Earlier this month, a close friend announced that he would be leaving the non-profit job he’s held for ten years to work in the lobbying shop of a Fortune 100 corporation. When I asked why, in the midst of a crowded cocktail party, he responded simply, “Money.” This prompted a chorus of friends and acquaintances to chime in with their own variation of the old adage, “Money isn’t everything.”
If I had a dollar for every time that someone has said that to me over the course of my career, I’d have paid off my student loans and be swimming in the irony at a beach in Southern France. Whenever someone talks about making a decision because of money—leaving the beloved job for the better-paying job, buying the smaller house, passing on graduate school because of the cost, opting for a used car—people feel obligated to inform you that money, apparently, isn’t everything. It’s tiresome.
Because while it’s true that there are many things in life that are more important than money: family, faith, contentment, self-worth, etc. Money and the lack of money have an uncanny ability to impact every aspect of your life. Don’t believe me?
Ask a divorce attorney, a therapist or a preacher what people fight about and worry about. Ask them why their clients and patients and parishoners lose sleep, lose confidence, and lose their sense of well-being. The number one answer will be money.
As far as I am concerned, money = freedom. Being able to pay your bills is freedom from worry. Being able to buy food and necessities is freedom from want. Being able to travel, own a few nice things and give back to relatives, friends and charities is just freeing.
And freedom is priceless.
Look around, this country and its citizens are drowning in debt. We spent decades keeping up with the Joneses, pursuing our passions and living our best lives on credit, and now, many of us, including me, are paying the piper. And by piper, I mean the crypt keepers at Citibank and Bank of America.
As a society, we tend to quietly shame the people who make decisions primarily because of money. They mention the importance of money in their decision making process and we dismiss it with an overused and overvalued axiom. But making decisions that can help you pay off debts, help you build a nest egg and improve your quality of life with money isn’t wrong. In fact, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to abandon a job that they love for a job that they’ll hate or wedge their family of four into a 500-sq-ft studio. And I’m not throwing on a jersey for team greed. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t dismiss the importance of making a decision for financial reasons simply because those things aren’t supposed to matter as much as our dreams, goals and aspirations. Because if there is one thing I know for certain, it’s incredibly difficult to reach for the stars when you’re wrapped in chains made from debt.
So I’m asking all of you, the next time a friend tells you that they’re making an important decision for financial reasons, don’t break out that trash about how “Money isn’t everything.” Because in the calculus of life a comfortable cushion made of cash may not be everything, but it certainly can be enough.