Money may not buy happiness, but it sure can provide freedom and opportunity. Once our basic needs and comforts have been met, however, what we are really looking for is not more wealth but the freedom that we believe the wealth represents.
When we lack the wealth to cover even our basic needs, our freedom is limited. We are unable to guarantee that the power will remain on, or that we can get sufficient health care. With increased wealth, we are able to afford not just our needs but our comforts, as well. We are freed from the shackles of lack, and the misery that comes with it.
But the pursuit of wealth is a siren song, and it’s dangerously easy to take it too far. When the pursuit of wealth becomes the goal, we sacrifice everything else: Our social life, our friends and family, our health—eventually even our morality.
And all the while, each advance is gradually ratcheting down our freedom through our dependence on money. The more we make, the more we elevate our lifestyle in the hopes that it will bring the happiness and satisfaction that wealth pretends to offer.
Instead, we become dependent on an ever-increasing income, restricting our freedom to truly do what we want. We become trapped: Any pause or decrease in the cash flow would undo the style of life we have become accustomed to.
Before feverishly pursuing that next level opportunity for wealth, ask yourself: What would you do if you had an infinite supply of money? How would you spend your time? Will the thing you are about to pursue move you toward that end goal? Or would you be better off reducing your demand for money?
Your freedom is inversely proportional to your need for money. You should always be willing to trade money for time and freedom, and never the other way around.