Can We Agree That Money Is Important?

by Vered DeLeeuw · 31 comments

“Money does not buy happiness.”

How many times have you heard this? Lots of times, I am willing to bet. Our culture sends us two very conflicting messages about money. The first, a message that tells us money is everything. Celebrity culture, the rich and famous, Wall Street greediness, the twinge of jealousy we feel when we see a house bigger than ours, a car newer than our car.

Then, there’s the completely opposite message, the one that treats wealth – and the wealthy – with suspicion, that works hard to teach us NOT to envy them, to see the limitations that wealth has and the potential trouble it can cause. In some families, it gets to the point of feeling that money is somehow dirty, that it’s not a proper topic for conversation, that flaunting what you’ve got is tacky and that being poor is almost a virtue.

Can We Agree That Money Is Important?

But money IS important, and here, today, I’d like to get all of us to agree on this one basic assumption. Whatever we feel about money, people with money, or the pursuit of money, can we at least agree that money IS important? Very important, even? We can go into more detail later on, try to define what exactly it means, to say that money is important, or what kind of money is important. But for now, will you agree with me that dismissing money as unnecessary is a mistake?

It’s Not Having What You Want. It’s Wanting What You’ve Got

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants” is one of my favorite quotes. Having few wants is probably the best insurance against greediness, because it’s human nature to keep wanting more, and the more you have, the more you want.

It’s a simple psychological process: you have the basics (shelter, food, clothes) and are fairly happy, although you do worry about dealing with emergency situations; you become wealthier, and you enjoy the extra luxuries very much for a few months, but then it becomes your new “normal.” Now, surrounded by wealthier people, you look around, and you feel unhappy. They have more than you. You want more. But when you get more, you’re unhappy again.

It’s a never-ending cycle and this is what explains why so many ultra-wealthy celebrities keep doing commercials. They have so much, but they always want more. They never get to a point where, if offered a million dollars for doing a commercial, they simply say, “You know what? No, thank you. I have enough.”

Money is an Important Tool

Another quote that I like: “Money on its own is neither good nor bad. It is a means to an end.” Again, this is not to say that money is not important. It is to say that money is not “dirty,” but money is also not everything. Money is a tool that enables you to protect yourself, to build yourself and your family a better life, and to give back to your community.

Money is important because having money means that you will not be destitute. It means that you are not dependent on being employed, living paycheck to paycheck and having to put up with abuse by your boss because you badly need your job.

Money is important because it enables you to have more control over your life, more freedom to carve out your own path and less constraints on your choices. How many of us are stuck in a career or in a job we hate, but cannot afford to lose, because losing our job would mean losing our house and our health insurance? My own mother, a brilliant young woman with a bright future and scholarships to the best universities, back in the sixties, had to give up her dreams, forget about college and start working as a clerk because her parents were so poor and needed her to support them. It’s a sad story of an unrealized potential, and the only reason she did not realize her potential was that her parents were poor.

Money is important because it means being able to give your children the best – the best education, the best health care, the best start in life. Of course, when it comes to kids, money can also greatly spoil them, so it’s up to wealthy parents to find a way to give their kids the best, while still teaching them the value of money and not giving them so much excess that their view on life is forever skewed.

Money is important because it means less financial worries. Sure, the wealthy worry too – they worry about losing their fortune, for example. But this is not the same as worrying about being able to put food on the table.

Money is important because it enables you to give back to your community, to pick the charities and causes you believe in and support them.

Money is important because having money means that life is not a constant effort at keeping your head above the water. Having money enables you to live life to the fullest, enjoy adventures and textures and tastes, make the most of the ~80 years you’ve got. This paragraph, more than any of the above paragraphs, is about luxuries – money buys you a more comfortable lifestyle – but is that such a bad thing? Humans are hardwired to seek warmth, safety and comfort, and having money is a great way to get those.

I Rest My Case

What do you think? Can we agree that money is important, or do you object to any of the points I’ve raised?

David’s Note: I completely agree that money IS important. Though more is not always worth the trade off, it’s incredibly comforting to know that you are well on your way to financial freedom.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna November 18, 2010 at 7:58 am

Once the basics are taken care of then earning more gives no more happiness.

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Malachi January 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Yes it does.

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LoveBeingRetired November 18, 2010 at 8:07 am

Money is important – I agree 100% – for all of the reasons mentioned and more. For me I think the danger is becoming obsessed with MORE money. How much do you really need to live comfortably or even beyond comfortable? Yet so many people just keep working and slaving to have MORE money. And the cost is significant – missed time with family, spouses, and downtime for yourself. Nothing wrong with money but as the saying goes, the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. We should use money not be used by our desires to always have more.

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vered November 18, 2010 at 9:42 am

I agree, and this also ties to what Donna said in her comment above. There’s a point at which one has enough, but many people are unable to stop working hard and accumulating money even when that point has been reached. Of course, “enough” is very subjective – I guess that’s the problem.

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retirebyforty November 18, 2010 at 8:12 am

Money is extremely important. People who says money is not important had never been poor. Once the basic are taken care of, money is still important but I agree there are more important things like heath, family, and much more.

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Mark November 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

Yes, it is important. We should not overvalue it because then greed can consume you. We should also not undervalue it either because it is needed for survival.

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Malachi January 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Nothing is wrong with being greedy.

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Mel Gibson November 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

If we are going to talk about material things and needs, then money is important, but if we are going to talk about one’s happiness, then money is not that important. From your list of reasons of why money is important, it all seems to point to material things and needs, except for the second to the last one in which you need money to give to charity. What if money wasn’t invented?

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HenryTalksMoney November 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm

If money wasn’t invented, I’d believe the same problems would exist. Money is only a vehicle. Human nature dictates how it is used and perceived.

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Briana @ GBR November 18, 2010 at 11:50 am

Your points are absolutely valid. Money is important. Without it, it’s hard to do the things you want, and even more difficult to do the things you need to do. Money is just a form of exchange for goods and services. It could easily be something else, like tissue paper or pencils. Just the society we live in.

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Cath Lawson November 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Hi Vered – I’ve had plenty of money and I’ve been poor. Neither made me happy but there is no doubt that having enough money makes you feel more secure. On the other hand, having more money doesn’t always give you a better lifestyle, especially if the way you’re earning it stresses you out.

I appreciated losing a lot of money because it enabled me to live more frugally and wisely and make good choices. Beforehand I was quite extravagent and wasteful.

Now, I would like to increase my net worth again, but become a lot smarter when it comes to spending and investing.

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Christine November 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I agree that having enough money to alleviate any financial stress does add a sense of happiness to your life. Any additional wealth above that point doesn’t really increase your happiness. In fact in may reduce it. My father always says, life use to be much simpler when we didnt have any money.

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Jenna November 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I agree but want to add a side note that money doesn’t replace bigger things like: family, community, and doing good.

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Blue Spyder November 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Money makes me happy in the sense that I don’t need to hide from bill collectors or dodge anyone I owed money to. Other than that, I was happier poor.

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KM November 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm

After I traveled to the Moroccan side of the Sahara desert, I decided to go live there and part of the appeal of the place was that it seemed that those people didn’t care about money. Sure, the place was quite poor, but it was down to earth and the people were real, whereas I started to see people here as two-faced. However, after a while (I lived there for a month first, then another half a year), I started to see that that was not the case at all. It might have been more laid back in some respects, but in general, it was still the same thing as everywhere else in the world. People like money there too and they like technology and they buy the latest phones even though they live in dirt. I thought trade was more prevalent there, but people still prefer to be paid in money and although they will give you more time if you don’t have it, they are not generous enough to do something for free. Needless to say, I was disappointed that the world was ruined all over.

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HenryTalksMoney November 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Money is important if only because it’s what we need use to get what’s really important to us. It essentially provides access to everything you want because that’s how society is structured. It’s the designated vehicle to make commerce and society function more efficiently. More family, health, personal time directly correlates to having more money. But as stated above, that’s only true to a point.

It makes me happy when I have enough money to provide for my family and give them a better standard of living. In addition, health and the amount of personal time a person has relies so much on the amount of money they have. Eating better, improved medical attention, less time at work, etc. are prime examples of how having money has a better impact there.

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Ken Zang - Cambio de Cheques November 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Consumerism is a disease that is paid at retirement.

In this era of my life I’m saving money and learning to invest and establish profitable businesses under supervision time. I am what is called diversification.

Thanks
Ken

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Infinite Banking November 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Ya it is funny how we send such conflicting messages. Money obviously doesn’t buy happiness but the lack of it can sure bring misery. Financing your own vehicles is a good step towards a great financial future.

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Abedi November 19, 2010 at 7:47 am

As the my retirement is around the corner with no savings (never had enough to live on and to save) and a pittance of a pension I realize now how important money is. I will certainly not be happy inspite of the clamour about money not being able to by happiness. It can certainly facilitate it.

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Brad Pitt November 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

As much as we want to deny money as not important for our happiness but we do need money to be happy. We are certainly be happier if we don’t need to think on where to get the food for our next meal. The chance of not worrying about it makes us happy, thus money is important to be happy.

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CoupSmart November 22, 2010 at 10:01 am

I think you hit it on the early on in your post, Vered: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.” Money is not “dirty”; it’s the actions sometimes taken to accumulate it that gives it such a bad name.

Money is absolutely important, but its importance is often overshadowed by other interests. When profits are a company’s only goal, for example, everything else gets weirdly skewed and other things of importance (health of workers, environment, fairness) get thrown out the window. I think we’re all seeing how money’s “importance” ended up ruining the current economy.

I think your example of a movie star doing commercials is spot-on (add in a dash of ego to the equation, too). How much does one person NEED, anyway, before they end up becoming a caricature?

The fact is, based on world standards, anyone who washes their car with drinking water is “wealthy.”

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Kevin H November 28, 2010 at 9:31 pm

It’s easy to argue for why money is important. But, what are some reasons why money is not all that important?

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steve November 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm

kevin says: It’s easy to argue for why money is important. But, what are some reasons why money is not all that important?

My answer is this: the only time I can see when money is not important is if you are living off the land (kinda like a hobo)or something,where you have no financial responsibilities like rent,electric,travel to and from work,etc. But, you still need to eat, and find a way to replace worn out clothing, so you may still need money for these kinds of things,but just not as much as most people.

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Joe September 11, 2011 at 8:51 am

The most important part is how much money will be enough for you to make you happy and how to get it.

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Sean March 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I can’t say money is important unless I completely agree that man must all conform to standard rules for happiness. I don’t completely agree with that. One of my idols is Jesus. He constantly refuted the importance of money, instilling in his followers the concept of appreciation. He would offer help in return for food, shelter and spirits instead of accepting payment in the form of currency. The fact that man has conditioned us to turn from this approach and to contribute to those who are the Caesars of our time doesn’t negate the fact that money can be avoided, and thus not important to some. Money is a means to an end. If no one in the entire world can fathom a more efficient means then I would call it important. We’ve put someone on the moon, split an atom, cured countless deadly ailments yet can’t find a way to live without a small piece of paper or plastic in our pockets. Personally, I find that to be a sad statement for humanity.

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Jeanne Melanson September 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Hey, good post! I’m on a mission to create wealth and I loved this article. All the best to you! Peace.

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Arjun November 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

Well I agree that money is important, but I am not sure if it is worth spending all our short time on earth to earn money ?

Is not enough if you have the what you require to live and a bit more. Where does the search for money end ?

As you said once you reach a point you won’t see people below you, you will feel jealous of people above you.

I am quite confused, money is needed but how much is a question I want people to answer.

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Dhirendra March 3, 2013 at 5:04 am

Money is really very very important. It is not the only important thing we need but definitely it’s the one of them..

The person who says that money is not important:
does not spend sleepness nights without food.
does not walk several miles just to save some pennies.
does not see their relative die due the lack of a medical facility.
does not see their children starving due to hunger, and
does not feel the winter without clothes and summer without shelter.

I know that money is one of most important thing in today’s world because without it you can’t even survive. Money is needed for food, shelter, clothes.

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Angela November 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

I believe money is important in order to survive. But I believe that practicing simplicity is more importance in order to gain happiness.

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joshua July 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm

i completely disagree with this……..the only reason we have money is because the world isn’t UNITED…if we all cared for each other as we care for ourselfs, i say we dont need money, money is more of a curse and a drug that even he says “we want more and more”. i believe in balance of everything in this world… this world could be 1000 years more advance than now….why?….because we would all be together and work for the same cause..to THRIVE……….BUT all humans are just blinded with money..not everyone see’s what is really going on

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Anna July 27, 2014 at 3:13 am

I must admit that this is a very interesting post. Personally, I believe money is essential to life. There are numerous disasters that can result if we do not have money. For example; if you are sick, you need money to get help, you need money to pay for college; in fact we need money to stay informed. If I did not have money, I will not be responding to your article right now. Money is the ultimate idol and everyone who is sane enough to understand the value of money worships money. The Bible says where a man’s treasure is there is his heart. When we do not have money, and have no viable means to take care of our obligations bad imaginations starts to crop up in our head and our existence feels threatened and when you feel threatened your fight for your life and this includes doing whatever possible to survive.

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