Your life may look very different if you weren’t concerned with making money. You should learn this now to help you be more intentional later.
Most of us have aligned our lives around the acquisition and protection of money in some way.
Yes, there is the rare person who whom they have gotten out of the race entirely of their own volition, and for those people I tip my hat (and wonder how they are making it work).
But for the rest of us, some portion of our decisions are based on either getting money or keeping it.
This came up for me recently, thinking about some work I was doing that didn’t particularly provide much in the way of satisfaction for me, and I wondered to myself: “If I didn’t need the money, would I still be doing this?“
The answer, unsurprisingly, was no.
And it made me think about just how much of my life was dedicated to pursuits that I wouldn’t bother pursuing if I wasn’t, well, pursuing money.
What about you?
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You could push back and say that this doesn’t matter.
“This is how the world works. I have to work at a job to be able to pay the bills.“
And don’t worry, I’m not going to pivot to a you-can-find-the-work-you-love screed. Of course you can, but that’s not my point.
My point is that, following the plan of financial wellness that I talk about here, you will eventually get to a place where you may not have to have money as your primary motivator in your decisions.
And you need to be planning for that now, not when you get there.
An important question
So I’d like you to take inventory. As you go through your day, ask yourself:
“If I didn’t need the money, would I be doing this?”
This isn’t always a simple yes or no; there can be gradations there. Some answers might be: “Yes, but not as frequently,” “Not unless I was asked to by someone I cared about“, or even, “Yes, even more frequently.”
This question isn’t always easy to answer, but it’s a good place to start thinking about your life and the purpose of what you do.
And, frankly, the question is infinitely easier than asking the follow-up, “what would I do instead?” Which is also important, but much harder to address head-on.
I don’t think looking holistically at the “what would I do if I won the lottery?” question is helpful. It’s too broad, too big, too much to handle. And you’ll probably end up just saying, “I’d travel more“, which is what most people say (although here’s why you don’t).
Instead, make it smaller. Take the question in pieces. Think of replacing one thing you wouldn’t do with one thing you would.
And as you go through this exercise, notice: how much of your life is taken up with what you wouldn’t otherwise do?
Don’t wait until later
This kind of self-assessment is hard, but it’s important. Failing to do so may eventually lead to a kind of existential shock, a what-am-I-doing-here? feeling that I don’t wish on anyone.
It’s the kind of thing that befalls many people in retirement, because for so many people, retirement is such a 180-degree turn, from working for money to not working for money. If you’ve spent four decades thinking about how to work for your money, are you going to pivot easily to thinking about your life in a different way? I think not.
Better to start now.
What is something you would stop doing if you weren’t concerned with money?