Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Money and wealth

When it comes to money, in my experience, people tend to have patterns of behaviour that can stay with them for a long time. For example:

• Some people are happy with debt, some people fear debt.
• Some people are frugal, some people spend money flamboyantly.
• Some people are flamboyant with money in some areas but frugal in others.
• Some people are tight, some people are generous.
• Some people will ask for the exact reimbursement for something they fetched for you, others will buy the thing for you.
• Some people devote hours to bargain hunting, some people buy impulsively.
• Some people save, others never do not.
• Some people like the security a bit of money gives one, others don’t need such security.
•Some people have greater money 'needs' than others
• Etc

I suspect the way we are with money, like many things, has something to do with
A) upbringing (nurture)
B) personality (nature) and
C) life circumstances (C probably the result of A and B).

Money is such a weird thing. As I said before, I think of the flow of money as energy. It's needed to motivate people to do things (in this huge world where we no longer see the person that makes our food to pay them back by fixing their shoes). But nearly everyone appears to be absorbed in the idea that they always need more money...a belief that more is always good. Even those that have immorally large amounts - more than anyone could really need - want more!

It would be very hard to find someone that would actually refuse a windfall and many people often cite money first and foremost as what they would like to have more of. Yet we all know - and regularly confirm to each other with abundant clichés - that more money does not automatically equate to happiness. But all those clichés don’t really appear to stop everyone wanting more. Perhaps we don't ever really convince ourselves that money does not equate to happiness. Perhaps wanting more is the actual belief and the pointing out that it does not automatically bring happiness is the sour grapes.

(N.B. I am not talking here about people living below the breadline. I'd never be so stupid as to speculate more money isn't necessary for their happiness. I am talking about people that have enough money to live comfortably.)

I can, of course, see more money could create more opportunities and more possibilities for someone. And of course more acquisitions (blech - don’t get me started! – too much, too much). But I have yet to see a use of wealth that’s really impressed me!

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself wealthy?

I think we can all usually list a few things we would do and maybe a few acquisitions we might go for but would it really, really make us feel that much better? What are we really attracted to in wealth? Is it security, being able to give more to our offspring, having lots of ‘nice’ things’ or lording superiority over others (showing off - misuse of power). Perhaps it’s actually the freedom to be able to do almost anything. But I sometimes wonder if we have enough imagination to properly use that ‘freedom’. Or indeed if such wild freedom is what we really want.

It’s a bit like when you ask people what they would do if they were told they only had three healthy months to live. I’ve yet to hear an answer that’s blown me away! Is it because we are a little unimaginative painting on blank canvases or is it that we are actually mostly happy with quite ordinary life – the life we’ve already created for ourselves - with lots of things that do cause us happiness already?

Or am I just a deluded hippie spouting off...... again!!! Hippie adds: if she was wealthy, she would use her wealth to help others and inspire positive change. Hippie has lots of cloud cuckoo ideas too.

Anyway what started this vague - longer than I had intended - speculation was a snippet chap read to me from the paper.

Here it is. It really does illustrate the insanity inducing potential of wealth. The striving for wealth (which seems to be in most people's deep conditioning) cripples these lives. It is true madness.............

Some people appear willing to do almost anything for money. Guy Hands, the owner of the private equity company Terra Firma moved to Guernsey last April to avoid UK taxes. Since then, he says, he has "never visited" his wife and children, who still live in his former home in Kent, for fear of compromising his tax status. For the same reason, "I do not visit my parents in the United Kingdom and would not do so except in an emergency."

Hands, according to the Sunday Times rich list, is worth £100m. Were he to allow the Exchequer to reclaim a few of his unnecessary millions, he would face neither ruin nor starvation. He's reported to work 18 hours a day, which means he is unlikely to find much time to enjoy his wealth. It's hard to see how the fraction he has saved through becoming an economic refugee could bring him any discernible benefit, let alone happiness that could compensate for the life he has lost.

Extreme wealth invariably leads to captivity. Its victims live in an open prison. In Mexico and Colombia, they and their families face the constant threat of kidnap: they must scurry around, screened and shrouded, as if they were coppers' narks. In Russia they can never be free from the fear of assassination. Everywhere on earth they live behind walls and razor wire, guarded by cameras, dogs, watch towers and sensors. The walls that shut the world out also shut them in.

They must, if they wish to maintain their place on the rich lists, also live in fear of their rivals. Despite their lobbying power, they cannot permanently shake off the authorities, not least because of the irregular tax and accounting methods that helped many of them to become so rich: the remark attributed to Balzac ("behind every great fortune lies a great crime") is at least half right. Who in his right mind would volunteer for this life?

By George Monbiot, Guardian. 22nd Feb 2010

So one thing is for sure, wealth does not afford you self awareness, a healthy perspective or protection from insanity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. Glad you're back! Missed you yesterday.

    My relationship with money is fairly healthy I think - not especially frugal, not spendy, don't mind bit of debt, don't buy things much, have no savings at all as don't feel much need for security (actually maybe that bit is not healthy?!. Slight tendency to have a bit of a "fuck it" attitude, let's do it, when it comes to spending money on travel or experiences (maybe that's not healthy either?!).

    However, I seem to totally lack a proper awareness of of the relationship between work and money - I know it, but I don't 'feel' it!!! This is despite dad constantly saying to me when I was a teenage chambermaid/waitress/egg farm worker/etc. "See, if you work hard, you get money. You did 8 hours today and you earned...". In fact, maybe it is a reaction against this!

    We could do with a teeny tiny bit more earnings so that we didn't have to think about money all the time, or to put by as savings as very very occasionally I have a little panic about our lack of pension (being self-employed)! Of course this is relative - we do not live in poverty! But I do not wish to get a big lump sum - I am sure it would cause unhappiness. If I did get a lump sum though, I would spend it on travel, travel, travel, without a doubt.

    Blimey that was long...

  2. Hiya Molls.... I agree with pretty much everything you say. I think that the main problem is that as our wealth increases we build a lifestyle that depends on that wealth. So our regular monthly spending increases along with our income, and after a while it becomes impossible to imagine life without the unnecessary things we indulge in, and we have created a treadmill for ourselves.

    I think that this is primarily about attachment: to a lifestyle, to our possessions, to whatever emotional needs those things satisfy. Personally, I do favour the ideals of Zen detachment, even if I cannot fully live up to them. I very much suspect that most people who have lots of money and yet strive for more, are satisfying an emotional need that could perhaps be better dealt with in other ways.

    And yet, the drive of such people for financial success is also responsible for many of the good things we take for granted, so I find it difficult to knock. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation comes out of Mr Gates' desire for success, and I don't believe that what he is doing could be better done by any government agency taking his wealth in taxes instead (for example).

    Me? I've been short of dosh in the past and I know what it is to budget household expenses down to the last penny, and pray that nothing goes wrong with the boiler. It's why I do a lot of DIY. I have also enjoyed, for a time, having more money than I needed to satisfy my (relatively modest, by many peoples' standards) desire for "frivolous" amusement - a much less stressful time. And I have happy memories of many windsurfing holidays in breezy sunshine.

    Now? I have a lifestyle that is built on past financial success, but I have much less spending money than before. Taking only one holiday away from home in three years is not so much of a problem when you could regard living here as pretty much a holiday, even if running the gîte in Summer is exhausting.

  3. Hi Molly P
    On my bucket list is a day giving money away. Not much, but enought to put a smile on someone's face. It'll be a pre-curser to when I win my millions (never bought a ticket in my life or ever will).
    I like to think that if I was mega-rich, I'd set up a scheme whereby people can argue their case for receiving a generous gift. A bit like Dragons Den but without ties,cameras, commitments or harsh words. If they have a scheme I like or a real need, they'll get free funding.

  4. "If you don't need it very badly
    Banks will lend it to you gladly.
    If you need it, nuts to you!
    Funny, funny, funny
    What money can do." (old song)

  5. Hi Claire,
    Despite the fact I only made it to Tuesday and blogged after missing just one day to disprove the whole spontaneous combustion theory - was pitiful. However, I am definitely not returning to a blog-a-day. Honestly I’m not. You come across a little unhinged in a wonderful way in your comment.

    Hi Codgi –your comment reads like a far better composed and is more content-full than my post. I think the day off got me out of practice.

    I am not a fan of ‘things’. I have become very good at looking at things in shops, admiring them, admiring the idea of them and then thinking...that was good, that’s enough. Why would I need to take it home. Unless it’s food or other things that are considered necessities. Yes the hankering after even more wealth doesn’t look over good on the mental health front – especially in the examples the article gave! If we can feel the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair......(bloody hippies)!!!

    Hi Ken D,
    Did you read my post ‘You can’t give it away’ ?
    My wealth ideas are all along the lines of doing good for others, creating communities, supporting individuals to reach their potential etc You know how power corrupts.....does power come with money and then does money corrupt.....because there don’t seem to be lots of Ken Ds doing things like you suggest. Or is it that Ken Ds are too well balanced to strive for wealth in the first place?

    FF – granted – when you tell me what you want it for!!! ;-)

    Berowne – leftfield award to you today kind sir...although Eric hasn’t popped by yet.

  6. Hippies are cool :) Some people who knew me hardly at all once asked a very sharp observer of humanity who knew me a bit, what I was like. She said "I don't know about Mark, but I think he might be hippie". She was not far wrong.

  7. I will tell you another true story as it relates to me. I was asked once by a wise lady what I feared. I thought about it a bit, and decided that for me at the time, the thing I feared most was a poverty-stricken old age, alone in some dismal flat, too poor to wash enough to be presentable enough to go outside. So I said so, and although it was something I had held internally for a while, that was the first time I had actually recognised it.

    Later on, and in a different context, I read a saying that ran "The fear of thirst is the thirst that can never be satisfied". In that moment I had a vision of a fairy-tale king, with an enormous cellar full of huge earthenware pots, full of water, fretting each day as his servants reported the losses to theft, leakage, evaporation, and I felt his fear.

    So I asked myself "How much money is enough?", And that's why, at least in part, I'm (semi) -retired in France.

  8. MONEY.
    I have been at either ends of the scale two or three times.

    Today I need very little for my small roost is all mine, my wings need only the minimum of maintenance and my plumage thickens or lessens as nature demands.

    Unlike Ken: I do the Lotto because when I win, there are schemes in my mind to do that will benefit others.

    One is to have a field in every second county, that my Gypsy friends and New Travellers could stop in on their way to the fairs etc.

    Another would be an education scheme to teach people on how little money they really needed & how to live well on less; bread making is one, growing your own tobacco another etc

  9. I would like it so I could go with my bolt clippers and undo all the poor chained up dogs I see on my travels. The Bretons - most of them - do not treat their dogs very well. I want to liberate the dogs and buy lots of land and have a dog sanctuary and employ people to look after them

    Oh and I'd also like lots of new Rocket Dog boots

  10. you have to grant my wish 'cos it's my birthday


  11. Codgi - your inner hippie is quite apparent.
    I appreciated your vision. in fact you're all hippie today.

    Heronster - a fine use that would be. I had friends that lived in teepees in a field about 5 miles from Norwich...in the UK...and they got such stick from people around them it was awful. Eventually, even though they owned the field, they had to leave. Booo

    FF - I was chasing round the virtual world wishing you happy birthday (FB, your blog) when all the time you were here. Happity Birfdae to youster. With love and warmth xxxxxxxxxxx

  12. Money just provides more options, even the wealthiest are constrained by their time on Earth and sorting out through what to do for fun and enjoyment (I know a guy who hired two people full time to do this for him).

    I always ask myself, do I own my possessions or do they own me? If the answer is the latter, it's time to sell or get rid of it.

    If I were 'Bill Gates Wealthy' (tm), I'd play more elaborate practical jokes requiring enormous sums and multiple actors. You know, at least, until I got tired of it.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. An INTJ hippie? Is that possible?

  15. I'm rubbish with money, If I have to walk past a pub, it's all gone.

  16. Hi Eric - that's funny...the whole fun and joke thing is one thing I'd do (and call it 'art' ha ha). I want to buy a van and hire people to help me decorate a street in a really impactful way - overnight. Hit a different street in a different city each time.

    INTJs can be hippies. Why my INTJ headteacher friend wears a wooden necklace at the weekends.

    Mr T - I suffer from that too. There might sometimes be a couple of coppers rattling around in my purse at the end of the night. The rate at which I buy other people drinks grows exponentially as I become more and more under the influence. Often I have to get my card out. usually worth it tho.

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