COMMENTARY 953.4: Money Is the Icing, Not the Cake

Despite the advice of preachers and philosophers warning us of the shortcomings of money, it’s hard to argue with Gertrude Stein’s observation: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

Although money is better at reducing suffering caused by poverty and relieving anxiety caused by debt than it is at making us happy, it can buy lots of things that make us feel good and important.

But wealth is not a certain road to happiness. A poor person with good relationships is much more likely to be happy than a rich person with lousy ones. And people who earn moderate wages, but love their work, are much more likely to be happy than those who earn a lot but hate what they do.

It’s easy to expect too much from money. Rich people have different problems than the non-rich, but they do have problems. Many are related to wealth, including shallow relationships, spoiled children and continuous pressure from relatives and friends who expect a handout. Rich people, as a whole, are not more content or emotionally satisfied than others, and neither are their kids.

The problem is that people preoccupied with money are never satisfied. Often, their desires and debts grow faster than their means. The more they have, the more they think they need.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with material wealth or its pursuit, but there is a danger of paying too much to get it. As Rousseau said, “The money you have gives you freedom, but the money you pursue enslaves you.”

We shouldn’t disdain money, but we should put its value in perspective.

The moral: Focus first on forming deep and enduring relationships and finding work that makes you fulfilled. At best, money is the icing, not the cake.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that, in the end, character counts.

Comments 1

  1. Totally agree! It is no coincidence that it was just yesterday I was talking to one of my relatives regarding the importance of money in relationships and life. He was saying if it was not for money there would be no communications, at least meaningful in his perspective. On the other hand, my point was without financial reliance and money communication would be more free and objectives. How much money is enough? How much money do we need to have a relatively comfortable life? Once we base our life on the need for more money, I believe life goes downhill and everything is sacrificed for making more and more.

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