Why aren’t the wealthiest people in the world on a permanent vacation? Why aren’t they spending their time perpetually sipping martinis on a beach somewhere? Aren’t we told that the goal is to build a big or the biggest pile of cash? Oddly enough, if you search the Forbes’ list, most of the world’s richest people either still work or spend their time doing work-like activities (charity work, mentoring others, reading books, etc.)
Is wealth only money? Of course not. Money is direct, calculable, and objective. Maybe that’s why it becomes a focal point.
- We can keep score; but, should we?
- Wealth gets us access; is this always a good thing?
- Money can solve our problems; or, will it?
MONEY AS A SCORECARD
Roughly 5% of US households are millionaires (depending on definition, study, and timing). This “1 in 20” group is what many aspire to. Initially, a goal to join this group is motivating and inspiring. It can help someone get started towards saving and building a future. Who hasn’t thought of what it’d be like to have a million dollars? This striving can be fun as your numbers increase. As you build, a sense of security can be felt; security from the fear of debt, of bills not paid, of negative financial impacts to your family.
But, what happens for those lucky enough to get to that magical number? What now? What’s next? Often, what sets in is realizing that you may have set a never-ending goal. If you have $1M, why not $2M? If $2M, why not $5M? This same concept can apply across any area, especially in finance. It’s common with income, with houses, with cars, and more. This can put us on a treadmill to somewhere. Henry Ford once said, “if money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”
In the pursuit of the numbers, items like spending and giving can be viewed as the enemy. We may value short to mid-term goals, but it’s tough to put that into context of gaining net worth. If our goal is a constantly bigger pile, then how and when do we shift to a more balanced approach? How do we give ourselves permission to spend and give. One of the wealthiest men who ever lived, Andrew Carnegie, had a unique money philosophy. He set out for the first half of his life to accumulate as much money as possible. He wanted to spend the second half of his life giving it away to worthy causes. It’s one approach, but he did have clarity.
INCREASED ACCESS AND MEANS
Having more money does grant access to more products and more services. This can lead to real increases in time savings, convenience, and comfort. We’ll have more freedom and more options. This can lead to a nice abundance in many areas. You could delegate lawn mowing, saving time. Would you give up your air-conditioned home or car in the middle of summer? Undoubtedly, we’re all guilty of desiring a little more of what money may offer.
But be careful. This can be a dangerous game. “Keeping up with the Jones’s” is one of America’s favorite past-times. This comparison game is more prevalent today than ever. In the age of social media, many people are posting only their best life highlights. This reality can lead to drastically false assumptions being made. The premier expert on the study of millionaires, Thomas J. Stanley, says simply “wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.” Be careful in your judgements. You could be envious of someone with a “rich looking” life who’s nearly broke.
The topic of privilege usually centers around money. And, money’s assumption is that having more of it leads to better life outcomes. It’s a highly contentious topic in our culture. Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” While having no money seems undesirable, why does the argument start with the assumption that having wealth is always good? This completely ignores the data; the data on depression, anxiety, drug addiction, suicide, and more. In what class of wealth would you guess these to be more of an issue? This is the old, “be careful what you wish for.”
SOLVING OUR PROBLEMS
Money can be great at rescuing us from our challenges, especially in the short-term. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our most basic needs are typically met by money. This is our needs for food, water, housing, safety, and security. Wealth in many cases can lead to the right networks and even the right favors. It can give us an edge and get us into a nice situation or rescue us out of a tough one. After our basic needs are met, money is not too effective at meeting our other, higher human needs; our need for loving relationships, to feel a sense of accomplishment, and to reach our full potential.
In our society, the fact is that the complications that come with having wealth are drastically under-estimated and under-stated. This leads those in poverty to believe a life of wealth is problem-free. This leads people to play the lottery and see it as a reward when the vast majority of lottery winners are miserable in a few years. This leads to famous celebrities and athletes squandering hundreds of millions of dollars. If you don’t believe that, watch the critically acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the subject. According to Voltaire, “don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.”
It’s often misquoted that money is the root of all evil. It’s really the love of money that is the root of all evil. We must not allow money (or anything) to cause us to lose the fabric of who we are. When we are a part of the masses (95% are not millionaires), it can be easier to relate to others, being like everyone else. If you make it to that 5% group, you may find yourself feeling a bit isolated, alone, on an island. Maintaining who you are and what you do for others and humanity are critical.
Money’s not really a goal. It’s a means to an end. The accumulation of it is often the byproduct or result of achieving a real goal. It is a necessary tool to make our desired life happen. Even the richest person can’t buy everything, not even close. It’s better to focus on what is most important to you. Focus on your goals and your financial plan. Focus on your passion and your service. Then, provide it for others. Then, happiness likely follows suit. This will provide riches of all types, one of which is money.
- Building your wealth is motivating, initially.
- Riches can provide a nice abundance in many areas.
- Money can solve our challenges, especially in the short-term.
- More of anything can be a never-ending goal.
- Too much “Keeping up with the Jones’s.”
- The complications that wealth causes are substantially under-estimated.
- How do we shift into being OK with spending and giving?
- Being wealthy often leads to really bad outcomes for people.
- Don’t lose the fabric of who you are.