People have all sorts of ideas about money. Some people think that money is everything; their very purpose in life is to amass as much wealth as possible. So, they make all of their life decisions to that end. They go to the school and choose the major that is likely to have the best payoff. They find a career where they can make a hefty salary. They may even look for a wealthy life partner who will likely increase the earnings of their households. Plus, they are interested in investing–these people probably follow their portfolios more closely than anyone else.
Then, there is another group of people who think that money is evil. They blame wealthy people (and, more generally, income inequality) for all of the problems of society. They think money corrupts people and incentivizes people to become unethical. For these people, the way to live a full and happy life is to free yourself from the demands of money and material possessions. And investing is often the furthest thing from their minds.
As is often the case, I think the way to a better life lies somewhere in between the extremes. Can money buy happiness? The gut response to this question for most people is, “No, of course not!” But, actually, it can if you use it in the right way. Being deprived of money means being deprived of options. Without economic influence, you can’t make as much of a difference in the world. Money can be used to help a needy child pay for school supplies, buy a present to brighten someone’s day at the office, or take a vacation with your family to experience one of the great wonders of the world. Money isn’t all bad–it can be the vehicle for a fuller life.
I think that money loses its life-affirming power when it’s viewed more as an end than as a means. Money ruins lives when it becomes the object of focus. When you start asking the question “How can I get more money?” without first asking the question, “What do I want to do with the money I get?” You are setting yourself up for failure. The goal of making more money shouldn’t be wealth accumulation–it should be wealth utilization.
As you enter the world of investing, this distinction is all the more important. You don’t just need an investment strategy–you need an investment philosophy. In other words, you need to know why you are trying to accumulate wealth. For what purpose are you trying to build your portfolio? What do you want to do with the money?
Money isn’t inherently good, and it isn’t inherently evil. It has the capability of bringing happiness into your life, and it can also bring about a great deal of stress, pain, and suffering. The real challenge is to know how to use money to do good in your life and the lives of others. If you need any help understanding how to balance the pursuit of wealth with the purpose of wealth, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation. We would love to help you establish the priorities that can help you use your money to create the fullest life you possibly can.