I grew up a thousand miles from the Corporate Ladder.
Living in the same house since I was born, my hometown has a population of 118 people in rural Nebraska.
We shopped at garage sales, frequented second-hand stores, rarely ate out. We were a family of 7 (that’s so many). When we vacationed, we went to Kansas, Colorado or Missouri.
While some kids grew up going on vacations to the beach, getting new cars when they turned 16 or shopping at Gap, I was not that kid.
And I’m okay with that.
Vacations aren’t cheap. Feeding five kids isn’t easy. Pretty sure my mom heartily laughed in the face of the Joneses.
I grew up on clearance shoes and simple contentment.
So yeah, I don’t care that much about money.
Wait, aren’t you a personal finance blogger? Like, money is what you write about?
I knew you’d ask that :)
Yes, I am! Money is great for so many things, but I don’t attach that much importance to it.
And I’m not just saying that. I concern myself with earning/spending/saving money, but I don’t think money is an end-all-be-all. I certainly don’t have a long-term view of gaining extravagant wealth.
I am very much middle-class. Take that for what it is. On the world’s standards, I’m already rich — and that perspective influcences the value I put on money.
That being said, there are many reasons why I don’t want to be [more] rich.
Money is a False Security
Regardless of how much you make, we culturally put a lot of weight into what money can do for us.
Yes, money pays our bills.
Yes, saving for retirement is smart.
Yes, having a larger down payment will get you a more reasonable mortgage.
But how often do we make decisions about money based on fear? Fear that if, without it, things will be less okay?
When I debated on leaving my full-time job to become self-employed, there was a glaring light of how much I wanted to stay for the money: a regular paycheck, vacation benefits, stability. The fear of losing that dependable income almost kept me from taking a worthwhile risk.
I wasn’t risky for no reason. I have real skills and a real plan for marketing those skills. But the grasp of money — not knowing where it would come from — was too real. When I realized that, I actually became more scared of the hold money had on my life than the risk of losing it.
When money gets to too prominent or carries too much value in our lives, it tricks us into thinking that it’s the answer to our problems. But money is not security. It can’t withstand all the changes that life holds — money is not guaranteed.
So many other things are more reliable than money.
I’d Spend it All
I budget because I have limits.
With my current income, I have to prioritize my purchases or experiences, which means I don’t get everything I want (sometimes ever) or everything I want all at once. Delayed gratification is the name of my game.
If I was super-rich, I’d have no real consequences for not abiding by those same limits.
Dude, I’d spend it all. I’d be traveling to Spain, the Inca Trail, Nepal and Australia. Like, in a heartbeat. Also, all the dresses with pockets. I want them all.
Honestly, I got good at budgeting because I have to, so it’d be hard to know where to set reasonable limits when there’s significantly more money involved.
Enter: lifestyle inflation. It’d be rough fighting lifestyle inflation — the idea that when you make more, you spend more. I’d want more than I truly need — that newer car, another pair of slightly-different black boots, an apartment with a pool — and it’d be that much easier to get it.
Those things are not bad. Don’t hear me saying that. I think that I’m so used to saying “no,” that getting to say “yes” would likely get out of control for me. I know myself that well.
In case I do become rich someday, my resistance to lifestyle inflation would be to follow [I believe it was] Tim Keller's suggestion: Set a limit on your lifestyle, regardless of how much more you may earn in the future, and be generous in giving away the rest.
Hold me to that.
Hiding from the Reality of Others’ Situations
I fear that if I got used to making more and more money (and if I succumbed to a whole new level of lifestyle inflation), the places I’d choose to live or the neighborhoods I’d frequent could very-well distance me from the hardships and realities that others face.
There are neighborhoods I could live where I would be physically distanced from people who are different from me, who have needs and hardships unlike my own.
I don’t want to hide myself from the needs of others in my city. Money could make it easy to fall into that.
Too Much Work to Get There
Let’s be real here — to be moderately rich, you probably have to work super hard at a super professional job. And you know what I don’t care about enough to work 60+ hours a week doing a job I’d probably hate (read: being a lawyer or accountant or something) for a big paycheck? More money.
Nope. I’m good without.
If I can make a reasonable income while working regular business hours in the creative industry, I’d rather do that. I want to be professionally nimble, being able to switch directions and pursue something new if I want to. I don’t want the expectations of a professional degree (at least not at this point in my life) for the sake of job security.
Related: Choose Your Own Adulthood
While some people love Corporate America, it’s not my thing. And the chase of getting “more" sounds exhausting.
When you chase money, it demands more of you. You become competitive with the stories and ideals you create in your own head. What you have, what you don’t have, what you want, what others have that you want.
Money is a Tool
Money is a tool. It’s not the answer to all of our problems, but it does requires us to concern ourselves with it — to an extent. We have to pay our bills. But we want to do more than work for paying bills, too.
As much as we could be torn between “I ignore my money and hope it’ll all work out” and “Give me all the money, I want to be a millionaire right now,” it’s important to have balance.
I do care about money, but I don’t think it’s the best of all things in this world.
What do you think? What are your feelings about money? How do you strike a balance?
Want to keep reading? Check out some related posts
- 4 Reasons Why I Care About Money
- Find the Balance: Pay Down Your Debt & Still Have a Life
- Understanding Me + Money: Getting Clarity and Direction to Move Forward
- The Truth About What You Want vs. What You Can Afford