Friday, September 23, 2011

Personal Finance Part 24 – What Does Money Mean To You?

In the quest for financial freedom, I wonder how many of us have stopped to ask ourselves the above questions – what actually does money mean to us and what does it symbolize? What I mean is – how should one go about thinking about money and how it can enhance your life? After all, money acts as a medium of exchange for goods and services and is not a means to an end in itself. The problem is that many people like to worship money as a God, and would willingly prostrate themselves in front of the God of Fortune (and Chance) just to scrape a little more money.

Living a Life of Abundance

To many of those I see around me, money is a way of living a “full” life – one of abundance and filled with material goods and possessions. Money can buy you many items and having more of it means you can essentially have more control over what you purchase. A poor person may be forced to shop at NTUC for the best discounts and value for money products while a middle-class family may be able to shop at Jasons or Cold Storage. Money, viewed at from this angle, gives us more flexibility and choices in life and enables us to experience more of life, as compared to a person living hand to mouth. Thus, the pursuit of wealth and money in this case is to ensure one can live life to the fullest and enjoy all that life can offer.

For me, I certainly endorse this aspect of money as I believe that one should ensure one’s life and family can live comfortably, and be able to afford the little luxuries in life. While being frugal is important, there comes a point where excessive frugality (some may call it “miserliness”) makes one unhappy and restless; accumulating money for money’s sake defeats the purpose of living a life, because ultimately we cannot take the money with us when we die, and therefore some of it must be used to enhance our quality of life. The key is in moderation – it is no point depriving yourself of simple pleasures like a good movie, a nice meal or a relaxing spa session just to save a few extra dollars. As long as you have budgeted properly, loosen the purse strings and spend on the little things, while keeping the big picture (wealth accumulation) in mind.

Splurging and Flaunting Wealth

There are others who take money to extremes, and display ostentatious spending behaviour in order to portray a certain image of themselves to others. To them, money is meant for showing off and they therefore splurge on expensive designer and branded goods and “bling” (the term for material possessions which are more of Wants than Needs). As a result, money to them is simply used for flaunting and acts as an ego booster, rather than as a source of security.

People who splurge needlessly and flaunt their wealth in visible ways (designer goods, fancy cars) do not appreciate the value of money. Money should act as security and be a testament to the hard work which one puts in – spending without regard is like throwing caution to the wind and engaging in extremely risky activity without a suitable safety net (likened to bungee jumping without a safety cord). In Chinese lingo, it is the classic case of punching your face till it swells so that you resemble a fat (prosperous) person.

Freedom from Worry

I guess for me personally, having enough wealth would cause me to be free from worry, and it represents a freedom in itself. In Singapore, most people worry about money because they may be enslaved by their mortgages or car loans; but if one is debt free and better still, financially free, one can enjoy a freedom which many others have yet to taste. Charlie Munger once mentioned that he wanted to become rich not because he wanted wealth to flaunt – it was because he desired the independence which financial freedom brings; and that was something he desperately craved. I share his sentiments on this – money to me represents freedom and being lifted from the bondage which debt brings. Right now even with five years left on my HDB mortgage loan, I still feel invisible chains dragging me down; perhaps I am too old-fashioned and conservative but to me debt is something which can choke the life out of someone, though others may encourage the careful use of leverage to multiply returns.

Helping the Needy

One altruistic aspect of being rich also means I will have more time and means to do charity. Money means being able to help people and to make a difference to their lives, and to me this is really the most profound thing which we can do – help another fellow human being. I had always harboured a secret desire to help those less fortunate than me – but sad to say I have been procrastinating when it comes to doing more for them. Though I do donate to donation tins and support fund-raising efforts for the poor and sick, I always feel that I could do more to ease the suffering of the less fortunate. So if you are reading this and you are an extremely wealthy individual, please spare a thought for those who are mired in less appealing circumstances and donate generously to help their cause.


I have listed out some aspects of money which I think relate to people around me. So the important question to readers is – what does money mean to you? Perhaps you can provide further insights or refute some of my points by using the comments box.


Anonymous said...

Hi MW.,
(1)Love makes the World goes round
but not without money.

(2)When you show you have alot of
money, you will have a lot of
friends, kins and hanger-ons.

(3)When you have no money, you
have nobody.

(4)The poor, the less able, the
unfortunate-in-life,etc.. will
always be with us. We the
"normal" should do whatever
part we can for them.

(5)Money itself is not the root of
all evil. Greed is or rather
the love of it.

i always like to fancy what this world is like if we do not need to eat to live. Do we still need money? For what? For all the material things? Will we still be so innovative, inventive, so rat race to go after the material things?
Ha! Ha!

i definitely will drop out the rat race as early as possible.

CreateWealth8888 said...

I only have one problem with money. How much is enough?

AK71 said...

Radix malorum est cupiditas. ;)

Cay & Jay said...


Agree with you on most comments. Essentially, you are talking about different money jars in our lives, including a Financial Freedom Jar, Play Jar, Charity Jar etc. We invest $ from our FFA wisely, we use $ from play jar to reward ourselves and celebrate our success, while we use $ from charity to help others less fortunate than ourselves. There are 3 other jars that you can google about. But yes, charity begins right now, and not when you become rich.

However, we target to grow our $ not based on sense of security, to secure comfortable life, but from point of wanting to create abundance, joy and value, and be the role model we want our children to view us as. If we can do the best in everything we do, money will naturally follow.


Singapore Man Of Leisure said...

Hello MW,

Money to me is a fantastic tool!

I just have to remember that I can't bring it along during my final adventure :)

JW said...

When Andrew Carnegie died, they discovered a sheet of paper upon which he had written one of the major goals of his life: to spend the first half of his life accumulating money and to spend the last half of his life giving it all away. And he did!

-- This is someone I respect. :)

Musicwhiz said...

Hi Temperament,

Thanks for your comments. I also hope to be able to drop out of the rat race as soon as possible! But it's not looking very likely at this point in time as I still have my HDB loan and my passive income is woefully insufficient to fund my monthly expenses (low as they may be).


Musicwhiz said...

Hi CW8888,

Haha I guess that's a question only you can answer eh? It's different for every person.


Musicwhiz said...

Hi AK71,

While I do appreciate diversity of languages here in the comments box, it would be very helpful if you could include an English translation as well.


Musicwhiz said...

Hi J/ger,

Yes I do agree the concepts I have mentioned are similar to money jars. I had read about this before as well.

I guess creating a life of abundance can also encompass charity and giving, as it is context-dependent. Certainly I would like to give as much as I could if I became filthy rich as there is only so much I can leave to my child and I cannot take the rest with me when I leave this world.


Musicwhiz said...


Yes, how true. Thanks for reminding me of that! Now I feel like taking out some money to enjoy myself! Haha!

Musicwhiz said...

Hi JW,

Wow indeed a very noble man! I salute him!


wonderdoggy88 said...

Hi MW,

Agree with almost everything except that bit about fast cars and luxury goods. Totally agree about helping the poor too.

I have made a small fortune in business and am worth over 10M today. Probably can double that in 5 years.

I view money as a tool for 2 things :

1) to buy conveniences. This means stuff like private bankers so no more queuing and getting better rates and leverage. It means eating at more expensive places so that there is no need to queue and service is better. Or being able to buy a a place near a top school so that kids can save 1-2 hours a day on travelling.

2) money is also for buying the more exquisite items in life and living a tradition/story. This is where i disagree that people who drive luxury cars, wear lux watches or bags are wasting money. these are experiences i am buying. Similarly for traveling in bus/first class (convenience + experience). Or staying at lux hotels rather than a normal hotel.

However, I do agree if the only purpose is to show off than it does not make sense. There has to be a genuine appreciation of the product.

Createwealth8888 said...

I remembered wrote about it oo. Here it is. Read?
What Does Money Mean To You?

Musicwhiz said...

Hi wonderdoggy88,

It's great to hear from someone who has actually made a fortune ($10 million wow)! Nice to hear your views on money and spending.

My comments:-

1) Yes, I do agree having more wealth can result in such conveniences. This is also why I am striving to at least attain the first level of banking convenience (private client, rather than private banking), which usually requires perhaps $200,000 to $250,000. Still some way to go though, as my assets are locked up in equities and not sitting in the bank's savings account! I totally agree that we should spend wisely to save time because ultimatly time = money. It's also a trade-off for cars, but I find it rather too expensive at the moment when I can just hop into a cab (and also because my HDB is rather centrally located).

2) I don't fully agree with this point though. I can see where you are coming from in terms of experiencing "high-class" living and items. But I feel it's a kind of lifestyle, and we deliberately condition ourselves to embrace the lifestyle, and it becomes so much a part of us that it cannot be dissociated. To give a good example, look at people and their iPhones and try to separate them from their gadgets! It's a lifestyle they choose although initially you have a choice (e.g. non-smartphone versus smartphone); and both are "äffordable" to a normal man on the street.

So yes, I definitely think one should try out the luxuries in life at least once (e.g. first-class travel) but they need not become an integral part of our lives. In other words, we can still choose to live certain aspects of our lives simply while perhaps splurging on others (e.g. food).

Glad that you agree that money should not be used to show off. Too often though, I see very rich people showing off their possessions openly and trying to tell the whole world how rich they are. They could take a leaf from Warren Buffett (though I admit his lifestyle is somewhat extreme - he is too parsimonious).


Musicwhiz said...

Hi CW8888,

I hope I can get to the day when I use my money to generate sufficient money for me to half-retire or work half-days! That is the aim, and of course having enough funds to put my child through college and University. For now though, I am still building up my pot of gold haha!