What is “money”?  For some people, “money“ is a means of survival. It enables them to place food on the table, provide for shelter and pay for medical expenses when the need arises. Often these are the people who earn very little and struggle to make ends meet.

However, what about those who have much more than what is needed for food, shelter and medical care? Here money plays a different role. For some, it becomes a measurement of self-worth: “Can you believe how much they are willing to pay for my services?” For others, money serves as a form of displayed wealth, a way to gain respect and status in the eyes of others.

Money can also function to allocate scarce resources, like time. You raise your fees so that only those who can pay receive the desired service. Money serves as a screening vehicle. This is done with any scarce resource, not only time: jewelry, diamonds, gold etc.

Money can be used also to secure people’s cooperation. You can use money to solve a problem, which without money, would be difficult to attempt.

The above are the usual explanations of money’s value. I came across two meanings given to money that I was not aware of before that I want to share with you.

Ladd, a friend of mine who is quite wealthy, though you would not know it because he does not display it gives the following “meaning“ to “money:”

“It gives me the freedom to choose”, he says.

Hmmmm. The more money you have the “free-er” you can be to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it, and with whom you want to do it. More money means having more choices.

However, there is a catch in this interpretation. The more choices you want to have, the more money you need. However, to have more money means to work more hours and expend more time and effort to earn it. It can consume you, which of course can cut down on your choices; time is no longer at your disposal and with less time, your choices narrow considerably.

This meaning of money has validity then –to my way of thinking– for those men and women who have the strength of character to say: “Enough. I have enough money to make freely the choices I desire. No more choices. Thus, no more money needed. Enough.”

Sounds good but not easy to do because money has an addictive character: those addicted, the more they have, the more they want to have; therefore, they are enslaved to money.

A very rich client (one of the five hundred richest men in the world) told the meaning of money that I find particularly appealing to me. He explained that for him the value of money is determined by how much he enjoyed something; thus, this determined how much he spent.

Think about it. Money’s value is related to how much pleasure you derive from it. Therefore, to enjoy it, you have to spend it.

Take someone who made millions, but in his heart feels poor. He has great difficulty spending his money. Therefore, he lives very, very modestly at a standard of living commensurate with a person who has one hundredth of his net worth. How much money does he have? Only as much as he enjoys it. For that, he has to spend it.

Money in the bank has no meaning unless you derive pleasure simply from counting it and getting a sense of satisfaction and self worth by the magnitude of your assets.

Tell me how much you are enjoying your money, and I will tell you how much you really have. Money not used is like money not had. It is just a number. When you die, it will go to the government and to your children who will enjoy it. So who is really the rich one here? Who really has the money? Those that enjoy it.

Once in a private airport, I met someone who had an enormous hangar for his planes. He had a large executive plane and a small one as well; and then there was his small helicopter and this grand one… I asked him why he needed so many flying machines. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you do not spend it, they will.”

However, is the only answer than to spend the money for self-enjoyment? Or maybe, you can spend it in a way that you will enjoy it doubly.

Yes, there is a way to enjoy money by giving it away that can be highly gratifying. I refer to philanthropy. It gives you an opportunity to change people’s life for the better. And to make a difference. Now not only you are enjoying your wealth but others too. Money has now a multiplying effect.

You are as rich as how much you give to others who need it more.

My Conclusions: Money should be a measurement of self-worth, should give you the choice and freedom to do what your heart wishes, but how wealthy you really are is a function of how much you enjoy using your money, and the most gratifying use is when it is used to meet other peoples’ needs too.

Just thinking…


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes