This can be such a difficult question to answer.
For many of us the answer is simply, “there is never enough!” How can you have too much money? You might first pay off the bills. Then, you might go on the vacation you have dreamed about. Why not buy a vacation home…or a second or third vacation home? You certainly want to set up your retirement so you won’t have to worry about running out of money. Then, there are the kids and grandkids. You certainly want them to be free of money worries. You can fund trusts to make sure their education and futures are secure. And, while you are at it, you might as well include the grandkids and great grandkids. You have not yet even considered charitable giving. There are so many needs in the world you could address if only you had more money.
It is so easy to think about money this way. Hence, it is so easy to turn your life into one similar to the hamster that every morning jumps into the circular wheel and runs. You may be spending your entire adult life running in that wheel because it produces money. And, everyone knows that there is never enough money.
Money means so many things to us:
- It is the key to security.
- It is access to status.
- It creates comfort and pleasure.
- It is how you keep score.
- It is necessary to keep up with the neighbors.
- It provides freedom.
Are these reality, or illusions?
Birds don’t seem to worry about money (or their equivalent…worms). When they, or their babies, are hungry, they go looking for worms. When everyone is well fed, they stop. They don’t seem to think about starting a worm farm or opening a worm bank account. Nor, do they seem to worry about running out of worms. (I am not certain that this is true. My direct knowledge of the psychology of birds is limited). But, they don’t appear worried.
I once knew a CEO who drove himself crazy with the fear of running out of money. I repeatedly reminded him that he was in the top wealthiest 1% in the world. He should be the last person to worry about being poor. But, my counsel landed on deaf ears. He was militantly unconscious around the abundance in the world. He simply could not see how life had cared for him for 60 years and that he could trust life for the remaining years he had left.
I also know many people who have multiple homes. This has always struck me as a bit odd. Having one home seems like burden enough for me. There is always more to do to keep it up that I can manage. And, who wants to vacation in the same place year after year? Renting seems to afford so much more freedom. You can go where you want to go and stay as long as you want to stay and don’t have any burden the whole rest of the year.
I am often reminded of the monk whose only possession was a pot. He washed in that pot, cooked that that pot and ate from that pot. One day the pot fell on the rock on which he had placed it and broke. The monk looked at the pieces and said, “Finally, I am free.”
Perhaps there is something to learn from the birds and the monk with the broken pot. Perhaps pleasure, status, security and freedom can’t be bought with money. Perhaps that which we truly seek requires giving up our attachment to money. Freedom is a way of living life. It requires giving up attachment and resistance and finding the joy of life in whatever circumstance life brings to us.
Who is richer; the man with the most money or the one with the greater freedom? Hummm.