Money – More is Not Always Better
Although money is at the core of our very existence, ask yourself how much you really need . . .
Everyone’s relationship with money is different, but any discussion about it is usually loaded with emotion and firmly held beliefs. There have been countless research projects and countless books written about our relationship with money and they often draw different conclusions.
The truth is that money is important.
Money is at the core of our very existence. On this planet money buys us stuff that we need to live. It buys us shelter, food and clothing. But it also buys us choice, and choice is a part of freedom.
It’s very easy to believe that if something is good, a lot of it is even better. I know many people who think one beer is good, so ten must be fantastic. But it’s not necessarily true. Taking a dog as a pet may well have an incredibly positive effect on your life, but my guess is that a hundred dogs would be very detrimental indeed. Is it the same for money?
There is evidence that suggests that money does not buy happiness. As the great Richard Bandler, one of the inventors of neuro-linguistic programming and wearer of fabulous black leather jackets, has said: if you can’t enjoy one dollar, what’s the chance of you enjoying a million dollars?
Happiness is a feeling that is generated by a relationship with ourselves, those around us and the world in which we live. That relationship is rarely enhanced by having more money.
However, our satisfaction with our lives can be enhanced by cash. The reason is that money gives us choice.
I am not saying that you cannot be free if you are poor: we can all make decisions about how we choose to interpret the world around us, and that is the ultimate freedom. But having some spare cash opens up more opportunities than having none. The important thing about money is to not get used to having it, and not to be handcuffed to it.
We all know people with lots of cash who cannot enjoy it. Money becomes a burden to them because they take on extra overheads: houses, cars, staff, polo ponies . . . Before you know it they need a couple of million a year just to keep it all running. There is no fun in that.
There is fun in having some cash to play with, because there are some things that we can buy that will really make us feel free. Experiences. Experiences are what this life is about: invest in them and you will truly be living free.
One of the joys of money is you can choose how to spend it, and one of the most satisfying things to spend it on is others. That may mean treating family and friends or it may mean helping people who really need it. But by offering your money generously you are expressing a very individual freedom and one that will make you feel good.
Real freedom comes from relaxing your relationship with cash. If you feel you need lots of it to be happy you will never be free. You’ll have to continually advance in your career so that you can earn more so that you can pay more. Instead, teach yourself that actually you don’t need so much. The air will smell sweeter. One message I hear consistently is that as we mature we start to understand what is of real value. Those things can be appreciated at very little cost. Indeed, they are rarely actually ‘things’: rather, they are moments.
‘Many people overvalue money but undervalue time.’ Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of Happy Money
A 2010 study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton is one of many to have found that there is a threshold of wealth beyond which further increments in income have no impact on the way we feel. One explanation for this is that the richer we become, the harder we find it to enjoy every day experiences that are free. So it appears that money can help you feel freer as it gives you more choice, yet the striving for it can take your freedom away.
There is a happy balance which is about learning to know what you need, and making sure that you still enjoy the simplicity of life – the joys that don’t cost cash. Yet you can still have some floating funds that you can use to express your freedom by buying experiences, by buying time, and by sharing it with others.
So ask yourself again, how much do you really need? Money is not the root of all evil, but it can become an unhealthy obsession and effectively imprison us. See it as a contributor to freedom, not a silver bullet for happiness.