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The Meaning Behind “More Money, More Problems”

By: Brian Kim - March 27, 2008

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It’s a phrase some people might have heard at one point in time or another in their lives - “More money, more problems.”

But how can that be they say?

Wouldn’t money greatly reduce the number of problems you would have in life?

You could live like a king and enjoy life and not worry about a thing, right?

It’s really easy to think money can solve all your problems in life, especially if you’re young and/or don’t even have any money or very little to begin with.

When you’re barely making ends meet, money sure looks like it can solve all your problems but the reality is though, like they say, with more money, comes more problems (I would actually phrase it differently – “More money, more worries.”). Some people may say that only those who don’t have any money declare that more money leads to more problems in order to justify themselves for not having any but ironically, it’s the people who say that money can solve all problems that don’t have any.

Those who do have/make a significant amount of money can attest to the fact that it results in a pretty different life experience that brings along with it, a whole new different set of problems.

Those who don’t have the money will not understand simply because they haven’t experienced it. There’s a huge difference in assuming something when you haven’t experienced it and actually experiencing it.

This article is not meant to condemn those who are rich or who desire to be rich and declare them as doomed or unhappy.

There are people out there who are rich and happy and there are those who are rich who are unhappy. It’s foolish to generalize and lump them all as happy or unhappy.

And I’m not stating that money isn’t important either and that we shouldn’t strive to make it.

Money is important. We need it to survive. To meet our basic needs. To provide for ourselves and our families.

This article is simply written to point out the potential traps to avoid in the event you find yourself in very good financial position – in the event you win the lottery, get a huge raise or a really high paying job, or your business goes through the roof - it’s to map out the things that are not often pointed out, to give you a heads up so you can avoid the problems that might come about with having more money.

The first problem that comes with having more money is more money problems and it’s the most ironic thing in the world, I know.

The trouble is, when a person comes into a lot of money, they immediately feel an increase in buying power. It’s tempting for them to go on a shopping binge. Buy a bigger house in a nicer area, new cars, latest electronics, etc., but the hidden costs to maintain all that start to creep up in time. You need to hire more help to maintain the property and the material goods. You get higher income taxes and higher property taxes. The utility bills are higher. Insurance is higher.

And if you actually calculate everything, in terms of gross income they may be well off, but in terms of net income, they may be the same or probably worse off than before.

It reminds me of a passage I read in The Life of Cyrus the Great, Book 8 where Xenophon writes about, in his opinion, how happy the rich must be, when talking to Pheraulas who went from rags to riches.

“[8.3.39] "What a happy fellow you must be," said the Sacian, "for every reason, but particularly because from being poor you have become rich. For you must enjoy your riches much more, I think, for the very reason that it was only after being hungry for wealth that you became rich."

[8.3.40] "Why, do you actually suppose, my Sacian friend," answered Pheraulas, "that the more I own, the more happily I live? You are not aware," he went on, "that it gives me not one whit more pleasure to eat and drink and sleep now than it did when I was poor. My only gain from having so much is that I am obliged to take care of more, distribute more to others, and have the trouble of looking after more than I used to have. [8.3.41] For now many domestics look to me for food, many for drink, and many for clothes, while some need doctors; and one comes to me with a tale about sheep attacked by wolves, or of oxen killed by falling over a precipice, or to say that some disease has broken out among the cattle. And so it looks to me," said Pheraulas, "as if I had more trouble now through possessing much than I used to have from possessing little."

[8.3.42] "But still, by Zeus," said the Sacian, "when everything is going well, you must at the sight of so many blessings be many times as happy as I.""The pleasure that the possession of wealth gives, my good Sacian," said Pheraulas, "is not nearly so great as the pain that is caused by its loss. And you shall be convinced that what I say is true: for not one of those who are rich is made sleepless for joy, but of those who lose anything you will not see one who is able to sleep for grief."

With a new upgrade in lifestyle comes along more pressure to keep it at all costs and coupled with that, the thought gnawing at the back of their minds that at any moment in time, their business could fold, they could lose their high paying job etc., so that worry of losing everything is always in the back of their mind, adding more pressure and stress to their lives.

The second problem that comes about with having more money is a social one. You would think that your closest friends, family members, relatives would be happy for you and they very might well be, but underneath the surface, a majority of them will harbor feelings of envy, resentment, and jealousy, especially those who have known you for a long time. Money has the power to strain relationships like no other.

People will start viewing you as a resource, an asset, to leverage in their favor. Parents, relatives, siblings will be asking money from you to pay off loans, fund college educations, start new businesses, etc.

Your friends will view you as the “wallet” of the group and expect you to pay whenever you go out and think you’re greedy if you don’t do it every single time.

Now obviously, if you have really secure friends and family who genuinely care about you, none of this will be an issue, but the chances of that are unfortunately, highly unlikely.

With your newfound wealth, you’ll be tempted to upgrade your lifestyle which will start to make other people around you jealous and remind them of what they could have too. All they will begin think about is the money you make when they are around you and how “unfair” it is that you don’t have to work as hard as they do to survive. Envy and jealousy is a very fickle thing among human beings.

Those who are secure in themselves and well adjusted WILL be genuinely happy for you. They will harbor no ill feelings, no jealousy or envy whatsoever but again, it’s something rare and hard to find among most people these days.

If you take a man of average height and put him in a room full of men who are also of average height, he won’t feel so bad.

But if you stick him in a room full of men who are six foot ten plus, he will start feeling anxious, even though his height didn’t change one tenth of a nanometer.

It’s the same thing with putting a pretty women in a room full of world class supermodels. She will start to feel a bit anxious even though her appearance hadn’t changed one bit.

In addition to all that happening to your current relationships, any future relationships you forge will make you suspicious from your point of view as you are seeing if they are really in it for your money or for you as a person.

The third problem that comes with having more money is a loss of purpose and a developed sense of apathy toward life itself.

When people think about getting rich, they picture waking up on a Monday morning, sipping an espresso on a million dollar house on top of the mountain, reading the paper leisurely on the new deck, breathing in the fresh mountain air or maybe sipping a mojito on the beach when traveling around the world.

But very few people rarely think of what to do after that.

After ALL that.

After they buy the house of their dreams, pay off all their debts, have enough money for retirement, buy the car of their dreams, etc.

What do you do after all that?

You can only do so much relaxing. You can only do/buy so many things that will give yourself pleasure. You can only go on vacation for so long.

It all gets old.

Quick.

Really quick.

Money has a way of quickly dulling the pleasurable senses.

And people get scared. What is life all about? What do they do with their life now? For the next 20,30,40 years down the road, and if you hit it big in your 20s financially, what do you do for the next 60 years down the road?

It’s a pretty long time to not be doing anything when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have to work 9-5 ever again.

Depression starts settling in as they realize how pointless life is. They make enough money so that they don’t have to work another day in order to survive. What is the purpose of their life they ask?

Apathy starts to set in and this is where the abuse of drugs and thoughts of suicide start to come into play.

So how do you solve all these problems or avoid them in the event you find yourself making a lot more money than you usually do?

To avoid more money problems, I would first recommend putting the money to good financial use and avoiding making any big purchases for one full month. It’s tempting to splurge and celebrate right away, but exercise your will power and self discipline and just park the money in a savings account for now.

What I mean by putting the money to good financial use is to pay off any high interest debt like credit card debt, put some money away for retirement, pay off mortgage or student loan debt if you can, etc.

I would even recommend hiring a financial planner that specializes in helping people manage their newfound wealth so they don’t waste it all right away.

And remember not to splurge on anything yet. For one full month.

Don’t go to the malls, watch TV, browse stores online, etc.

Just wait.

One month.

And what you’ll find is that your inflamed desire to buy all sorts of things will subside.

If you’ve been a long reader of my articles, you know that I advocate living a simple life. I honestly think it’s the best way to live as it results in less stress and worries and helps you focus on the more important things in life.

I would even recommend so far as to keeping your current lifestyle. Don’t change it up too much. Avoid buying too many “flashy” things as it can start to breed resentment, envy, and jealousy among those around you.

That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself but try not to go too overboard.

Ironically, it’s when you actually have the money that your desire to buy all the nice things becomes weaker than when you didn’t have the money.

This is why you have people who are “fake rich”. They really desire the nice things, but don’t have the money, which makes them want it even more, and are more than willing to live beyond their means and go into debt to obtain them.

Most of the time, the people that look like they’re well off in real life around you are really not in that great of a financial shape as you suspect and the people that look like they’re not doing that particularly well, the people who manage to fly under the radar and live modest lives, they are the ones who actually do have the money and are in great financial shape.

With regard to the second problem that comes with having more money which is strained social relationships, I would recommend not telling anyone, except your husband or wife about the money you have.

The best kind of money to have is the kind nobody knows about.

Anonymity is priceless as you don’t get put on everyone’s radar like a celebrity all of a sudden.

People often envy the life of a celebrity, but they don’t really know how it must be like to live like one.

To be watched every moment of your life, to be put under the microscope, to have things said about you good and bad (more bad) printed about you and read by millions around the world, having your private life exposed, stalkers staking you, death threats and hate mail sent to you, fearing for your safety, etc.

It’s much better to maintain a low profile to avoid any extraneous attention.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to be selfish about your money and hoard it all for yourself. You can always give to those people and organizations you know who are in need secretly.

With regard to the problem of loss of purpose and general apathy toward life that comes with more money, my advice for that is very simple. Make a decision to find your purpose in life NOW. Don’t wait until you’re “rich” or financially secure. The time will never come. The amount will never be enough. You will always want to earn more and more and feel like you need to earn more and more to be secure as your lifestyle tends to increase with your income, increasing your expenses as well at the same time, putting you in a an endless cycle of spinning your financial wheels.

That’s why I recommend living a simple life, partly to avoid the traps of spinning your financial wheels, but more to strip out the non essentials in life and focus on the things that really matter to you.

That will be different for each person and the journey they take to find their respective purpose will be different. Some may find purpose in religion. Some may find purpose in philanthropy. Some may find it in serving the needy.

Whatever your purpose is, you can start pursuing it in some way shape or form, without having to wait until you’re “rich”.

In the last analysis, if you really stop to think about it everybody has problems - the poor, the middle class, the rich. Everybody.

It’s foolish to think that being rich exempts you from any problems in life. True, the problems may be different in degrees of severity along the class lines, but problems are really relative to each person.

A poor person starving may think that he would be better off being rich, until he meets a rich person seriously contemplating suicide.

But again, I want to reiterate that not ALL people who come across more money will experience the problems outlined in this article. I just wrote it to warn others of potential traps they may fall into that they never would’ve seen coming.

In the end, we all have problems and it’s what we do to deal with them in order to overcome and learn from them that ultimately makes us who we are today.

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2 Responses to “The Meaning Behind “More Money, More Problems””

  1. Judy Ritsema Says:

    HI Brian,
    I enjoy opening my mail and seeing your MIT of the day. It makes me stop and really take in everything you are relating. It usually is relevant to something that is going on in my life. The passion MIT was very thought provoking. I am currently in the process of going public about my passions. Hoping they can enlighten and educate and empower.
    Thanks for all you do and keep doing it.

    Regards,
    Judy

  2. Brian Kim Says:

    Judy,

    I’m so glad you enjoy the MITs and that they’ve been helping. I wish you the best in your endeavor!

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