We talk a lot about money: How to get it, how to spend it, where to spend it, and how to save it.
For all the time we devote to talking about, worrying about, and dealing with money, you’d think it was the most important thing in the world. If the time spent obsessing about money truly equated to its worth, then there would be nothing that you couldn’t do or have without money. Money would be the only thing that mattered. But is money really as valuable as our obsession level leads us to believe?
Money is important, obviously. Without it we’d have no roof over our heads, food in our bellies or clothes on our backs. Money allows us to do and have more things than we can without it. It’s a means to an end. But, for all that money is useful and good to have around, for all that it can buy, there are quite a few things that it can’t buy. Even if you have millions of dollars, there are some things that you’ll never have with money alone. So what can’t money buy? Read on.
Money cannot buy back lost time. As each day passes, it is lost and you can never get it back. When you miss that chance to say, “I love you,” to someone special, or you tell your kids, “Not now, I have to work,” that opportunity is gone. No amount of money that you make in the future will get that day, that moment, back.
It’s a cliche that money can’t buy happiness, but it’s also true. It can buy you some fun and fleeting joy—a cool vacation, a big TV, a fast car—but it can’t buy the true happiness that comes from liking yourself, having stable relationships, and good a familial support system.
Happy, well adjusted kids
Money can buy your kids a lot of clothes, toys and gizmos, but it can’t turn them into secure, responsible, well-mannered, intelligent people. That only comes from the time you spend with them and the things you teach them. Money might be able to help with some aspects of parenting but it’s been proven many times that kids, once their basic needs are met, benefit more from parents spending time with them than the amount of money spent on them.
It’s another cliche that money can’t buy love, but a true one. Money can buy initial attraction or even lust, but “true” love comes from mutual respect, caring for each other, sharing experiences, and growing together. There’s a reason that people who marry only for money rarely end up happy. Love at it’s best functions regardless of whether you have a lot of money or very little.
True, you can buy things that make you fit in—the latest cars, clothes, shoes, or electronics—but these things don’t represent true acceptance. If you really want to be accepted by your peers (beyond high school where a pair of shoes really does make you part of the in crowd), you’d do better to focus your energies on making yourself valuable to those around you. Being a good friend, a kind and helpful person, and someone who excels at what they do will go further to gain you acceptance than the stuff money can buy.
Money can buy healthcare and medicine, but it cannot replace health once it’s lost. It’s far better to take preventative action such as watching what you eat, exercising, not smoking, and getting regular physicals than to rely on money to save you once your body has started to fail you. Money also can’t buy back your youth. No amount of money you make in the future will replace those days when your body could do anything easily and look good doing it. You can spend thousands on “treatments” to preserve your youth, but it’s an illusion. Once your youth is gone, no amount of money will get it back.
Some people succeed by being slimy and paying/bribing their way to the top. But these are the exception and I would hope you wouldn’t aspire to that. Success comes from hard work, applying your gifts in the best way possible, and paying your dues to move ahead in the world. There is very little that money can buy you to help you succeed. It might be able to buy you some training or equipment, but the majority of your success is determined by the work you put in, not the money you spend.
People are born with certain talents. Money can certainly nurture a talent. You can buy music lessons or coaching sessions to nurture your talents, but money cannot buy a talent. You can learn to do certain things well—I’ve learned to play the piano after years of lessons—but the true gift to do it well can’t be bought. Even after years of lessons, I don’t have the ability to make the piano truly sing, whereas others in my family have had that talent from birth.
There are plenty of rich people who are rude and crude and plenty of poor people who demonstrate perfect manners and respect for others. And vice-versa. The amount of money you have doesn’t determine whether you behave well or poorly. Manners and classy behavior are not bought, they are taught and practiced at all levels of society by parents and family members who want to see their offspring behave well in society. Money doesn’t confer good behavior. Money can buy you entry into a better class position, but it cannot make you behave with class.
If money could buy peace, I think we’d be there by now. Think of the amount of money that governments have spent over the years in the name of “peace.” Has it worked? Nope. Peace isn’t something you buy. I think peace only comes from acting fairly, humanely, and treating others (people and countries) as we would want to be treated. And even then, it might not be possible. But for sure money won’t buy it.
I’m not suggesting that you give up the pursuit of money and go on some monastic quest for deeper meaning. It is important to manage your money well, to educate yourself about money, and earn enough to secure your financial future. However, it pays to stop and think every now and then about the things you would still have even if you didn’t have money. Your family, your health, and your gifts and abilities aren’t determined by how much money you have. There are things that no amount of money can buy and it’s worthwhile to pursue them even as you worry about money. Money is important, but maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world.