes me feel like Elizabeth Bennett. (If you’ve ever wanted to be Elizabeth, don’t miss this wry piece by Mallory Ortberg explaining why it just isn’t going to happen.)
But the choice of Mr. Darcy makes sense on a lot of levels. If money was a person, wouldn’t you want it to be someone who cares for you deeply and will always look out for you (while respecting your independent streak, of course)? Wouldn’t you want it to be someone you respect and trust, who brings out the best in you? And wouldn’t you be willing to grow up a little and face your own errors in judgement for such a loving, generous and passionate partner who longs to give you anything your heart desires? (No wonder everyone wants to be Elizabeth!)
As Jane Austen created him, Mr. Darcy’s character is linked to and revealed by the way he spends his enormous fortune. Each of his great qualities — devotion to those he loves, generosity, moral rectitude, good judgement of character – shows up in his spending habits, too.
Unlike his antithesis, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Darcy doesn’t squander his money on the high life, but he doesn’t hoard it either. He’ll splash out on a new pianoforte for his sister — or, more importantly, spend whatever it takes to locate Elizabeth’s wayward sister and get her safely married.
Mr. Darcy doesn’t parade his wealth; Elizabeth contrasts his home to that of his pretentious aunt, noting that the decor at Pemberley "was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine."
And crucially, Mr. Darcy uses his wealth and power responsibly. "He is the best landlord, and the best master...that ever lived,” says his housekeeper. "Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves.” Personally, I think this recommendation, rather than seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley, is what really triggers Elizabeth’s change of heart. Interestingly, what she says about his power as an employer and landlord could equally apply to money itself.
“She considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship! -- How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow! - How much of good or evil must be done by him!”
Is this man — or this money model — too good to be true, the romantic equivalent of winning the lottery? Not really, because Mr. Darcy holds you to the same high standards he holds himself. If you want him, you’ll have to prove yourself worthy.
Mr. Darcy expects you to act with propriety and to improve your mind with extensive reading. He insists on being treated with respect. He’s protective of his name and reputation, and his good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.
He’s the long-term investment, not the get-rich-quick scheme.
It could be argued that Mr. Darcy's lofty position has sapped him of empathy. (I never accepted his justifications for keeping Jane and Mr. Bingley apart.) And it's certainly true that he starts off believing that his wealth and station are enough, in themselves, to win over his would-be wife. Of course, by the end of the novel he’s learned to amend these flaws, thanks to his “dearest, loveliest Elizabeth."
That’s what great about a good relationship: it can change you, and your actions, for the better. With this in mind, I’m committed to building a satisfying, responsible and exciting life in partnership with money. It just might be easier if I imagine money as looking a little like Colin Firth.
Who’s your ideal money avatar, in life or in literature? (Please don’t say Heathcliff; neither the Brontë churl nor the lasagne-loving cat is fit to share this space with Mr. Darcy.)