How Much Does Money Really Matter?

I’ve been having an off week week over here lately… Every time I sit down to write about money, I keep thinking about my friend who’s currently in the hospital right now waiting on a heart transplant. At only 13.

We visited him last weekend, and still can’t get over the fact he was perfectly healthy just a matter of months before and now his life literally depends on someone else’s ending. It’s crazy. And here I am conjuring up a thousand and one ways to reach a million dollars as if it truly mattered in the end (it does matter, of course, but in times like this it feels like it doesn’t).

So every day this week I sit here starting at the computer screen and saying to myself “who cares.” This poor guy is struggling to stay alive, and I’m worrying about how much is in my IRA and how fast I can get to an early retirement. It makes me sick to think about, but of course we all have our own concerns. And no one wants others to suffer and stop living their lives just because theirs is currently in trouble. (I know I wouldn’t if, God forbid, I was in that hospital next. I’d want people to keep pushing forward and going after their dreams as fast as they can. I’d want them to appreciate life and find as much happiness as possible!)

Yet, here I am doing exactly that – wondering how I can sit here and offer up tips on “surviving” with what money we’ve got when others are in much dire straights. And not even just my friend either – everywhere you look there’s natural disasters going on all around the world right now. Tornadoes and hurricanes and typhoons, it’s a mess. And we all think about it for a few, and then move on with our daily lives again. Again, not that we should totally do something drastic and turn around our lives every time news like this hits (though it has prompted many to do so, which I HIGHLY admire), but they are constant reminders that life can change in a heart beat. And if we don’t stop to appreciate what we’ve got every now and then, it’s a damn shame.

Needless to say I’ve been going on many a walks this week processing everything and asking myself what the “purpose” of life is. Not to be all dramatic up in here (though it wouldn’t be the first ;)), but this stuff starts weighing on you after a while. You start asking yourself questions like, “Why do you work so hard?” and “Why aren’t you ever satisfied with $XXXXX in the bank?” and “What does all that even MATTER in the end? Are you going to take it with you? What TRULY makes you happy? Should you enjoy life more NOW in case something happens to you sooner than later? What are we supposed to be doing with our lives, anyways??” And so on and so forth.

I’m sure I’ll be back to my normal self by week’s end, but while I’m in this constant thought of life and purpose, I feel like I need to soak it in and really *pay attention* as none of us knows what’ll come next in our paths. I pray to God we all live long and plentiful lives, but we all know the odds are some of us will pass way too early than expected. I’ve lost 5 people since starting this blog almost 6 years ago, and those numbers will only be going up as time continues to pass.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that money shouldn’t be the only thing on our minds day in and day out, even though it certainly feels like it is (especially when your job revolves around it). We need money to bring us happiness over time, whether in the form of being able to work less and spend time with our loved ones, or buy that house to cover and protect our family, etc, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of us appreciating what life has to offer. We need to be doing more of that.

Not to make you even more depressed, but here’s an excellent example of someone trying to embrace life for as long as he has left to live it. Which unfortunately is not too much :(

Big thanks to my friend Nate St. Pierre who recently sent this to me and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m afraid to Google and find out if he’s still living or not, but the point is that you just never know what’s waiting around the corner for you.

So be thankful friends! With whatever, and whomever, you’ve got. We’ll still bitch and moan about all the problems we have in life – that’s perfectly natural, and okay – but don’t forget about the biggest gift we all have no matter our stage right now: life itself. Nothing else compares to the significance of that, and it’s important we embrace it.

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  1. November 26, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    Indeed. Well said. Another way to look at what you’ve experienced this week, is that you are re-evaluating and recalibrating what is important to you. That recalibration will also reflect your money decisions. I don’t necessarily see these as separate. After all our values are reflected in how we approach money. Sorry you’ve had a rough week and hope your young friend gets some good news soon.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      I like that term, recalibration. Definitely doing some of that right now… and also with my wife, who just found out everything going through my brain due to this post :)

  2. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle November 26, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    I have signed the organ donor form and I am registered with the Canadian unrelated bone marrow donor program (just a cheek swab). We all need to step up and make what we have to give available to others.

    I whine about how little money I have but we are never cold and never go hungry so I should suck it up and just be grateful.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:42 PM


  3. jestjack November 26, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    Sorry to hear about your friend…As I am a bit older than you I can share that it gets no easier. Folks that you have known who were wonderful people get struck down …some in the prime of their life…and as you have done…you ask …WHY? Maybe it’s a realization about our own mortality..hard to say. But what I HAVE noticed is that these folks that are not well tend to show us what is really important….TIME.

    1. Free Money Minute November 26, 2013 at 8:03 AM

      I completely agree jestjack. My brother-in-law just had a heart a attack at 42 and a triple bypass surgery as a result. It really wakes you up when you are entering the same neighborhood. Of course not nearly as tragic as the situation with this young man, but still to young to go through this.

      1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        It all blows :( And I just pray we can learn and focus on what’s truly important better on a daily basis than we usually do (or, at least than I do).

  4. Holly@ClubThrifty November 26, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Our family members, friends, and our health really are the most important things. I have a young cousin fighting cancer right now and I feel the same way. Money doesn’t matter anymore when you’re sick and could die.

  5. Mike Collins November 26, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    Hey J, I’m truly sorry to hear about your friend and I hope he pulls through. When you see people dealing with serious issues like that it really puts things in perspective and makes you rethink your priorities. We tend to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we can forget about what other people are going through. I think it’s good to think about it every once in awhile and remember how much we have compared to other people in the world.

  6. Brian@ Debt Discipline November 26, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Sorry to hear about you friend J. Such a young age to be dealing with that. I think these events are reminders for us all to slow down from the daily grind and enjoy those around us. Don’t overlook the small things, each day, tell family and friends you love them often, don’t keep putting things off, you may miss the opportunity.

  7. Justin @ RootofGood November 26, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    Very well said. The key is finding what is “enough”. You’ll never have all the money in the world, and anyone could live on beans and rice in a broken down RV on $7,000/yr. But figuring out exactly where in between those two extremes is “enough” for you is the secret to being and feeling wealthy. When you have “enough”, you are then wealthy.

    Having “enough” means being free to do whatever you want during these short lives that we are given. We never know when our last day will come. The best we can do is enjoy today and plan for tomorrow. I see in the “early retirement” communities I participate in this big push to get 100% certainty of your portfolio lasting forever. It’s almost pointless to get a perfect score in that regard, because there are things in life you can’t control that can artificially shorten your life (like illness and catastrophic accidents).

    Best wishes to your friend. Hopefully he gets the transplant that he needs soon.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      “When you have “enough,” you are then wealthy.” – love that.

  8. Carla November 26, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    A great post, just in time for the “thanks giving” part of the year. My thoughts are with your friend and his family. I like what MMM says about these feelings. We strive for financial security and early retirement not to avoid these things but to be strong when we see them. If I have half a million in the bank, what is it to me to send a few thousand to tornado victims, or to help friends pay medical bills? Being secure ourselves puts us in a place to help others without reservation. That’s the goal I’m working towards.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      And a most excellent goal indeed :)

  9. keshia @ My Favorite Wallet November 26, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    Sorry to hear about your friend. Situations like that always make me take a step back and evaluate myself and purpose. I went to a funeral two weeks ago of a friends mom who passed suddenly. As I was sitting there I was thinking to myself that I am just lucky to still be here and walking this earth. I then made up my mind that no matter what life brings my way, I rather die in the pursuit of what I want even if it doesn’t workout. Like you said, life can change in an instant. Be thankful, keep pushing forward and know that we all have a purpose.

  10. liz November 26, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Thanks for the reminder. It is true… money is just money. Can’t put a price tag on the living life and appreciating the {not so} simple things like health and famaily.

  11. A November 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    My mother died and was brought back to life (in the hospital) in August this year.
    It really puts things in perspective. I think the meaning of life is to Love and BE loved. Plain and simple. Some of us are good at it, and some of us fail miserably.

    Everything happens for a reason even if we don’t understand it. Maybe someone will understand the importance of being an organ donor from your blog and sign their driver’s license to me a donor, maybe someone will have their life saved.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Woah, that is so scary and happy at the same time!! I’m so glad your mother was brought back to life!!!! I’ve really been pondering the meaning of life these past few days for sure, and that line “to love and BE loved” is resonating with me a LOT right now. So simple, yet true. I can get down with that, thanks so much for sharing :)

  12. A November 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Whoops, to be a donor it should say.

  13. Stacey November 26, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Zach’s “Clouds” is a tear jerker, for sure. He fought the good fight!
    A young man from my hometown recently passed after a car accident. The family kept him going long enough to put everything in order for organ donation. I hope your friend receives a heart soon!

  14. Skint in the City November 26, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Well said, my friend. We can get too caught up in the day-to-day and take the really important things like health, family and friends for granted when really, those are the things and people that matter most. Thinking of your friend and hoping the outcome of the transplant is good.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      Yup, the $75k mark def. makes sense – at least in my life. It’s the exact point when happiness didn’t go up that much for me when I hit it. Even when making double that in a good year (though happiness didn’t go down either, of course :))

  15. John S @ Frugal Rules November 26, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Great article J. So sorry to hear about your friend. We lost a son just over five years ago at about this time of year and you come to grips very quickly what it is that matters. Money is great and all and I do all I can to make more of it, but time is precious beyond words. That, along with family and those you love are so important. Best wishes and prayers for your friend that all will turn out well.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      Sorry to hear John – that hurts my heart :(

  16. Heather Stephens November 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Hugs, J. I’m sorry about your friend. I went through a very similar thought pattern last year when my grandpa died the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I didn’t see him at Thanksgiving because I had to work and chose to stay home to do it because it would be easier with less commotion. I planned on seeing him at Christmas.

    After he died I was so angry with myself because he was a man who always put family first and I felt like I let him down. It has been a year, and now that the grief is not so raw, I have realized that he would be proud of me for doing what I needed to do to help my husband support our family. He’d be proud of the $40K+ we’ve paid off so far. He’d be proud of the marriage we have and the children we’ve raised.

    Times like this are good opportunities to reassess your priorities and make sure what you’re doing is contributing to something that matters to you or to those you love. Providing for the future financial security of your family is definitely a worth-while cause, as long as you remember to take time to enjoy them now, and all along the way. I’ll pray for your friend.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      I don’t know whether to cry or smile at this :) So sad!!! But I agree – he *would* be proud of all the hard work and success you guys have had with all the debt you’ve paid off and the beautiful children you raise and provide for. Thanks for sharing this with me today – means a lot.

  17. Laura @ Richmond Savers November 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    So sorry to hear that about your friend. That is truly tough to think about but this post was a wonderful write-up of how you’re feeling and dealing with everything. Money helps us get by in this world but it is far from the most important thing in it. This is a good reminder to be thankful for those more important kinds of things.

  18. Broke Millennial November 26, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    You may feel like it’s hard to write, but what you just produced is wonderful and I’m sure your friend would appreciate this story. My thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and you.

    It’s true that focusing on money may seem silly when other things put life in perspective, but then again, having money makes it easier to handle dire situations or donate to those in need. I see the accumulation of wealth not as a way to to leave a job I dislike — but rather a way to making a positive impact on a larger scale.

    Of course, people can make changes without money. It’s done everyday. I just love to think about the greater reach I can have if with large sums of money that can be donated to organizations or individuals who need funds to expand their positive impact. Or even start my own organization.

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      Agreed. And it’s taking a LOT of money to keep my friend a live and being taken care of from pretty respectable doctors too. So I’m all about money still for everything it can do. Just hard to concentrate on it during times like these.

  19. Michelle @fitisthenewpoor November 26, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    I am so sorry to hear about your young friend.

    My dad always said that the people who die happiest are the “comfortable poor.” I’m ok if I get there in exchange for enough time with friends and family. In the long run, your 401k doesn’t mean a damn unless you can use it to enjoy the best of life.

  20. Jennifer November 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Thanks for sharing J$. Will be praying for your friend. My family’s financial goals are to live like good stewards of the money God has blessed us with and to plan ahead for our future, our children’s future, and to always be generous with our money whether it is little or much.

  21. SavvyFinancialLatina November 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Puts things in perspective. I think we’re getting into a groove where a couple bumps in the budget doesn’t freak us out. It used to really stress me out. During grad school, I worried about if we could afford to visit my mum. Budget was so tight, every single expense was looked at. Now we’re in a better financial situation, have some savings, and overall, don’t have to worry about that. I am trying to be better at focusing on family and friends then before.

  22. Wunderwriter November 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    I’m so sorry to hear of your young friend’s plight; I will send thoughts and prayers for a positive outcome.

    It’s difficult to gain perspective on what matters and what doesn’t when confronting death, but the reality is most of us don’t confront death on a daily basis. During the course of a regular day we deal with regular issues (like how much money is in the bank account or when we can retire and leave the rat race) without giving much thought to the bigger picture. I think there’s a good reason for that: there’s very little we can do to alter the outcome of giant problems like life threatening illness, but we can work hard to become self sufficient, contributing members of society. We all do what we can.

    While it may seem petty in the face of what your friend is up against, it is important that we all work hard to be independent, healthy, socially responsible citizens of the world, and that takes money and money management. Never short change yourself and your contribution! You enrich my life every single day. Keep up the great work, and if all you do is help thousands of people, that’s more than most of us will ever accomplish in our entire lifetime and you have much to be proud of and nothing to apologize for. We all have a purpose, you’ve found yours. Embrace it and carry on! Your friend would want nothing less for you than to continue doing what you love.

    Take care, lots of positive energy headed your way today (and always).

    1. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Your words can’t come at a better time, thank you SO MUCH for telling me so! I was just having an in-depth conversation with my wife on all this (I wasn’t good about opening up earlier so she found out pretty much the same time you are on how I’m currently feeling), and I was indeed doubting my *own* purpose with life in general. I feel like a lot of this stuff helps others out there needing a kick w/ their finances, but it’s hard to fully understand especially when others are doing things “in the real world” that’s easier to comprehend. And it still feels weird trying to help people with money when I think about that vs. feeding the poor, giving someone shelter, etc etc. But you’ve truly upped my spirits at the present time, and for that I think you so very much :) And I appreciate the thoughts and prayers too – means a lot.

  23. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel November 26, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Sorry to hear about your friend, man. It’s never fun to have to go through that experience. I hope this article can help a lot of people take a step back and enjoy the love they share with others.

  24. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) November 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    That’s really awful. I can’t even fathom waiting on a heart transplant. You’re right – we all write about $ day in and day out but really as long as we have enough to get through the day that should be enough.

  25. Michelle November 26, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I used to put such a large emphasis on money, but it doesn’t matter as much to me anymore. Yes, I want to pay my bills, but I’m focusing on happiness instead.

  26. charles@gettingarichlife November 26, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Great health trumps great wealth any day. To get the best health care takes a lot of money, as the medical bankruptcy in this world will attest. Hope your friend gets well.

  27. Debt BLAG November 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    This just breaks my heart. All I can say is that I wish him the very best…and you too, bud

  28. J. Money November 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts, guys. Really means a lot.

  29. Kirby @ TheSimpleMoneyBlog November 26, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Just puts it all in perspective. Important to periodically step back and say, “what’s really important to me.” If it’s money, then you’ll never get where you want to be, and there will always be “more” you can have. If the answer is related to family and friends and the time you spend together, then chances are you can rearrange your priorities for what’s really important in life to feel much more fulfilled. Money can be a tool to help get the things we WANT, but it seldom helps us get what we really NEED in life to get fulfillment.

  30. Sue D November 26, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Life is fragile, and none of us are promised tomorrow.

  31. Stephanie November 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    J. There really isn’t much more to say. My heartfelt prayers to the little guy and his family.
    It’s worth saying again: love with all your heart. Forgive. And celebrate this moment-if you are at all enriched as you ponder the ugly and unfair, then you, friend, know the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
    You have reached me in such a positive fashion and though I don’t often post I wanted the universe to know that. If you have encouraged others like me you have given a gift that can’t be measured. Be at peace JMoney. With a post like this you’ve made many of us consider what is truly important. While we each have our answer, you’ve made us at least consider a kinder, more gentle, more giving, and more loving world. That is a true teacher and mentor.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      You are so freaking sweet – thanks so much for telling me so. You’ve just made my morning :)

  32. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life November 26, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Everything seems trivial when you compare it to the suffering of others. Rather than feel guilty about my goals I do my best to implement gratitude in my day to day life and give back whenever I can.

  33. Connie @ Savvy With Saving November 26, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Thanks for this post. I focus a lot on money and saving, but at the end of day, I need to put my life into perspective and treasure the things that are really important – my health, family, and friends.

    I recently watched the documentary on Zach Sobiech and his story is so inspiring. We can all learn something from him.

  34. Dear Debt November 27, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    That breaks my heart. A child in pain :( You never know when its time or what will happen in life. People are dying, hurting, and sick every day and it is hard to focus on money. It’s also a great privilege if you don’t have to.

    I’m feeling a bit off this week too and there has been some sadness going around. The holidays are hard for people and some intense things happen and it gets exacerbated. I am thinking good thoughts for you and your friend. I think for me, being compassionate, grateful, empathetic and hard working is best for me.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      I hope things get lighter for you and your family as these weeks go by :) I’m a bit better now than I was this time last week (the power of being around family and soul searching), but still not back to the “normal” me… perhaps sometimes we just create a new normal?

  35. Julia November 27, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    So very sorry to hear about your friend J. A friend of mine has been dealing with her mother being in poor health, and she said she keeps thinking of Psalm 90:12, which says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Basically saying, help us realize that life here is short so we focus on what has real, eternal importance before we’re done here. It’s soooo easy to continually get distracted by daily life, sometimes it takes something of that kind of magnitude to jolt us out of the everyday for a bit and look for the answers to life’s big questions. Will be praying for you and for your friend.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      So so true, Julia. Thanks for taking the time to stop in and leave your thoughts with us :)

  36. Kristie November 27, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    J…would you feel any different about your beloved friend–and the fight he has before him–if you had a different job? I don’t think you would. On a daily basis I read your blog, and the message you send is always genuine, happy, and optimistic. Money IS important, and it has the power–when it the right hands–to change lives, better our communities, and provide relief to countries and their wonderful citizens who have suffered great devastation. Please do not doubt yourself and perhaps what may be your calling. You are doing good work here, buddy. May God bless your dear friend in ways that he never imagined…and for that matter, you too, J. Money. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your readers.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      Awww, thanks so much Kristie!! I needed that :) You’re right – blog or no blog I’d be feeling, and wondering, the same. Good point. So glad you’re getting something out of my blog too and that you enjoy it. My goal is to remain on the more positive side, so I’m happy it’s coming across that way despite posts like this one :) Hope you had a most wonderful Thanksgiving! And a future Christmas too!

  37. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen November 28, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Hope your friend does get better. No matter what is happening in your life you have to make the best of it. A lot of us are lucky to be healthy and then don’t need to worry about that but then we worry about other things. It puts things into perspective but it doesn’t mean that what’s important to you isn’t worth it. You’re working toward something you believe in and inspiring others too at the same time.

  38. Kiki November 30, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Thank you, this post really struck a chord.
    I have lived and worked in Newtown, Connecticut for my entire life. Shortly after the shooting that occurred here at Sandy Hook Elementary, an old classmate passed away at the age of 23, and then I lost my cousin, at the young age of 25, in march.
    Needless to say, my husband and I, who were rigorous cheapskates, lightened up a little on our saving habits and actually used some of the money we put away for vacations, dinners out, and other activities we enjoy. I don’t want to live a life of deprivation for a retirement that may never come. We still contribute to our 401k and savings with each paycheck, but our priorities have shifted. Sometimes I just buy the damn latte now because it makes me happy. No guilt.

  39. J. Money December 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    GOOD FOR YOU!!! Sucky situations that got you to this point, but great job enjoying some pleasantries on a day-to-day level. I love hearing that :) Saving for the future is of course still pretty important, but you need some mini-splurging along the way to enjoy ourselves in the now as well. And I hope the future brings your family, and your town, a lot more happiness than pain in the years ahead. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  40. Amber December 2, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    This post has been on my mind all weekend – thank you for putting it out there. It’s important to remember that we might not always have our family or friends with us, and we need to enjoy them and really live each day. But it’s also to remember that we can’t spend all of our time living in the now – we have to be prepared for the future too, whatever it may bring.

    I’ve kept your young friend in my thoughts – please keep us updated on how he’s doing.

    1. J. Money December 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      Thank you so much, I will – appreciate it :) And a perfect time to be thinking about this stuff too with Thanksgiving and family all around – we need constant reminders so we don’t get sucked into our own little worlds! We’re all very blessed to be living and breathing.

    1. J. Money December 13, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Oh man…. okay, going now to click and prepping myself for the tears!

  41. Brian@ Debt Discipline December 16, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    It’s a tough one, but seems like his song and spirit have touch many.