I was researching a billionaire who made a fortune in the pomegranate business when I came across an old New Yorker article that opened a window into her life. Every minute of her day is booked in a life devoted to the constant quest for more money.
It made me wonder: What for?
As a financially struggling graduate student, I understand the desire for more money. Deeply.
But only up to a point.
No doubt that point differs for each of us. Yet we’d all like to be comfortable. We want our families to be comfortable. We’d like to have enough money to never worry about having enough money ever again.
What does that look like? Owning your own home is certainly a factor. Living debt-free. Having substantial savings in the bank. Probably a few luxuries — maybe more than a few.
And then what?
Why would someone who’s already worth several billion dollars devote every waking minute of every day to earning even more? What will she buy with the extra money that she doesn’t already have? A new yacht? An island? A small country?
One thing is for sure: She can’t buy her time back.
Once she spends an entire day working to earn even more, that day is gone. And all the money in the world cannot buy it back. What a waste.
She spent that day stressed out, angry at anyone who was a few minutes late for an appointment, worrying about how the investments in her portfolio and product sales performed. No amount of money can return those 24 hours to her so she can spend them enjoying herself on a beach, hiking, reading a great book, or doing anything else she finds pleasurable.
Many Americans never question the constant pursuit for more money. In fact, we train our kids to do as this billionaire does from an early age.
Take a look at kids’ toys. Many popular toys arrive in packaging that instructs kids to “collect them all.” The toys often come with little pamphlets showing children all of the different varieties or characters they can nag the grownups in their lives to buy for them.
What’s the point of having every single Beanie Baby, or Webkinz, or Zhu Zhu Pet, or whatever kids want these days?
Kids then log onto computer games, where they play to earn points that translate into pretend cash. They can use their fake money to buy virtual stuff. What’s the end game?
There’s no princess to save. It’s just an endless task of earning more and more simply to buy more and more.
Certainly there are good ways to part with mountains of spare change. Many wealthy people are generous and charitable. Our society owes no shortage of gratitude to those who support the arts, conservation, science, humanitarian relief, and other good causes.
Wealth can create jobs. I would give anything to pay someone a generous salary to clean my home and cook my food. If I had billions, I’d use some of that cash to hire a personal trainer, massage therapist, and private yoga instructor. I’d enjoy daily two-hour massages.
But surely there’s a tipping point at which the quest for more money is no longer worthwhile. And until money can buy love, happiness, or time, that will always be the case.