Money is weird.
The whole concept is strange to think about, especially with the emphasis that is so often placed upon it. Basically, money is simply a method for trading the work that you put in, for goods and services that you can enjoy. It’s just the reward that’s earned. You help out society by doing work that betters the world, or at least the immediate community, and in exchange, you can pick out food, toys, and keep your home warm at night.
And yet, money has grown into so much more than that. So many items in our world serve solely as status symbols, indicators of how much extra money is available to burn. Nobody actually needs to drive an Italian sports car, or encrust their watch in diamonds. The only purpose of these items is to brag about how much money is coming in.
Now, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if the amount of money earned was directly proportional to the amount of good done for society. It makes sense that inventing a medical cure that saves millions of lives should be worth more, financially, than restocking a crate of apples at a grocery store. But so much money seems to go to managers, financiers, lawyers, people who don’t actually solve any problem. Indeed, some of the highest salaries go to people that do nothing more than play with the money, swapping it back and forth to get rich off the pennies that slip through the cracks.
Like I said, money is weird. It also seems especially strange when I am at work, when I talk with the homeowners I work with every day.
In many neighborhoods, I see homeless people pass by, see people driving five-hundred-dollar cars, see people where the Gap is high fashion and who will most likely never see their bank account hit six figures. For these people, making forty or fifty thousand dollars a year is a huge accomplishment, and watching the reality TV stars parade around in their designer clothes and spend their days shopping and lounging by pools is a glimpse into another world, a world in which they will never be a member.
I like learning about finance. I enjoy reading books about the stock market (yes, in my free time! Shocking.) and make investments. But so many people I know don’t have stocks, don’t think about money, don’t have much going for them financially besides a vague IRA into which they put the minimum. Even though these people are just as talented as I am, if not more so, they are being handicapped by their lack of financial devotion!
I am not rich. At least, not by my idea of rich. I recently read that most Americans would consider “rich” to be approximately 10 million dollars. Invested in a balanced portfolio, this would generate roughly $600,000 per year, which is enough to live in any city, pursue almost any hobby, and never have to work again for the rest of one’s life.
I don’t have 10 million dollars. I can’t even imagine 10 million dollars.
But does this make me poor? I’m debt free, on a career track, have a car, and have money in the bank. I have a plan, I’m well educated on investments, and I don’t live beyond my means. I certainly consider myself well off.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that I am incredibly rich and radically poor, all at the same time. In so many ways, I am so well off, and yet I have so much more to work for. Perhaps it is even stranger for me, since I can see the hint of light at the top of the tower, just well enough to show me how far I still have to ascend. I can see a path, can set financial goals, but have a long and strenuous climb ahead.
Money is weird.