How Much Does Money Matter?

Having money’s not everything. Not having it is. – Kanye West

Should I emphasize building wealth here on BML?

This is a question I’ve been wrestling with recently. Specifically, is building wealth an integral part of launching a life that matters?

Finding fulfillment for yourself and making a difference for others are the first two tenants of launching a life that matters.

But should I include building wealth as a third tenant?

Having Money’s Not Everything

I grew up in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia and went to private school. I knew a lot of rich people. Many of them, in fact most of them were unhappy.

Rich people are dysfunctional. And having a lot of stuff doesn’t fix that.

As a teen, I would openly say that I didn’t want to make any significant money when I grew up. It just seemed to make people miserable. This drove my mom nuts.

In hindsight, there was a nugget of truth in my thinking, but in all honesty, I was naive.

Not Having It Is

After college I lived and worked in Oakland, as a part of a community service program. I worked at a homeless shelter as well as at a youth outreach center.

I met a lot of poor people. Many of them, in fact most of them were unhappy.

Poor people are dysfunctional. And not having money doesn’t fix that.

By the second year of my service, I became one of those poor people. I wasn’t making enough money to support myself and pay rent. I had medical bills that I couldn’t pay.

It was nerve racking, and I was miserable.

And frankly, I still had a much bigger safety net through my personal network than any of the people that I served.

I promised myself that I would never be poor like that.

Wealth Is More Than Money

It’s true. Having money’s not everything. Not having it is.

It’s clear that money is needed but it’s also clear that money is not a sufficient end goal.

Perhaps then, it’s best to look at money as a utility. Something that is used (for better or worse) to achieve other things.

The more I have thought about it, the more I am convinced that wealth (not money) is a worthy end goal. Here’s a definition of wealth that I am working with:

Wealth is having an abundance of freedom to live life fully and serve others deeply.

Part of that freedom is financial freedom, no doubt.

You can increase financial freedom in one of two ways:

  • Make more money
  • Simplify

I am a huge fan of simplifying because it makes life easier to manage and focuses me on what matters. I am also a fan of making money because it can open new doors and provide new opportunities.

I’m just not a fan of becoming a slave to your money.

Therefore, I am coming to realize that it’s not just acceptable but it’s imperative that we emphasize wealth here on BML.

That we talk about how to make more money and keep an eye on simplicity. That we talk about how to best utilize money to live life fully and serve others deeply.

And so yes, I think building wealth is a worthwhile tenant of living a meaningful life.

What are your thoughts? Do you distinguish between wealth and money? Is building wealth a worthwhile third tenant?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “How Much Does Money Matter?

  1. I agree that wealth ≠ money. There is overlap of course but living within your means and making purposeful decisions that bring you closer in line with your values has more power to affect your happiness than an increase in your bottom line.

    I’d like to see content that helps people understand this, gives them tools to understand what their spending and earning can do for their happiness, etc.

    I highly recommend the book “Your Money or Your Life” to anyone wanting to understand this more, it taught me a lot about these concepts.

    So yes, building wealth is something I’d like to read more about here, but not necessarily acquiring money.

  2. I like the definition of wealth you provided here, and the point that money is about utility.

    When I think about wealth, for some reason (and this might be weird) I think about being able to try all the great restaurants here in SF without having to worry about how much things cost. Being able to eat and enjoy life without considering the price is one motivating factor for me.

    That sounds like such a fat kid comment, but really it’s about being able to do and experience events that motivate wealth building for me, not necessarily accumulating large amounts of ‘stuff’.

    • I love that picture of wealth! Being able to eat at a restaurant whenever you want and not have to think about it – actually that’s something that my wife and I have discussed as one of the things that we want for our lives. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The thing about wealth that has always vexed me is how lifestyle seems to change inline with it. As more money has been at my disposal it just seems to get spent organically. I have tools that tell me where the money is going, and it seems that all spending categories increase to adjust to a different level of income.

    What I’m concerned about is: 5 years ago my income was quite a bit lower than today, but I could still make ends meet and even save a little. There’s a part of me that thinks any income made above the “make ends meet and save a little” threshold should be invested. In my life a good chunk of that income seems to go towards lifestyle expenses… I would be thrilled to read your thoughts on this.

    • I feel you Chris! Lifestyle just has a way of inflating to match income. I think the big thing is proactively deciding to have our spending match our values. That way we know that our money is spent in support of those things that matter most.

      Sounds like we should do a post on having our spending match our values. Thanks for the feedback!