Recently, I have been rethinking my positions and opinions about money, financial well-being, general well-being and happiness. I bumped into a wonderful old friend of mine the other day. She asked me if I had made any money off the photo essay that I had just done in the Times of Israel, in honor of Israel’s 70th (70 Shots For 70 Years). I shook my head and said “I’m not very good at ‘making money’.” She responded “Me neither,” and we both sighed. It got me thinking about all the things that I have done in my life, things that I never would have done if I were “chasing money”. Most, if not all, of my greatest achievements in my life thus far have not made me a penny!
For example, motherhood. Having children is probably the worst business venture in history – an investment that costs a fortune with no financial gain in return. But I’m sure you will agree that it is the greatest investment in mankind, and the most wonderful, noble and fulfilling venture a human being can embark upon. And by the way, this friend I mentioned above has nine children. Hosting guests and helping someone in need are also terrible business ventures but, having hosted too many guests to count over the years, I can honestly say that it is truly uplifting, and I have “gained” more than I have spent.
The title of this blog is taken from an old Abba song. It has a deeper meaning than you might think. Funny can mean something that provides fun, causes laughter, is amusing, comical, or humorous. But it can also mean strange, peculiar, perplexing, deceptive and suspicious. And that is the “funny” thing about money – it is both!
Many, if not most people actually spend the vast majority of their lives at the Sisyphean task of “making money”. But as Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff said: “Maybe it’ll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.” In other words, is that really what life is all about – working all day, every day of your life trying to earn money just to spend it and earn it again ad infinitum? And in the end, you and your money part ways anyway when you die.
I have decided that I don’t want to work for my money, I want my money to work for me. I don’t want to be Sisyphus. I don’t want to do work for the sake of making money, I want to make money by working at, and in order to do the things that I believe in, things that can help make this world, and all the humans in it, better. Imagine that: A world where everyone is working with their God given talents to improve and help everyone and everything around them; instead of a world where everyone is chasing that elusive and frustrating task of “making money”!
Of course, we all know that you need money in order to survive and thrive, and as Shakespeare would say, “Ay there’s the rub!” Money is a crucial necessity in our world. We need it for food, a roof over our heads, clothing on our bodies, education, etc. But, money should be the result of our hard work, not the objective. The jury is still out as to whether or not money actually makes us happier. It is interesting to note that when you Google the word happiness you get 555 million entries whereas the word money only has 18.7 million. I think that says it all! The real question is not whether you need money, on that everyone agrees. The real question is how did you spend your life getting it and what did you do with it when you had it?
Just look at the global economy, for example. According to a Credit Suisse report, 1 percent of the world’s population now owns more than half of the world’s wealth. According to Scott Galloway: “Facebook and Google own media; Apple owns the phone; and Amazon is about to abuse the entire retail ecosystem. There are only a handful of countries that have a GDP greater than the combined market capitalization of these four firms. These companies avoid taxes, invade privacy and destroy jobs to increase profits because … they can. The ratio of one-percent pursuit of shareholder value to 99% betterment of mankind that technology used to play has been flipped, and now we’re totally focused on shareholder value instead of humanity.”
It’s not just about who gets the money, how and why; it’s also about what they do with it. Money can distort and corrupt people’s perceptions and principles. A sad indication of this is the fact that human nature is such that the more you have, the more you want, even if it is not good for you. Interestingly, Purdue University recently released a study showing that, “In certain parts of the world, incomes beyond satiation are associated with lower life evaluations.” That is to say that anything above “income satiation” (i.e. a comfortable salary) tends to make people less happy. Too much is just as bad as too little. It also follows that if you can never have enough, than the more you have, the harder it is to let go of it. The wealthier one is, the harder it is for them to part with their wealth.
Money also distorts one’s view of who is worthy of it and who is not. Take a look at all of the billionaires out there who swear they won’t leave a penny of it to their children. Why is any other cause, such as science, medicine, art, music, technology etc., more worthy than your own flesh and blood? Why not give to your children and to all of the other causes out there as well? There is a famous story told about a Rabbi who calls in a wealthy congregant and tells him that he needs a very large sum for a family in dire need. The rich man immediately agrees to the sum, takes out his checkbook, and asks him who to make the check out to. The Rabbi responds, “Your brother.”
Money may be “funny” in that it provides one with the opportunity to “have fun” and enjoy life, but it isn’t funny how most of the world’s money is being abused. Money does not “make the world go round.” What can I say – the pursuit of money sure is “funny”, that is to say deceptive and perplexing. Just think about it, money can’t give you meaning, purpose, fulfillment, love, self-worth, generosity, goodness of character, self-betterment or even happiness in the true definition of the term. In fact, often it is quite the opposite.
Please feel free to add constructive comments, compliments and critique at the very bottom of this page!