Sunday, February 14, 2016

The drive for money

Something I was discussing the other day with a friend is: what drives the relentless drive for more? It's sickening and misleading. But some people do it because they are afraid of coming across as flaky and incapable: an unfortunate amount of pressure they put on themselves.

A couple of months ago my father came up with a comment like 'There's no money in this country (Colombia) for you'. He believes I should get something akin to a presidential salary given the time I have invested in higher education. But he fails to realize that salary follows the basic dynamics of supply and demand and not meritocracy. But the point is that his opinion was based on the assumption of 'the more the merrier' —a well established one. But why is it so hard to challenge this assumption? I think: what would I do with that much money anyway? The answer isn't straightforward. One might of course give a quick answer and say something generic like travel the world, help the poor and whatnot. And it's particularly amusing to see some self-proclaimed humble people (often religious but sometimes borderline zealots) claim they prefer to remain poor because of easier access to the heavens — a rhetoric that vanishes with their fiery desire to win the juiciest lottery available. I just roll my eyes in disbelief when people tell me they are confident in that what they want -more than anything else- is money. I'd be curious to see how a large bank account can bring them actual joy in the long term. Also consider how quick they are to assume they have, by default, the skill to administer such money -- and that there are no privacy and red-tape issues involved in this managerial task.

But I see where the fuzzy line is. Money can buy things we associate with positive people experiences. A whiskey commercial in which several people are drinking isn't about the liquor itself but about love or friendship. Or consider some of the last Super Bowl commercials: most of the times the advertised product or service had nothing to do with the video, which focused more on values, experiences or emotions. There is a point when money stops making our lives better, and most of us aren't good at figuring out what that limit is in a world that tells us every day we should get more. A conservative value is $75,000 - but that is probably open for debate given different needs and lifestyles.