Do We Really Need Money to Live?
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Do we really need money to live?
Have we substituted money for our true wealth, what American essayist Henry David Thoreau describes as the ability to fully experience life?
The question has often piqued my curiosity and prompted my 100th podcast.
If money were the final arbiter to an abundant life, wouldn’t those with the largest sums would be legendary? They’d claim the best health and longevity; the greatest joys from personal pursuits; the happiest marriages and relationships; and the highest levels of peace and well-being.
But they don’t.
Admittedly, money is a necessary vehicle of exchange that provides us with access to clothing, shelter and transportation. Money can connect us with lots of good things, but it has hardly lived up to its reputation for delivering us true wealth.
Comparative Life Stories
Growing up in the late ’60s, I discovered the hypnotic properties of money as a substitute for self worth. I also learned something about true wealth.
A seminal event occurred when a relative drove up to our house one day in his “new” used car. He, his wife and their four growing children clumsily crept out of a squared-off, dark brown vehicle that could have served as side car to a German military tank.
Back then, our Made-in-America world was typified by Detroit’s popular, sleek and aesthetically designed automobiles. So I wondered where such an old and unattractive relic came from.
An awkward moment arose when we stepped outside to inspect this curious vehicle known as a Mercedes. I knew that a family-sized station wagon or a sumptuous new Cadillac would have garnered legitimate raves. Instead, any genuine praise was replaced by odd talk about the car’s sturdiness and longevity.
It wasn’t until I discovered this foreign car was known for its expensive sticker price that my confusion turned to clarity: my uncle had purchased his over-priced elephant to impress other people. He needed an expensive foreign car to compensate for an obvious deficit in self-worth.
The event served as my first lesson in money being used as replacement for abundance. Fortunately, I would come away with other lessons.
Wealth Without Much Money
Some of my happiest — and richest — memories arose through my childhood friendship with Phyllis Fritzlo. The Fritzlos lived a few houses away from us in a ground floor apartment of a modest, 2-family home. Phyllis’ mother didn’t drive and her dad drove an older model car. Mr. Fritzlo was a handsome, outgoing and jovial family man who worked as truck driver or laborer in New York’s garment industry. He loved bringing dresses home from the factory and gushed over his two daughters’ beauty as they modeled their new clothes.
The Fritzlos were hardly awash in cash but their happiness, hospitality and family wealth are unforgettable to me.
Favorite memories include sitting around their kitchen table after school, all of us in rapt conversation. The Fritzlos welcomed company of all ages, including us kids. Most legendary was the Fritzlo brand of homemade spaghetti sauce. I loved watching Mr. Fritzlo cook up an impromptu sauce by crushing fresh tomatoes grown in the family’s backyard.
Another abundantly happy day took place in late Spring of 1967. It marked Phyllis’s 9th birthday and several of us girls were invited to join her and her dad for a special trip to New York City. Six of us girls jumped on a bus, buzzed through the Lincoln Tunnel and emerged in Times Square. We walked around in the warm sunshine feeling quite special. The highlight of our day was sitting down for pizza at one of New York’s many pizza parlors. In magical fashion, music from the Young Rascals pop hit Groovin’ (on a Sunday Afternoon) wafted through the pizza parlor’s speakers.
Mr. Fritzlo’s monetary outlay that day was likely nominal but the experience was priceless to me and probably for the other girls, too.
When Money Isn’t Delivering You Life’s Riches
If money isn’t delivering us all of the things we really want in life, why do we continue to bestow upon it such undue power, awe and respect?
We’re all to blame for this socially mis-engineered condition.
We’ve fallen prey to the belief that we need money to live. We’ve allowed money to rule over our value systems, our institutions and even our critical life decisions. But when the value of money is placed above the worth of our very lives, we feel the opposite of wealthy. We feel devalued, underappreciated and even drained of energy and joy.
If you have ever pondered why money carries such an overwhelming importance in our lives and decision-making processes, I hope you listen in to my 100th milestone podcast.
If you’ve ever blamed others for compromising themselves to money or have condemned yourself for doing the same, you should find some uplift. Regardless of past or current circumstances, we can all make room for small adjustments that deliver us wealthier lifestyles.
Then, listen in to author and tiny house celebrity Felice Cohen who shares with us what makes her happy from the inside out, too.
Listen here or click on the bar below for Podcast 100: What if you didn’t need money to live?