Money, money, money - how much do you dwell on the stuff? Excessive desire for money robs people of their humanity, according to the famously frugal Pope, who recently suspended a "bling bishop" for alleged lavish spending.
Addiction to money is widespread, according to personal finance expert Jim Miller. Sufferers rashly prioritise money over options they value more: time with family, exploring their true passions, even having a family, Miller says. Spurred by the belief that money fixes all worries, in their acquisitive zeal they "stomp on their passions and values", he says, adding that doctors and lawyers are especially prone to money addiction.
Psychologist and business ethics expert Robert Giacalone classes it as a strain of materialism: excessive love of income and possessions. According to Giacalone, a materialist view is linked with two traits: an inclination to use others for personal gain and a thirst for obtaining status symbols.
The obsession achieves nothing, Giacalone says, adding that material values are linked to afflictions ranging from anxiety and depression to headaches.
According to finance analyst Jay Malik, the neurosis overwhelms sufferers' brains. "Regardless of what they are doing, they are always thinking about money." Greed blinds them from the realisation that their harping on about money is "obnoxious", Malik says, adding that addicts base all behaviour around it. "They are either making money, spending it, or trying to manage it - and when not doing all this are obsessing about money."
The rub is that the addicts make silly gaffes, not least spending far more than their resources allow and gambling on risky investments. Cue heavy losses.
Meanwhile, in a bid to buy affection, the addicts splash cash on their loved ones, which taints the relationships, Malik says, adding that most money addicts are male, for reasons including the fact that generally men out-earn women.
To test if you are money-mad, make two lists with the "heaviest" items at the top, Jim Miller says. One list should log what you spent your money on last month and the other should state what you value most.
If your top three items across the two lists differ, you are hooked because you have a disconnect between money and your values: probably you put fiscal gain ahead of what you value most, Miller says.
How do you measure up?
"Money addiction can be measured on a scale from 1 to Kim Kardashian, but most people fall in the middle of the bell curve, which is not a positive thing," Miller says.
Three of history's most notorious money addicts
Bernie Madoff was an American hedge-fund investment manager and former chairman of the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (Nasdaq) stock market. Madoff is infamous for running history's largest Ponzi scheme: a swindle in which early investors count on repayment from later investors. It's estimated that the actual losses to investors topped $US18 billion. But Madoff was rumbled and arrested in December 2008. The following year, Madoff got a prison term of up to 150 years.
2. Kenneth Lay
This American businessman helped create the American energy firm Enron in 1985, turning it from a small pipeline business into a giant worth $US68 billion by 2000, but at the end of 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy after revelations of massive accounting fraud. In May 2006, Lay was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges. At his death two months later from heart disease, he faced up to 45 years in prison and fines of more than $US40 million.
3. King Midas
The king of Phrygia in modern Turkey, Midas had an all-consuming appetite for gold. In a wicked twist, Midas scored a gift that meant everything he touched turned to gold, much to his glee. But, because his food became gold, the bling king with the magic touch near starved to death. Forced to beg to be restored to normal, he was suitably chastened by his greed-fuelled ordeal.
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica