It’s Not All About the Benjamins

Dear Reader,

I recently received some money in the mail from a family member in cash. What a nice thing to do! But, honestly, I haven’t spent cash since the lockdowns were initiated (about a hundred days ago). Without a store to spend money in, what good is money anyway? This, of course, is a rhetorical question. Although I will spend the money in the distant future, this nice gift has made me think about money and its true value.

Just before the pandemic, I was let off from one of my many jobs. Interestingly enough, the day after I got the message, I was offered another job from a different organization— what luck! I ended up accepting the job a few weeks later, but it caused me some initial stress (on top of the pandemic-induced stress I’m sure we were all experiencing). At some point, I really had to ask myself — why did I take on this additional job? Luckily, I am still employed at my other positions and continue to work despite the pandemic and related economic crisis. I do not really need this job, but it feels nice to pad myself in case things do take a turn for the worse. However, one morning as I was stressing myself out preparing for this job, I really had to ask myself — what is the point?

We work to earn enough money to provide ourselves with a good life. However, it is not that simple, because we also have strong preferences about the work we do, our schedules, our responsibilities, our take-home pay, and other aspects. We are picky about work even if the main point is to provide us with a means of survival. Because most everything is shut down with the ongoing pandemic, most of us have found ourselves spending less and less. For me, it is now normal to prepare all meals at home, spend very little money on entertainment, and zero dollars on travel-related expensive. Compared to my former café-every-day lifestyle, this is a big difference that is saving me a lot of money. Without this new job, I could save money and have time to pursue meaningful hobbies. However, my irrational need to always be productive did not make this logical calculation. Now, I am sacrificing time for money I arguably do not need (it’s not even that much or for that many hours, but the stress it causes me is disproportionate).

So, again, I ask, what good is money anyway? Money is “good” when it allows you freedom to live well and spend your time meaningfully. If you are a millionaire who must work 60 grueling hours a week, are you really rich if it brings you stress and makes you feel trapped? Making money a means to an end can be liberating. For example, if we treat our jobs as a way to provide ourselves with a nice life rich with experiences and minimal stress, then we can enjoy ourselves when we are not chasing dollars. However, if we make money an end rather than a means, we can unwittingly ensnare ourselves in a vicious cycle. For example, we may skip our vacations and cut down on our hobbies to make sure that we can always get ahead. Those who do end up sacrificing time for money will probably wind up wound up (get it??) chasing money forever and ever without really enjoying their success.

I feel that my motivation to take this extra job was misplaced. Now that I am working remotely, I enjoy the extra time to pursue my personal projects. However, also with this extra job, I see myself pushing aside these projects for nary a good or meaningful reason. Ho hum. Such is life. Lesson learned.

Money is important, but only to an extent.



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