Why Do You Want to Have Money?

(Guest Post by Zack of The True Generalist)

Many people WANT money, pretty much everyone I know, but few people ask themselves why. I suppose the easy answer is for security: so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. You know, like Forrest Gump said, “One less thing.”

But that’s like saying I want a couch so I can sit on it. While it may be true, it’s obvious! It’s surface! What you really want is a place to get cozy while you watch a movie with your special someone. You need to get deeper with your desires and motivations to find out why you really want money – a lot of times, you’ll realize you can get those things without it.

Do you want money so you can…

… travel?  You can travel right now, you don’t need much, just a plane ticket and couchsurfing.com.

… go back to school? What do you want to learn? Find some experts in the field and call them up, see if you can work out an apprenticeship/internship with them. You’d be amazed at how much just asking will get you in life.

… buy that new car? Why do you want the car? Is it for yourself or is it to impress others? Deconstruct the reasoning behind your desires so you know what you’re truly searching for. Are you trying to gain status? Gain it another way, either by buying a jalopy and fixing it up or by helping others with something they need. Elevate yourself using your skills instead of the things you buy.

… never work again? Really? You’re just going to sit around all day doing nothing? I don’t think so. Even the guy in Office Space who said he would “do nothing” ended up loving the outdoor life of construction work by the end of the movie. Chances are you really want to do “something,” you’re just looking for the freedom to follow that path. I say you are already free, go and do it!

But really, I need money

Yes, you do need some amount of money to get the things you need in this world, but probably not as much as you might think. Check out my Get Your Budget Back Series to see how you can better understand and manage your finances.

Now let’s set aside all your basic needs and desires. What is it that drives you in life? What excites you? What makes you think,

“Man, if I just had a million dollars, I’d do that?”

THAT’S the reason you want all that money. You just want to do what makes you happiest all day, every day.

Now that you know the “why”, focus on that instead of trying to attain more money. The acquisition of wealth is great and gives you a lot of resources, but if you end up doing something you hate every single day in order to attain it, is it really worth it? Go for what you truly want to be doing, pursue that and build a life where the other needs fall into place.

Zach Turner is an adventuring generalist who’s been all over the world, written books, been a landlord, and loves personal finance. Check out how to be a True Generalist at his blog: www.thetruegeneralist.com  . And check out his latest sci fi novel at www.visionsthebook.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: I agree with this mentality 100% – and I’ll admit I’m not always good at remembering to think this way unfortunately ;) It’s hard when you’re trying to just make as much as possible every day! Haha… but this “deep down” stuff really is what’s important. Plenty of us have the opportunity to grab true happiness if we stop and really consider everything, it’s just we’re always so on the go-go-go and built to constantly be advancing our career/growing our nest egg/etc. Which we all still need to do of course, but probably not as hardcore. Like our mortician friend said the other week, you never know when your time’s up in this world! Do your best to stop for a few  and see if you can grab some of that happiness *now* over later :)

{Photo by Fifth World Art}

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  1. Pipo February 21, 2013 at 7:04 AM

    Perhaps I am not in the target group for your little motivational piece here, but I do not like the way you try to say that “security” and “I need money” are superficial answers. With your advice I seriously doubt you have a family to support.

    I love where I am at right now, I love my job, I have plenty of money to support my family and have money left for fun stuff too. However I am working in a sector where there is a high risk of layoffs. To be able to support my family while being in-between jobs I need money. In addition, the pension system in the country I am living in can be relied on less and less. To make sure I can live a comfortable life after retirement, I also just need money.

    And so what if I die before my nest egg is spent. The people I love will inherit, which is a nice thought.

    Nothing deep to it. “I need money” for “security”.

    1. Zach Turner February 21, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      Sounds like you’re in a good situation. You have a job you love and make enough to provide for your family and still make room for the fun stuff. You’re already doing what you want with your money so that’s great! I’m sure you already have life insurance coverage; that’s another good way to make sure your family is provided for if something happens to you.

    2. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      @Pipo – Haha… I can see that side of things too :)

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More February 21, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    I was considering this the other day and came to the conclusion that I don’t need to kill myself or work insane hours to get more money. I’m quite happy with where I’m at income wise and can make everything I want work even though I can’t be on vacation ever day. I think the other question you’re asking here is how much is enough and why are you trying to get beyond that?

    1. Zach Turner February 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Exactly Lance. If you’re happy where you are, then remember not to stress and just be happy. I think it’s important to have a plan for the future. So if you know you’ll be wanting other things later, put together a plan so you can get there, then once your plan is in place, you don’t need to worry anymore. If you’ve arrived at everything you desire then just keep doing what you are doing and enjoy life.

  3. KJJ February 21, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy relief. When I was young and broke I was working two jobs and couldn’t make ends meet. Having to decide on rent or car insurance that month because I couldn’t afford both. Crying and feeling worthless because I could not afford a necessity like a tire for my car which i needed for my job. The stress of not being able pay your bills is overwhelming.

    I was single, but I can 100% understand how the stress of money could tear a relationship apart.

    So why do I want money? To avoid the pain of not having money.

    1. chubblywubbly February 21, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      I totally hear you on this. Growing up, my parents fought a lot about finances because they were struggling with living paycheck to paycheck and raising me in the process. Tempers flared often, and I grew up thinking that a household that argued a lot is a normal household!

      Having been poor for most of my growing years helps me truly appreciate it now that I am middle-class.

      1. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Agree with both of y’all! Money can solve a lot of problems like less stress/arguments/etc… And it’s important to *KNOW* that’s why you want more money too so you don’t go into the deep end and forget why it is you’re killing yourself for extra dollars down the road.

    2. Cat February 21, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      I agree! Money can’t buy happiness, but that relief, and that freedom from stress… that’s what I want.

  4. Matt February 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Never working again doesn’t mean you don’t do anything ever again. It simply means that you’ve secured enough financial resources to meet your future needs so that you can turn your focus onto other interests. Particularly other interests that do not generate income. I wouldn’t mind never working another day so long as I could afford scuba diving every day for the rest of my life, for example.

    1. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      I’d become a professional coin collector :)

  5. Jon B February 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    ‘Money can’t buy happiness? Really? Have you ever seen a sad person on a jet ski? Yeah, I didn’t think so.’ – Daniel Tosh

    I’d like more $$$ for the status of it all. When you have more $$$ you can give more away, treat others and yourself to a good time in ways you wouldn’t be able to without more money. I might volunteer in my free time, but I would definitely not work anymore. All in all, money gives people freedom and the more money you have, the more freedom you have with your time to do things how you want to. Kinda selfish, but true.

  6. Skint in the City February 21, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    To me, money is freedom. Enough to indulge personal interests, whether or not those are, in themselves, money-making. So I’d agree with Zack here, after living expenses are covered I don’t want more money in order to buy a boat or a fancy car. I want enough so I can work a bit less and spend a bit more time writing, playing the piano and all that stuff that makes me happy .

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      You got it, Skint! That’s definitely the spirit of this message. For instance, I do consultant work and I could work every day of every week, but that would be a horrible lifestyle cause I would be traveling constantly. Instead, I have calculated that working ten days a month will pay for everything my frugal life needs plus student loans, savings, and fun stuff. So I can be home one or two weeks out of the month and have more time to live life.

  7. Leah February 21, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    I want money so that I don’t have to worry.

    I feel like I worry about money all day, every day. Despite the fact that I have good financial habits, I suffer daily from a million questions like:

    “Do I have enough saved?”
    “When will I know that I’ve finally saved “enough”?
    “Are my investments allocated correctly?”
    “What will happen to my cash flow if I have to make an unexpectedly big purchase?”
    “How can I count on the salary of this 9-5 for the rest of my life?”
    “How much of a hit will my salary take after I have kids?” (Which I already know to be a depressing amount…)

    I could save SO MUCH MENTAL SPACE if I had a few million dollars to help me relax.

    1. KK @ Student Debt Survivor February 21, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      I totally agree with having more “mental space”. If you’re not constantly worried (or thinking about money) you’d have to much more time to focus on other things. That’s part of the reason that I’m on the financial path I’m on.

      1. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        Ditto. Mental space is precious!!

    2. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 7:28 PM

      Leah, making a plan is the best way to rid yourself of these worries. If you can project foreward how much you’ll have saved when you have kids or retire and how much you’ll need to live, then you can make a plan to get. Once you know your plan is working, you can enjoy life a bit more. As Mark Twain said “I’ve seen many worries in my life, most of which never happened.” :-)

  8. Mercedes February 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    You know, I’ve thought about “if I had a million dollars I’d do that” many times, and I honestly cannot come up with anything. I can think of things that I wouldn’t do but there isn’t a “one thing” in particular that I would do.

    Honestly, I just want money for the security. To know that If I do lose my job I have something to live on, or if a family member is ill that i have the money to fly out and be with them, or if I get the opportunity to go on a fantastic trip with my friends, that I can do just that.

    Maybe I don’t really have a focus because currently I know that if any of those things happen, I have the means to pay for it all and not throw myself into debt. Do I have the money to stop working tomorrow and never lift a finger again, heck no! But what kind of existence is that?

    1. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      I love your answer :) That’s really the point of today’s post in my opinion – just *knowing* why it is you want more money in the grand scheme of things. And security is a great one!

  9. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle February 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    We can’t all just buy a plane ticket and couch surf. Don’t forget bus money to get from your city to an airport and money for a passport. I want to go to the dentist this spring and my benefits only pay 50% so I am working on saving up the rest.

    Money for needs is why I need money. Money so that I won’t have to rely on my sons when I am old.

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      Jane, that’s a great example of why you need money. You want to go to the dentist this spring. You know how much that costs, so you can make a plan to achieve that goal. Having money so that your kids don’t have to support you when you get older is the same thing. You can make a plan for that too. Once you see the reason behind why you want money, you can plan for the intended outcome.

  10. Rich Uncle EL February 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    I agree with knowing the why first behind money desires is important. I feel most people want greater security in these times. Speaking for myself I want to horde dollars to retire early and to help pay for future educational expenses for kids.

  11. Michelle February 21, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. I am happy with the amount that we make right now, so why burn myself out and work like crazy? I need to step back and really think about things!

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 1:33 PM

      That’s a good call Michelle. If you find yourself burned out on life or work, its time to take a step back amd think about what really matters to you. What is it you are trying to achieve in life? When you understand that, you’ll better understand the reason you want money and can then make a plan that will give your life more security.

      To take some time and figure things out, I find leaving the country for a bit helps me. Other friends of mine will go on a hike or camping or surfing. The point is to just leave the life you have for a while and let your brain decompress so it can see the big picture and what is needed versus what is just life clutter.

  12. Financial Black Sheep February 21, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    The reason behind money is the most important for many reasons, to pay off debt, to have a savings, retirement, etc. I wrote about the reasons behind your goals, so when people want to veer away, they have reasons not to deviate from their goals. The reasons / goals will keep you motivated, happy and moving forward no matter what and remind you it’s OK to mess up every now and again. :)

  13. Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget February 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    We’ve been at these exact discussions for a couple weeks now. I guess having a baby does that sort of thing to you.

    We’re still up in the air on where we stand. Our current salaries are A-OK. Our jobs are fine. The problem is, they take up too much of our time. So while we might have some leftover money to play, there’s no time to make it happen. That’s our conundrum.

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      Johnny, I have a similar problem. I do a job which gives me lots of flexibility but if I’m working, I’m traveling, so it’s time for a change for me too. Depending on your job, you might ask your boss if you can start telecommuting. There are a lot of tasks that can just as easily be done from home. Another option is to be a consultant in your field. I would say start off as a side hustle and work up to full time. Goodluck.

    2. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      @Johnny – That’s how it was when I worked for the airlines years back – I could travel to any exotic location I wanted for pennies on the dollar (it was ridiculously cheap) but then whenever I got there I’d have no money to spend! And only like 2 days to enjoy it before I had to rush back and start working again, haha… It was one of the biggest teases of my life ;) Though I did come away with some pretty interesting stories (Mall of America for the day? Sure. London for the weekend? Okay!)

  14. Money Beagle February 21, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I look for money so that I can provide the essentials without worry, and the non-essentials (luxury items, vacations, remodels of rooms, etc.) available as well, all while being able to save for the future (unexpected – health and expected – retirement).

  15. Brian February 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    I’ve thought about this a lot. In general, I want enough money so that I can break away from the corporate world and go back to coaching Track and Field, preferably at a college level. Being able to survive off a meager track coaches wage (maybe $20K a year) and my own investments, rental properties, etc, would be ideal!

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      That’s great. You know exactly what you want and you’re already on your way with investments and passive rental income. Just keep leveling up and planning and you’ll get there, good sir!

  16. My Financial Independence Journey February 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    I found this to be a bit simplistic. See my comments below:

    Travel – Plane tickets cost money, so does food, and so does actually doing things like tourist activities.

    School – Calling up people and asking to be an intern might work great if you want to learn woodworking, but it’s going to get you exactly nowhere if you want to learn medicine or law. The fields that I have degrees in are only things that you can get involved in via formal education. All the enthusiasm in the world is irrelevant without the letters after your name.

    Never working again – If I decide to stop working, I intend for it to be a full retirement. There’s lot of stuff I want to do, but none of it is economically productive. I’d like to learn to play an instrument, or how to draw, or just spend time reading the classics. All these are time consuming and personally fulfilling, but no one is going to pay me to do them.

    I want money as an insurance policy against layoffs or other negative life events. The reality is that if I get laid off I’ll have to run around like a headless chicken trying to find a new job to pay the bills. It would be a lot nicer to do a more leisurely job search and focus on those places that I want to work and want to live, rather than whoever is willing to pay me. In a similar vein, if my boss changes to someone I can’t stand, I would love to just be able to walk off rather than sticking it out because I need to pay the bills.

    1. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      That’s a great point about schooling – not everything can be taught/learned on your own, and even if it is you still can’t legally become a doctor/lawyer/etc without those diplomas backing up your skills. For a bunch of other professions though, it’s most certainly do-able. Especially those creative fields and/or online stuff.

  17. Yana February 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I want a great amount of money for security, freedom and insurance (of having it). I don’t want money to be a motivation for my actions or the way I live my life. I don’t want to be manipulated by lack, or by those who would control me because of the weak spot of financial insufficiency.

  18. Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I want money because living comfortably in my standards cost money. I work for the money to support myself and my family. I am not going to make things harder by taking a different job that I might love. The grass is always greener on the other side right?

  19. Nick @ ayoungpro.com February 21, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    I want money to give my child opportunities to see and learn new things (travel and schooling).

  20. Melinda Gonzalez February 21, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I have been really poor, and also pretty well off (although never rich by US standards). And the honest truth is, money will never give you a sense of security no matter how much you have. Either You trust the universe/God/whatever will always provide, or you don’t. If you have a million dollars but are insecure you will still worry.

    My greatest memories were when I had less money. Sometimes living on the edge makes you feel more alive and appreciative than anything money could buy.

    Having said that, the main reason I would want money would be to travel. However, there are many people and experiences right here in my neighborhood, I don’t have to travel to find them.

    Having said that, I don’t think it is wrong in any way to strive for money. If that is where you are at life, that is perfectly fine.

  21. J. Money February 21, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Sometimes I try and figure out why I was the happiest (money-wise) when I got a raise from $30k/year to $45k a year :) Now at over $100k a year it’s awesome, and I’m incredibly blessed and thankful for it, but the % of happiness hasn’t really climbed along with it which is weird… Maybe cuz I work too much to stop and enjoy it more, haha… or perhaps I invest it all and thus never really *see* any of it? I’m sure my future self will thank me though ;)

  22. Bryan February 21, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    This post is so good, it should be shouted from the rooftops of every city/town in the world! I sometimes ask myself the same question. It’s like that person who dreams of having a million dollars and then when they get it–their like, so what do I do now? I think we use money as an excuse to live the life we truly want. I think people overestimate the power that having money has. If you have a place to sleep, food to eat and a shirt on your back, you my friend have already made it!

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 21, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      Bryan, thanks so much. This is exactly how I feel. When you really boil down what makes you comfortable and what you need, it’s not really that much. Traveling all over the world out of a backpack, you learn how little is really a necessity and how much is actually just status.

  23. nGneer February 21, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    I don’t like this post because it’s pretty much written to make people who want to have money for whatever reason superficial or not feel bad about wanting to have it. I’m a hard working person in general and I don’t like to slack. I feel like this post is promoting settling for less.

    Why do I want money? I grew up in a war torn country and lived in a refugee camp for 3 years. When my parents moved to this country they busted their a$$es to make sure that we had everything we needed and more. They paid for an education for both me and my sister and helped us out financially with everything we needed until we were out on our own. They made sacrifices for us, and I want money so that I am able to provide the same or better opportunities for my children. I also want money so that if in the event my parents or in-laws need financial help, I am able to provide it.

    I have a good education, a job I’m very happy with and I’m still able to do all the things that I want to do. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have more money even if you don’t have a specific reason.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

      Very very good outlook too – I like that… At the end of the day whatever motivates you to go out and rock it is a-okay in my books! Thanks for sharing your side of this :)

  24. Jacob @ iheartbudgets February 21, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    More money = Less Time working for me. Less time workng = more time enjoying family. That’s pretty much it. Right now, I’m working 3 jobs to keep up, and I don’t mind right now, but I can’t sustain this pace forever. so I want to work toward a place where I’m completely debt-free (including owning my house outright). Financial freedom means I can choose what I want to do.

    But, if I had a cool million? Ferarri.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Haha… At least you KNOW that it’s all a phase too – that’s where a lot of people get stuck. Thinking that it’ll “be this way” forever. It rarely is, for both the good and the bad. And I share your exact same mindset – hustle our asses off now and reap the rewards for years and years to come! Gotta work hard while we’re young and nubile ;)

  25. stephanie February 22, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    Zach-what a powerful blog! I can’t answer because after reading your article the 1st time, I went back and read it again, slowly.

    I read people’s comments and I still don’t have a response. So, instead of passing on the blog today, I’ve decided that I need to dedicate some time to this. Really think about it, and see what my answer(s) is (are).

    So I’m just saying thanks, for making me think about something, and for giving myself the gift of my time to really ponder.

    1. Zach @ The True Generalist February 22, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Steph, I’m glad my words could help inspire you to think on something you might not have considered before. I love it when people take a step back and really examine the reasons they do what they do. It’s so important in creating the life you WANT to be living. :-)

  26. Jose February 22, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    I want to say that the reason I want money is to stop working. the reality is that I’m ADHD and I can’t sit still for 5 minutes (it drives my wife nuts). So I will always be working. So here is why I really want money. I would like to work doing something “I WANT TO DO” and not something “I HAVE TO DO”. I hope that makes sense,

    1. J. Money February 23, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Yup! Exactly. I have A.D.H.D. too (without being on meds – that intensifies things! Haha…) and I agree it’s all about changing the use of time towards something that excites you and you’re passionate about over stuff you “have to do” for money. We’ll all reach that point at some time, but those who hustle hard now will be chilling there quicker ;)

  27. Nick February 22, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Sadly I want money so I can have fun for the rest of my life. Mostly pranks – like hiring that graffiti artist – Edgar Mueller – who paints pictures that look 3d, like sink holes in streets and stuff – to paint the outside of my office door to look like the door’s open and then watch people walk into it all day…

    So yeah – I have a lot of reasons I would want money. But definitely in the top ten is so I can laugh all day at self-created silliness…

  28. Vincci February 23, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    Good simple question. I would have to say right now it would be to live comfortably and not worry about expenses and do things I enjoy and love. But I would still probably go to work as well : )

  29. Sarah Park February 23, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    We all have different reasons why we want to have money. I agree with the security reason, not just for myself but for my whole family. I want them to enjoy their life while they are young.

  30. Tahnya Kristina February 23, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    I want money so that I can travel. I save for other things too but my mad money always goes towards travel, especially this time of the year when I start to get cabin fever.

    1. J. Money February 23, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      We’ll have to keep on finding you some more writing gigs then, eh? :)

  31. GaJef February 27, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    I definitely need money so we can buy a house, go on vacations, pay off student debt and just have enough for extracurricular activities. I never really had the opportunity to make lots of dinero; hubby and I are hoping we can do so now with our new company. After switching careers and not working for two years and a half, I was able to find my first job. The pay was so-so but it was better than making zero dollars. Unfortunately, I felt the job was damaging my confidence and I just didn’t feel comfortable there anymore. I decided to give my two weeks notice and interestingly enough, bosslady decided to tell me not to return one week and a half in.

    We wish the money would come quick enough but it does take time. We probably will break even in the next few years.

  32. Mario March 8, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    I’m concerned with the downside risk. I’m less focused on what I would be able to do once I have money, and more focused on what I’m currently unable to because I don’t. There is no one thing I want to do with the money I hope to save; but plenty I know I won’t be able to do without it.

  33. J. Money March 8, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    Doesn’t that depress you more? Haha… there’s a LOT of stuff you can’t do with less money!