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Money isn’t everything, but it sure beats whatever’s in second place

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I spotted a comment the other day that no matter how rich you are, you can never be satisfied. That’s humanity for you. It led to asking the question: why do multimillionaires still bother working? The answer is that, as a human, we always have to have something to do. We are a species that needs to work to be satisfied. Or is it working or playing? For example, I liked this answer on Quora:

Let's assume you love playing video games. You're practically addicted. You do well in it and you enjoy it. Now you have become so good, that people pay you to play video games. Slowly, you earn truck loads of money and become a billionaire. You can stop playing video games, and do what you actually enjoy, oh wait...that's playing video games! Money is usually not the primary motivator to work. It's ego/passion/enjoyment/expectations. Billionaires who continue working, do it because that's what they want to do, and not because it gives them money. Their work is their video games.

In other words you carry on working because it’s fun; it’s something to do; you enjoy it; and it gives you fulfilment. It’s definitely not to earn or create more wealth. It’s to keep doing what you like doing.

For example, I look at Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg and wonder: why do they keep doing what they are doing? They could retire and take it easy. The answer, according to Antonio García Martínez, author of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, is that “they derive transcendent meaning from capitalism. Without their money, what else would they have?”

In fact, based on lots of research, the link between work and pay is incredibly weak. Interesting work, good leadership and agreeable line managers motivate people, not money.

Another factor here is how much money do you need in order to relax? The Financial Times gives us a clue:

Moira O’Neill, an FT personal finance columnist, has estimated that for an annual retirement income of £33,000, you need a £1.1m savings pot. To get to six figures you need £3.3m, and many wealthy people will not consider £100,000 a year enormous. So if you are planning to stop work well before retirement age and are worth “only” £5m excluding your home, it may not be enough.

Talking of retirement, I’ve met a lot of retirees who, within years of leaving their full-time work, end up dead. Their children have left home; their spouse most likely hates them; they have no purpose in life apart from playing golf or poker; and they lose the will to live. I dread the day I have to give up writing or creating or thinking or asking questions or just being curious.

Curiosity doesn’t just kill the cat, but it kills the many cool cats who no longer have purpose.

And it’s not just me saying this. It’s people like Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) and Nassim Taleb (Black Swan).

“Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.”


“Money can’t buy happiness, but the absence of money can cause unhappiness. Money buys freedom: intellectual freedom, freedom to choose who you vote for, to choose what you want to do professionally. But having what I call ‘fuck you’ money requires a huge amount of discipline. The minute you go a penny over, then you lose your freedom again. If money is the cause of your worry, then you have to restructure your life.”



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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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