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Money Isn’t Everything And It Isn’t You

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One of the downsides of having a personal finance blog is that you often get stuck thinking and talking about the same stuff – taxes, salaries, retirement, blah blah blah; sometimes you need to take a step back and enjoy the things in life that aren’t related to money. See, life isn’t about making more money, it’s about being happy and enjoying the time that you have with the people that you care about. The funny thing about money is that if you let it become everything, you’ll find that you never have enough of it and you always want more. And the more that you get, the more you will want. It’s an endless cycle that can easily consume you if you’re not careful. How many “rich” and “successful” people ask themselves what happened in their lives the last twenty years? How did their kids grow up so fast? How did they get so old?

Life is about happiness, not money.

The difficult thing about money is that when you don’t have much of it, you are almost forced to focus on getting more. The difference between earning $0 a year and $10,000 is seriously significant. It’s the difference between eating and not eating. The difference between $10,000 and $20,000 is also very seriously significant. Now take a look at the difference between $100,000 and $110,000… the difference is still “only” $10,000 but the actual impact on the quality of your life is much less significant than $0 to $10k increase.

When you’re making $0, you want to make more and you try whatever you can to put yourself in a position to make more because each extra dollar you earn means you or your loved ones will eat that night. In that mode, money is everything because you’re fighting to satisfy your need to eat and need for shelter. However, the sickening cycle is such that even when you’ve “made it,” you’ll want more because you’ve already pegged your happiness to how much money you’re making. The happiest families are the ones that enjoy what they have, even if it’s very little.

You are not your income. You are not your assets.

The second point I want to make is that you are not what you make or what you own. Someone who makes $10,000 is not a worse person than someone who makes $20,000 or even $200,000. Do not let your annual income define who you are and don’t chase after that extra dollar because you want to impress your peers.

There are some of the hardest working people, the nicest and kindest people, and some of the most generous people; busting their asses off for minimum wage. (the federal minimum wage is only $5.15, which means 50 weeks of 40 hours earns $10,300 – which is another issue entirely and a travesty of pretty epic proportions) I’d take any one of them working in a business I start over the hordes of useless middle managers in large corporations, even though the managers “earn” more in salary.

As always, if you have any thoughts on the matter, please do share!

{ 37 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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37 Responses to “Money Isn’t Everything And It Isn’t You”

  1. man..that’s deep…haha..but guess what…i’m still chasing the paper!! Although I empathize with the mimimum wage workers, but can you imagine everybody making 40K a year?? haha..going to McDonald..that would be $22.50 please for a Happy meal…..20oz coke at a gas station, that would be $7.85 please? how about $14 a gallon gas?

    There is a reason why we keep minimum wage low.

  2. dan says:

    Hustlermoneyblog, maybe if some of the absurd CEO salaries/perks were lowered, then minimum wage could be raised without affecting the cost of your happy meal, no? (Not saying all CEO pay is absurd, but some of it…)

  3. Dan,

    true true..but why stop there..how about the mulitimillion dollars athletes? singers? actors?…i’m not trying to defend the CEOs of America. We can’t turn this country into a Utopian lala land…we are built on capitalism. I do believe that minimum wage should be around 7 bucks an hour or at least keep up with inflation.

  4. Nick says:

    It’s funny what people say and their actions. Everyone wants to be seen as not greedy and generous, but in actuality many people are ruthless and sacrifice other things in the pursuit of money. But to me thats just capitalism-survival of the fittest!

  5. jim says:

    In Maryland the minimum wage is 6.75 and all the prices are comparable to other places… So that argument needs a little work… :)

  6. Foobarista says:

    How many people actually work full-time minimum-wage jobs? Most studies I’ve seen show that something like 40% of the minimum-wage workers are students or teenagers. A better way to help the working poor is through the earned-income tax credit. Increasing the minimum wage will just drive more jobs underground.

  7. Great post. I think too many of us–pf bloggers and non-pf bloggers alike–are too focused on making money and on comparing ourselves to others based on our financial worth. It’s always a good idea to step back and bring everything into focus. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Many people have different views of happiness. And I think in today’s world that view is something that just seems so unattainable that folks just stay in the “rat race” forever to chase that uncatchable ideal. Good job highlighting that in this post.

    I think being happy would include having the ability to do whatever one wanted to do, whenever one wanted to do it! I think that would take some money though, for most people.

    -William
    A Financial Revolution

  9. Mike says:

    Another possible result of a higher minimum wage could simply be more unemployed people. At some point it starts being more cost effective to buy a few Roombas rather than to hire that minimum wage McDonald’s lobby cleaner, or to just leave things dirty for that matter. Or for many jobs, to outsource them to China or India or wherever, where many will gladly work for less, under worse conditions. Also, in addition to students/teenagers, there are also people who take minimum wage jobs for the benefits, such as health insurance–for someone who needs it, that benefit alone might be worth enough to them that they’d work for free.

    Chalk me up as a free market advocate, but I generally think the government does more harm than good when they get too involved with this stuff. They don’t accomplish what they’re trying to anyway, and they make all sorts of other things worse in the process of their failure. But hey, if it sounds good to enough people, maybe it’ll get them reelected…

    Oh, that wasn’t your main topic? ;) Capitalist though I may be, I agree wholeheartedly that money is far from the most important thing in life.

  10. jim says:

    While I agree that raising minimum wage does have trickle down effects and higher costs here will lead to (or has already led to) outsourcing, you’ll have companies who will use US based manufacturing as a marketing point (American Apparel) and consumers who will appreciate that.

    While I am a free market economy, Adam Smith laissez-faire type guy, I do recognize that government has long since given up to having the invisible hand do its dirty work and that if we’re going to meddle, we might as meddle the whole way and help some people out who really do need it. The working poor is one of the great tragic relics of our society, especially when you put them next to the non-working poor.

    The beauty of discussion is that the topic goes to where the interest of the group is and I’m not one to stop it. :)

  11. Chad says:

    Be careful when you lump Adam Smith together with ideas like ‘laissez-faire economics’ and ‘free markets’. In Book V of the Wealth of Nations, Smith describes three important functions of the sovereign or commonwealth: providing for the defense of the people, for the administration of justice (e.g., courts), and for public works and institutions (e.g., roads, bridges, harbors, schools). Smith is not a ‘laissez-faire’ economist in the strict sense. For Smith, markets provide some goods well, but not all.

    Along the lines of the original post, here is a quote from Smith to provoke thought and conversation:

    “The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become… [I]n every improved and civilised society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.” (WN: 5, 3, 2)

    So it sounds like Smith is saying that menial, repetitive work is bad for those doing it, and that it is the government’s responsibility to address this problem. Reasonable working hours (perhaps not more than 40 per week) and a living wage (perhaps indexed to local cost of living) might be a good way to address this. Thoughts?

  12. Foobarista says:

    One of the ancient rules of economics: the “feel good”, “help people out” option is often the one that ends up hurting more than helping. This is a corollary of the ancient rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

    People should check out the history of the minimum wage. It was not started by “nice people” who wanted to “help out” workers. It was intended as an odd sort of weapon against working women, advanced by people who bought into “eugenics” theories of the sort that were popular in the early 20th century.

  13. MoneyMan says:

    I agree with Mike above… I’m not even convinced there should be a minimum wage. The market should set wages. If I own a fruit stand that sells $5 worth of fruit per day, am I going to hire someone for $8 an hour to man that stand? That’s an extreme illustrative example, but I just think that businesses are created for their owners to make money, and artifically inflating one of their costs doesn’t help anyone.

    Great point you make in the blog. People can sometimes have an unhealthy obsession with money that gets in the way of their true day to day happiness.

    • scott says:

      i dont think buisnesses or individuals should be made to pay employees no lower than this amount says the government. i dont really have alot of trust in our own government its gotten to be way to big. if i take a job for a low or high hourly pay that would be my choice.i dont need anyones help making my decisions.i choose for myself right or wrong.

  14. wanzman says:

    I would guess that most of you on here arguing against a higher minumum wage are sitting at home on your fancy computers, all warm in your nice houses, right after you came home from your salaried job. You have never seen the effects of how working your asses off all day for 5.15 can hour can affect you. Not enough money to pay the rent, feed the kids, pay the bills etc. I come from a community where a few rich people rule, and many live in poverty, all the while slaving their asses off to serve the rich, because it is the only job they can get…..

    And someone makes the argument that we do not want to raise the costs for those business owners and corporations. How do you think people feel when fortune 500 CEO’s are bringing home 100′s of millions of dollars a year, and thier child has no dinner. There is something to be said for working hard and creating a good life for yourself. But there is also something to be said for helping others out and having some sesnse of compassion…..not just giving lip service to compassion.

    Most people I know make quite a bit of money and then feel great if they give away 100 dollars in a year…..get over yourselves. I think the biggest downfall of our “great country” is our pursuit of wealth at all costs while those around us are suffering just to survive from day to day. We send money to Africa and what not, but we cannot pay people enough just to eat a decent meal.

    It seems every day I am less and less proud of how this country runs itself.

    • mysticaltyger says:

      >

      The money we sent to Africa is insignificant, and that would be true even if most of it made it into the hands of Africans who need it. Most of the people of Africa would give their eye teeth to come to America to work for $5.15 an hour….as is the case with the people from Mexico who come here…and Mexico is certainly a better off country than those of Sub-Saharan Africa.

    • scott says:

      this country has let itself get in bad shape because of sevral reasons when people in this country stop hiring the people that were born and raised here and hired mexicans because they worked cheaper well dont blame the mexicans but dont do favors for them to make it easier than on your own people. most mexicans plan on going back to mexico and they send most of their money to their family while working over here,eventually your money is gone.

  15. Mike says:

    Hi Jim..

    I was just thinking of that very same thing this past few days. Of course, money is important. But like you say, it’s not everything, and it won’t make you happy in itself… but it sure makes lif easier.

  16. Julie Ali says:

    I have to agree with the comments made by wanzman. Minimum wage provides a “dying” wage rather than a living wage. It does not provide for the costs of adequate housing, food and education. And forget about leisure. While the free market may determine the base minimum wage as it is certainly doing in Alberta where the “minimum wage” is now at $10.50 for a McDonalds McJob (night shift), our province is an anomaly and I don’t believe you can depend on these types of boom economy situations to provide a sensible setting for the minimum wage. I personally do not know how any family with both couples working minimum wage jobs survive. I feel the minimum wage must be in place if only to protect those who cannot advocate for themselves, those who do not have a big business lobby group to ensure that their profit margin is adequate (i.e. inflated) and those who are too busy working (i.e. trying to survive) to be writing to argue their case on our financial blogs.

    You can argue that all these minimum wage suckers could all get an education and boot strap themselves into the middle class but don’t forget that an education these days is a mortgage in itself. In addition, an education is no guarantee of a well paying job; witness all the MSc. students working as administrative assistants. And what about the elderly poor, the people on AISH (assured income for the severely handicapped), the mentally ill on our streets and single parents with kids – don’t they have enough nails in the tires of their rattling vehicles (if they have cars at all)? Why add to their woes by letting the free market determine how poor they will be? In Canada, at least for now, there is a medical system that is accessible if not quickly accessible to all. What happens to the working poor in the U.S. who face a medical emergency or accident? Bankruptcy? Or more genteel poverty?

    I certainly feel that we, the well off are selfish and self absorbed. Don’t think so? Notice that this article is about happiness and the strange concept that your value as a human being does not depend on your cash value but many of the comments have zeroed in on the minimum wage comments. Most of the comments appear (to me at least) show a striking lack of sympathy for the people among us who are bringing up themselves and their kids on wages that are guaranteed to ensure that the next generation will be poor. Like wanzman said it best “get over yourselves” people and put yourselves in the shoes of the working poor.

  17. SCapitalist says:

    First off, great article. Money should never be your primary focus in life. Money is only a mechanism for purchasing things that bring happiness. A wise man once told me:

    “Money is the lubricant of life”

    And I couldn’t agree more. The more lubricant you have, the easier life becomes. However, just having the lubricant doesn’t ensure happiness.

    Secondly, on the topic of wages, I feel that the marketplace efficently dictates wages. Minimum wage jobs are really supposed to be temorary; for teenagers and students. Nobody is supposed to make a career out of making burritos at Taco Bell. But people do. Making burritos is very simple, and thus a vast number of people in the marketplace are qualified for that job, thus the wages are low.

    I believe people need to take responsiblity for their own education. By increasing their education, they again access to jobs that are more exclusive, thereby requiering higher wages. The goverment cannot MAKE people become educated, but the marketplace and the goverment provides incentives for education. Rasing minium wage higher than the market would naturally dictate would give people incentives NOT to get educated. Bad idea.

  18. Matt says:

    Found your post from another blog and I have to say that’s a fantastic post and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing it. My line of work puts me in touch with people in debt and we try to preach to these people not to let debt get them down and become them. Money is important but at what cost? Thanks and all the best, Matt.

  19. eROCK says:

    Interesting you point this out. Right now, I’m speaking with a recruiter about a possible career change. I’ve only been in my current job for six months, but the money I make just isn’t inline with what I want to do in life so I’m switching companies. $10-$12K difference is what I’m looking for and it’s true … the extra $12K for a college grad is very significant given the amount of my loans.

  20. Reminds me of Fight Club “you are not your bank account, you are not your job, you are not your khakis” good point. It is easy to get wrapped up in money and forget what is really important in life. For me it’s spending time with family and friends.

  21. Terry Piatt says:

    For all you free market advocates:

    If there should not be a minimum wage – if a person chould be free to work for an employer at any wage – say, $1 per hour – landlords and developers should also be free to offer housing they can profitably provide to someone earning $1 per hour.

    Funny how people support a free market in labor but hyperventilate about free markets in housing and land use.

  22. Matt says:

    I’d rather be employed at $5.15/hr than unemployed at $8/hr. A minimum wage simply consigns the bottom layer of the talent pool to poverty and dependence on charity or robbery. And the higher that minimum wage is raised, the more people are priced out of the job market. Frankly, I doubt they would derive any more value from the $8/hr they’d see teenagers making at Burger King than they do today from the millions per year they hear about Fortune 500 CEOs making. No matter how high a wage gets, it only benefits the people who are still employed to earn it. The minimum wage started out as a program to keep blacks, immigrants, and women out of the workforce. Now it’s mostly just a government policy to steal from the truly poor for the benefit of middle-class teenagers, while making self-righteous leftists feel better about being unrepentant cowardly thieves.

    Of course, the core premise of the original post is entirely correct…money isn’t everything. Money is just a tool, and what you use it for is way more important than how much of it you have.

    • scott says:

      if anybody that has a right mind chooses to work for pennies or dollars they made that choice.they dont have to take a low paying job.

  23. Matt says:

    And for the record, the only time I hyperventilate about free markets in housing and land use is when people are trying to argue against them.

    Goernment regulation is about the use of force by people powerful enough to wield politicians as weapons against those not powerful enough to do so. Trying to pretend that it’s really for the benefit of the poor and disenfranchised just makes the practice more offensively craven.

  24. a. says:

    re: free markets – we don’t HAVE A free market. so let’s stop pretending like we do! our government subsidizes and regulates TONS of things. i can assure you that the vast majority of these supposed “free market” advocates have gotten where they have as a result of some sort of government support, or some government program, or regulation, or even lack of regulation compared to another area that created an opportunity for them. we all have! i have! so quit talking all this free market B.S. because that’s what it is, B.S. it doesn’t exist. and think about what wanzman said – “get over yourselves.”

  25. Foobarista says:

    The focus of the debate should be whether the minimum wage actually helps society more than it hurts it, not whether it makes you feel good to advocate it. Political feel-goodism and the need to feel self-righteous is at the core of much of what pollutes political debates these days.

    And a hint: if you’re saying “you’re making that argument because you’re rich, fat, and happy”, you’re engaging in all of the above…


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