Have you ever asked yourself how much money do you need? Everyday we are working for money, constantly worrying about it and always hoping we can have more. Most of us will think that we will be happy by having more money. Is that so? How much do you need?
If you say we need money to survive, then you would not need that much. Maslow’s hierachy of needs (see figure below) specified that humans need to fulfil the basic physiological needs like food, water, clothing and shelter in order to think about something else. I would say most Singaporeans would be able to afford these basic necessities. The question is how expensive you want to eat, wear and stay. Hawker or restaurant? Functional clothes or branded? 3 room HDB flat or Condominium? If you already have the latter for most of the questions, you have more than fulfilled your physiological needs. In fact, you are choosing a particular lifestyle.
What if you have achieved your desired lifestyle? Do you forsee yourself being fulfilled and happy? Or when you have a condominium, you would want a landed property? If the attention is on upgrading your lifestyle, you will never be able to achieve fulfillment in life. I find this common to many people around me, including myself, which my perspective has begun to change. Life is much more than what money can bring. If we keep thinking that money can make us happy, we will be chasing shadows and be disappointed at the end of the day. You should chase money only when your basic needs cannot be fulfilled. Because you need money to exchange for food, water, clothes and shelter. I would assume you have fulfilled level 1 since you are still alive and reading this post online. In this case, if you are chasing money, you are not talking about needs, but wants. You want a desired lifestyle.
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Let us revisit the Maslow’s hierachy again. If you asked me, only the first two levels (physiological and safety) require money. Humans seek certainty and want things to be under control. Once our basic needs are fulfilled, we look at protecting what we have. We do indeed need more money to be safe and secure. But how many of us do proper financial planning, such that we get free from the money trap? The more you earn, the more money you need to protect your lifestyle. Most of us always complain Singapore is so competitive and life is getting harder. This is because our security (or current lifestyle) is threatened. Without a sound mindset and proper financial planning, we will never be able to escape from this level.
To fulfil the level of love/belonging, most of us believe that improving our lifestyle will improve the relationship with our partners and family. The same thinking applies to the levels of esteem and self-actualization. By having a better lifestyle, we assume we will be well respected and successful. Instead of protecting our current lifestyle with proper financial planning, we keep spending to improve our lifestyle. With a better lifestyle, we now have to protect it by having more money. We get trapped in the second level (safety). We find that we can never be satisfied. We always feel we do not have enough money.
Money is not the problem. Mindset is the problem. We need to understand and accept that having a better lifestyle does not equate to having a better life. If we seek a better lifestyle, when will it end? There will always be a better lifestyle to chase after. I am not suggesting you should not have a dream lifestyle. In fact you should. But know when to stop. Work on your relationships. Work on your passion in life. Warren Buffett is always a good example. Despite his wealth, he still stays in the same house that he first bought. Drinks coke and eat McDonalds’. But he has reached the level of self-actualization. Recently, 40 US billionaires pledged half their wealth to charity. Have you ever wondered why the rich earn more money only to give them away? Because they have long detached themselves from money. They no longer chase money. They no longer desire a certain lifestyle. They want to achieve other things in life that cannot be achieved by money.
My point is, fulfillment in life is not about lifestyle or things that money can buy. We have given too much credit to it.