“I’m not going to let money ruin my life”

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser retired at 34. He is married, has three kids.  Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.

Steve Jobs died October 5, 2011. He was one of the richest people in the world, with an estimated worth of $7 billion. Just to get an idea of how much money that is, at current gold prices ($1645US/oz), it would be roughly equivalent to 120 (metric) tonnes of gold. Was his life better for all that money? Did it change him? Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, based on over 40 personal interviews. Yesterday, just before the book launch, CBS did a 60 minutes report, interviewing Isaacson.

Steve Jobs said, “I did not want to live that nutso lavish lifestyle that so many people do when they get rich.” He lived in a regular house on a  regular street in Palo Alto. His kids could walk, go to neighbours houses. They had no live-in help or entourage. Steve Jobs was not materialistic. That may be a trait he learned from Buddhism.

When Apple Computer Inc. went public in the early 1980s, over 100 people became millionaires. But money affects different people in different ways. Steve Jobs felt that some people tried to play the part, started acting rich. They would buy a Rolls Royce, a huge home, their wives would get plastic surgery; he sums it up by saying they turned into “bizarro people.” For his part, he made a promise to himself: “I’m not going to let this money ruin my life.” You can watch the entire “money” segment here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385676n (0:01:53).

I personally don’t believe that money changes people. Money allows people the freedom to express, without inhibition, who they really are. I was biking through my neighbourhood with my son, and we rode past the million-dollar houses that back onto the (man-made) lake. In front of one of the houses was a Rolls Royce. Granted, it was old and painted an unattractive brown. But I hesitate to conclude that the people living in the house are “bizarro people.” On the other hand, I know people who don’t have money, and are bizarre. As an example, one would have to be a little bizarre (and poor) to help organize Occupy Calgary.

Money gives a person more opportunity to express their true nature. Each of us, whether or not we acknowledge it, has positive and negative tendencies. I don’t worry that money will ruin me for two reasons. One, I never plan to have a great fortune, almost certainly less than a million or two. Second, and more importantly, I already know the type of person I want to be. I don’t feel that I’m more (or less) special than any other human being on this earth, and I don’t have any more (or less) right to enjoy my life. I also know that I enjoy life most when I’m working at something meaningful with people whom I admire. None of that requires obscene amounts of money.

What would you buy or do more of, if you had unlimited riches? How would you behave differently, if prices didn’t matter?

8 thoughts on ““I’m not going to let money ruin my life””

  1. Most people really want something else besides money. Read it in a book somewhere and it resonated. Money itself doesn’t do anything, it allows you to accomplish other things (like sail the Caribbean or cure cancer or whatever). I think the idea is to follow after those true goals instead of the money.

  2. I read somewhere that there is a difference between being rich and wealthy. You can have a high paying job and receive a nice sized cheque every week. That makes you rich but you do a 9-5 somewhere working for someone else.

    But when you are wealthy you have enough money from sources that allow you to do anything you want when you want. Your time is then all yours.

    I kind of like the sounds of the second idea 🙂

    But in reality If i could replace what I made right now but not work I would be more then happy. Once your house and car are paid off, and your a little careful you really don’t need a lot of money. You also don’t have to be too frugal. As little as $1000.00 a week ($50K/year) take home pay (per person) would be enough to live a nice little lifestyle. I honestly could say I wouldn’t be any happier with steve Jobs $7B.

    The good people that are in my life make me happy. Much more then having a nicer car then the ones I already own. The same principle can be applied to the other material items in ones life.

  3. Paul, I’m sure you’re right that, after a certain point, more money won’t make you more happy. With Steve Jobs, it seems that designing “insanely great” products made him happy. He worked right to the end of his life. I feel lazy by comparison. I’m pleased to hear that you, too, have found what makes you happy in life. I honestly wonder how many of us have.

  4. I guess I won’t change very much but I will hire a helper for my house chores and then concentrate on reading and approving proposals from universities to apply for research fundings that I set up.

  5. More money just makes you more of what you are. You can be an even more generous person or a super jerk. I am working towards the former 🙂

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