Money = a way of keeping score

When I read the New York Times piece about the poor multi-millionaires lamenting their poverty — while living in million-dollar homes and making hundreds of times more than the average person — I had many of the same thoughts as my friends Mark Evans, Jason at Webomatica and Jeremy Toeman at Live Digitally. In other words, a combination of disbelief, irritation and more than a whiff of outright disgust.

At the same time though, one of the things that the piece brought home to me was that beyond a certain point — in most cases, once people get past having to work to literally put food on the table or a roof over their family’s heads — money doesn’t really matter in the same sense any more.

I’ve seen it happen to stockbrokers and bond traders and men who have made millions in the oil patch: many of them would continue to work just as hard if they were being paid in poker chips or jelly beans, provided everyone else in their social circle was also being paid in poker chips or jelly beans.

At that point, what matters is who you see as your peers, why you are doing what you’re doing, and what you see as important in life. And in many cases, the drive that makes people work so hard can’t just be turned off with the flick of a switch once they make a certain amount of money. In many ways, the money is irrelevant. I wish I knew what that felt like 🙂

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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