3 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Money
Updated: Feb 27
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”
Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with the experience of meeting many people. Some of them are short sojourners, passing me by shortly after we have met. Others have stayed on in my life, and I learn from them still. Some became my mentors, others a trusted listening friend.
Many of the people I have met are, by society’s standards, successful (or for some, wildly successful). What I’ve gleaned from them are some nuggets of information which I might think are stuff I would want to continue pondering about.
Here are some 3 things I’ve learned about money from them.
1. Your Income is not Your Self Worth
I graduated from a local university, majoring in the most unthinkable – a fine arts degree. How dare he? With all sparkling eyes I entered the media and entertainment industry. As you might know, they don’t really pay the most decent of wages in that industry. Tales of delayed payments, or worse still, unpaid projects, are all but truths.
A couple years into the job, I had an epiphany. How in the world was I going to attain my goals in life if I continue on? I felt somewhat miserable, especially when I compared what I was getting with my peers. Two lessons I learned from compariso: that it’s NEVER good to compare, as you’ll only end up being jealous and left wanting. Two, pay comparison between industries will never work, even with the same ‘job titles’.
Earlier this morning I was reading the papers and there was a report by a dad who got retrenched at the age of 40+. He was severely stressed out because of loan repayments, bills to be paid and mouths to be fed. He said that he contemplated suicide. The big lesson here is that your income is never what you’re worth. You’re worth much more than what you’re being paid. To be sure, I’m referring to the value of a human life. I shall leave the idea of ‘how do you earn more money’ for another post.
Just because we’re paid $3000 doesn’t mean our lives are worth $3000. If we measure ourselves by society’s standards, we’re either bound to be left disappointed, or proud and pompous. There is no middle ground.
2. Do Not Depend on Your Earned Income
One of the common stories I hear ever so often is of people who in their mid-40s got retrenched and then found it difficult to get employed again.
One of the biggest rag-to-riches stories I’ve heard is from my martial artist instructor, who came from a severely impoverished background. Long story short, he found his passion, and combined with his street-savvyness, owns multiple properties and is a self-made multi millionaire.
I am pretty convinced that the way to go is to own your own business, or to be your own employer, in whatever shape that may come in. By solely relying on your earned income (as an employee), you’re limiting yourself to a single income stream. Time and time again, the axion is to have more than one. How then do you create multiple revenue streams? Two ideas come to mind.
1. Invest for Income (dividend) 2. Start a part-time* business / freelance
I have a good friend who was a VP in a local bank, who had a mid-life crisis and left to start his own business. One of the advice he imparted to me last year was that it’s better to start up small (as a part-time business), and then only focus on it full-time when its ready. He left his full-time job too early and hedged his bet too heavily on his new business.
3. Money Does Not Buy Happiness Joy
So I say that money CAN indeed buy happiness, but it can’t buy Joy. No, not referring to any of your friends called Joy.
One of the things I do on an annual basis is to bring a bunch of Boys (either secondary or tertiary level) to the same village in Thailand for a mission / OCIP trip. Why?
In a metropolitan environment like Singapore, or any other developed country, it’s very easy to get lost and distracted by the messages of the media, and of society. Buy this and you’ll be happy. Be seen eating this and you’ll be liked amongst your peers.
Remember being happy playing five stones or hopscotch? What, don’t know what that is? They sure don’t make kids like that anymore these days…
Going on such trips keeps me grounded on the things that matter most, as I always tell each new batch of kids who follow that ‘we may think we’re going there to teach them things, but we’ll come back with more lessons learned than we taught.’
I’m not saying that we all need to make pilgrimages to developing countries. That works for me. It may not work for you. But going overseas with the kids help because we get cut off from any distractions, and any still small thoughts come to the fore. You’d be surprised at how effective this is – some of the most rowdy kids gave the most thoughtful answers during our sharing.
What is joy? What is happiness? And how are they different?
“Happiness is dancing when the sun’s out. Joy is dancing in the downpour.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching the message that we all forsake money and go back to our primal roots. The issue is that in today’s society, we are subconsciously measured by our wealth. The truth is, money may buy temporal happiness, but it sure can’t buy joy.