Money isn’t important
It doesn’t take long to realize that I talk about real estate and finance a LOT. I certainly take the topic seriously, and have even known to write blog articles about it! Recently I was speaking with a friend about mortgages and he became quite irate with my comments. He ended our conversation quickly and summed up his thoughts on the interaction with “Money isn’t that important”.
This isn’t anything new nor is it a profound statement, but when used one way it is absolutely true; money isn’t important. When used another way it can be used as a defense mechanism to justify a poor financial situation. I thought it would be interesting to analyze the usage of this phrase and the context behind it.
Money is a means to an end
“Money can’t buy happiness” is the other common phrase of similar position to “money isn’t that important”. Also true! plenty of people are happy and plenty of people don’t have much money, I was a happy guy when I was poor, and I’m a happy guy now that I’m less poor. That said unless your definition of happiness is swimming in a giant vault of gold coins, and your name is Scrooge McDuck, you probably want money to solve problems, not create happiness. This is the center of all money needs really, to solve problems, so how much you need is determined by how big a problem you want to solve.
My friend who said money isn’t that important might actually believe that for himself, but to assign that to everyone is short-sighted. Obviously, money is important to SOME people and situation! This guy likes to spend time with his family, they don’t like fancy clothes or nice new cars, and they have inexpensive hobbies, Him and his wife both bring in a good income, and they live in a low cost of living area; their needs are all met. He really doesn’t need any more money to solve his problems. It sure SOUNDS like the dream right? It is if you have similar interests and ambitions and don’t plan to ever get sick or have unexpected costs.
It’s easy to say money isn’t important when you have enough, don’t have unquenched ambitions, and don’t have any large problems to solve.
For everyone else on the planet though, who doesn’t have their life needs met, haven’t satisfied their ambitions, and want to leave their mark on society, money is of the MOST importance. How many people have a job they hate and can’t afford to quit? How many people are drowning in debt and are constantly overwhelmed with not having enough money to solve basic needs? What about people who have huge dreams but can’t afford to fund them? Majority of us think to ourselves, “I could use a lot more right now” several times a week, or even throughout the day. For those people who think money is important, can solve problems, and remove stress from life it’s important to learn how to properly manage and maximize economic resources. To disregard it is to ignore one of the most valuable resources we have.
To say money isn’t important AFTER you have enough is pure arrogance. Money was important to get him where he is now, but now that he’s comfortable he gets to look around and say “money isn’t important, a family is”. Sure, everyone would agree, but he only gets to enjoy his family because he has a stable life with a rock-solid job and low overhead. He would care much more about the value of money if he was in need, and my point is that there is a lot of life left to live. Things will change, the economy will change, needs will change, and unexpected costs will impact your life,
Freedom is what’s most important, and it’s for sale
My friend says money isn’t important, but he and I are both at work Monday morning. Now we may both enjoy our jobs, but I know I would rather be hiking, at the gym, taking photos, spending time with my fiancé, talking to real estate investors, traveling, etc. Plenty of stuff we could be both be doing, but instead, we are both at work so we can earn a paycheck….seems money is a LITTLE important then huh? Maybe he’s working hard now to pay his house off, reduce his overhead, then retire with a low cost of living and have enough on just his retirement. Sounds nice, a common approach, but then he’s beholden to that retirement amount. No new fancy car, no house upgrades, no expensive toys, now maybe he doesn’t care about that stuff because he won’t have a choice. He can’t afford to care about that stuff because he certainly isn’t going back to work after retirement, he’s going to quit early, quit with JUST enough, and then his life is confined to that income he chose to rely on. People say money isn’t important, but that’s only true once you’ve adjusted your dreams and ambitions to fit into the economic conditions that you’re used to.
Imagine if you could stop working, forever. You could afford a nice house, you had enough money to fix all your house problems, pay all your debts, fix your credit. You could have enough for your significant other to stop working, the kids won’t have to work, you could pay for their college as well. Even better than that you would have enough not to worry about health problems or changing the economy. This requires a LARGE volume of resources but it’s not impossible, it’s just hard. It’s far easier to just say “money isn’t important” when dealing with the struggle of not having enough is quite a bit harder. People who say money isn’t’ important are vastly undervaluing how much they will need in the future, and how much more they could do with their life if they maximized the efficiency of their money spent. I’m not advocating to get a second job or higher income or work until you die, I’m simply advocating to respect your resources, use them to maximum efficiency, and take your economic situation very seriously.
It’s my dream house/car and I deserve it
Think about your dream house and think about how big it is, what it looks like, what amenities it has.
Helicopter pad on the roof?
Staff suite to house your full-time cook, a landscaper, and housecleaners?
Ok is 15 bedrooms and a full staff too much? Probably, but why? Is that not a dream you have, or is it not a dream you bother with because it’s unrealistically expensive? Are we talking about dreams or realistic goals? See this is the problem with saying “money isn’t important”, or “this is the dream house I’ve always wanted”. We say these things and it blends the lines between our wildest ambitions and mundane reality. Therefore every person who has stretched their income to buy a house because It was their ‘dream house’ has lied to themselves. That isn’t your dream house, that’s just the nicest house you can afford and if you could afford more you would buy more! If your dream house costs $150,000 and then you won a 10 million dollar lottery, I’m willing to bet you will upgrade. People are so impatient and so willing to give up on their ambitions that they will buy a barely expensive house, stretch their income to get there just so they can buy it while it restricts them from investing that money and buying something really big later. Buying your ‘dream house’ early is helping to kill your dreams, not fulfill them.
Now to my all time favorite self-delusion: “I deserve” it, well let me be really clear: You already have more than you deserve.
In fact, if you live in America and you have a low income, you already have more than you’ll ever deserve. Americans have been born into the greatest infrastructure of all time. The amount of money spent over the last few hundred years here have made social and economic mobility easier than ever. We hit the geographic JACKPOT just by being born here and to think anyone deserves more than that is insulting to the billions of people who didn’t get as lucky. If you earn $34,000USD/year then you’re in the top 1% of global earners, should be pretty clear that you got more than you deserve just by pure luck, enjoy it and say thanks to your parents; They have done more for your financial opportunity than you ever could.
I sold cars for many years, this rationalization is used by both parties and it’s the same disservice to both. People would buy cars they can’t afford and say “but I deserve it” and when I had trouble closing a deal I would say the same thing “you deserve it” (yes, I feel a bit sleazy about it). This happens so often but is it true? If you work hard and have the resources to buy a new car, does that mean you deserve it? Of course not. Here is what people deserve: exactly what their choices have given them. Also, I like to think what people really deserve for working hard is to look towards a day when they don’t have to work AND don’t have to stress about money. If you work hard at your job, isn’t what you deserve is for one day it to be OVER??!? When you buy a car what you’re really doing to yourself is pissing money away, money that could have been invested, compounded and then funded your (perhaps early) retirement. Instead, you’re guaranteeing that you will have to work longer and harder for that retirement and during that time you’re going to watch that car you love and deserve lose value, rapidly, it’s going to turn into an old car you hate right before your eyes. Your emotional attachment to it will be long gone, along with the money you spent on it and you’ll be so frustrated with it one day you’ll go to a car dealership and buy something new to make that feeling go away. The next car will also be too expensive, you’ll say “I’ll drive this one till the wheels fall off”, and you’ll stretch to buy and repeat the cycle while telling yourself that ‘you deserve it’. No friend, you deserve freedom, don’t rationalize out of it just for a shiny piece of metal.
People love to overspend on a fancy car and say “but it’s my dream car”. Really??!? That fancy new Camaro is your dream car? Sure it’s nice, but it’s a slightly above-average mass market mid-sized car, it’s special in no possible way. How long has it been your dream car, the one you bought is a new model that just came out this year? If you want just wanted “A CAMARO” you could have spent a lot less. You only said it’s your dream car to rationalize a HORRIBLE financial decision, you stretched to get it, and if all that wasn’t bad enough in a few months it won’t be new anymore, It’ll be dirty, the new car smell will be gone, and it might not be your ‘dream’ anymore. Next year’s model will be your new ‘dream’….wait, that doesn’t’ sound like a dream, that sounds like dangerous consumer capitalism. How about this example, take your dream car and buy the same model but 15 years old. Would you buy a 15 year old Camaro and be just as happy? No you wouldn’t because a 15 year old Camaro is old, ugly, and not fancy, you just wanted a new car and you used “it’s my dream car” to rationalize it. That new car is going to be old, ugly, and not fancy before you know it. The marketing machine by the auto industry is vast and convincing; don’t let them help you make a bad decision. Stop telling yourself you need a nice car, what you need is freedom; the rationalization to buy one is not profitable or helpful.
If you had more money, your dreams would get bigger!
This happens because money is REALLY important, and it dictates our lives far more than most people give credit for, and certainly more than dreams. That’s why people change their dreams to fit their economics. Pretend for a moment that you agree money IS important (difficult scenario to imagine I know!), now what real problems do you want to solve, what ambitions could you fulfill with a large volume of economic resources.
Own a ridiculous house
Pay for your kid’s college
Have enough money to self-insure against future sickness and injury
Travel the world
Buy your parents a ridiculous house
Buy your in-laws a ridiculous house as well
New cars for the whole family
Donate to charity
Donate to community
Donate to humanity
Now, this plan might not be for everyone, but I figure this is a general enough ‘Dream plan’ for most people to agree to. So how much money do you need to get down this list and accomplish it all? I know if you asked people how much it would take to get that list done, most would look at the list, mentally give up, and say: “Money isn’t’ that important Alex”. Money itself isn’t important, but technically neither are a person’s dreams, what’s important is what you can actually accomplish, and for that, you’re going to need a fat purse.