If any of you out there are lucky enough to come into a life changing amount of money, don’t change your life (too much). Whether it’s winning the lottery, inheriting a family fortune, or getting lucky on an investment, there are various times in our lives when a substantial amount of money can land in our laps and alter the course of our lives. However, it shouldn’t. And it’s your job to make sure that it doesn’t.
You may have read my article on how making a million dollars a year wouldn’t change my life that much. When I said that, I completely meant it. And this is coming from someone who has lived at virtually every income level and lifestyle. From days where I lived in literally rat and cockroach infested apartments, to now living in a 5 bedroom home with a nice yard and pool, I’ve seen the spectrum.
One thing I’ve noticed time after time is that no matter what place I was at in my life, money nor “things” EVER made me happy. Sure it could bring me something temporary like a smile on my face because of a product I purchased, but ultimately those things fade. In fact, the one year where I made the most money I’ve ever made in a single year was easily one of the most miserable years of my life. Why? Because I was so damned stressed about the money I was making that I didn’t think of much else.
Our relationship to money
Each one of us has to grapple with our relationships to money. I for one have made peace with how I perceive money. While money is a necessity to live in our culture, we need to think about it more as a tool, a catalyst, something that can be USED to make change, not something that is the cause of change.
I actually think of money very much like I think of social media. Cal Newport talks about this to a great extent. While Newport teaches digital minimalism and wants us to get off our phones and social media, he doesn’t say that social media is a bad thing. In fact, he argues to the contrary. When used properly, social media can be a great thing. But if used in the way that the social media companies want you to use it, it can be extremely destructive.
And how do social media companies intend for you to use it? In such a way where you depend on it, to the point where you have an addiction. You reach a point where social media isn’t simply a tool that can amplify your life or make certain things easier or better, rather you become dependent on it and psychologically believe that you cannot survive without it.
Money can put us in the exact same place.
An unhealthy relationship to money
Let me give you an obvious example of a horrible relationship a person may have with money. Let’s talk about the person who buys a Ferrari despite being in a ton of debt. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m completely being general here and this isn’t a real life example, but go with me here.
If you are someone who has the need to buy a Ferrari despite not having enough money for it, then there are probably a ton of other issues at play. For some reason you think that buying this Ferrari is so important in life that you’re risking your entire financial well-being to obtain it. Perhaps you attach a certain status to owning a Ferrari. Perhaps you think that by having this Ferrari your life will change for the better. God forbid you think this Ferrari will make your life happier. While all of these things may in fact be true, they will likely be true temporarily and in the end you are stuck with a ton of debt, a Ferrari you’ll no longer have, and a hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of financially. In fact now you’ll have to make even more money if you ever want that car back.
In this example, it’s likely you have a terrible relationship to money. You don’t view money as a tool. You view it as a symbol. You view it as something that can get you status, happiness, and a certain spot in life you otherwise couldn’t achieve without the money.
Sure money can provide you access but at what cost? Yes, money can provide a sense of happiness and status, but at what cost and for how long? It’s no different than being addicted to social media. You’ve attached your entire life to money, in the same way you think you can’t live without social media. On the other hand….
A healthy attachment to money
Let’s use the exact same example of buying a Ferrari. Let’s say you are a multi-millionaire with a very healthy attachment to money. You have more than enough money in your bank account to purchase this Ferrari. However, you’ve never owned a Ferrari and always wanted one. You realize that in no way, shape, or form will this purchase affect you financially in any way.
You make the purchase. You absolutely love the car. You take it for joy rides on weekends and when you put the car back into the garage you feel great about it. However, at no point did you ever think the car would change your life. You never attached any kind of status to owning this car (even though that unavoidably happens). You simply bought the car because you could and you thought it would be fun to own. No stress. No attachments.
In this case you used money in a healthy way. You used it to buy something that brought you some temporary joy, but that was all. The money was a tool to get you something. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Money as necessity is first, anything after is excess
In these two examples I used money to illustrate buying something one doesn’t even need to demonstrate a healthy and unhealthy relationship one has with said money. But let’s also keep in mind money’s primary purpose. It’s primary purpose should be to pay for the things you need, period. Whether it’s rent, food, clothes, or anything else that helps you live, first and foremost money should be used to provide the basic necessities in life.
Anything after that is what I call excess. Don’t get me wrong, having excess is completely fine. However, once you start to think you NEED excess, that’s when it becomes a problem. That’s when you get added stresses in life. That’s when you all of a sudden think that the type of car you have is just as important as paying your rent. And once you reach that point, you will inevitably reach a very bad place. I think many of us have been there (I know I have).
Back to the original message
So if you happen to be someone that comes into a life changing amount of money, try to keep these things in mind. A life changing amount of money shouldn’t really change your life all that much.
Good luck out there.