As a financial advisor, money is certainly a subject that’s close to my heart. When I give group seminars, I often like to begin by asking people to give me definitions of what money means to them. And I always get a similar range of replies: freedom … security … opportunity … power. I’ve asked this same question to hundreds of financial planners over the last several years, and I rarely ever hear the standard dictionary definition, which is simply that money is a means of exchange.
What’s important about these answers is that they illustrate something about our culture. The problem is not just that we think money can buy us things, but also that we tend to define money as an end in and of itself. My personal definition of money is a means to satisfy a desire. That may sound straightforward enough, but things get complicated when we tend to measure our satisfaction, happiness, or success by how much money we have.
Through the work I do, I see proof on a regular basis that having a million dollars in the bank has no relationship to happiness—but people continue to insist that it does, even when their own experience seems to show otherwise. Many of my clients who have reached this milestone tell me that they still wake up in the morning and feel as if they’re broke.