Here are some thoughts from Morgan Housel on money and the things it cannot buy.
Scottish proverb: Be happy while you are living, for you are a long time dead. - Morgan Housel
There are 13 divorces among the 10 richest men in the world. Seven of the top ten have been divorced at least once.
Correlation isn’t causation, and that sample size is tiny. But a statistic that is so much worse than the national average, on a topic so fundamental to happiness, among a group whose lives are envied by so many, is interesting, isn’t it?
There are a million ways to get rich, most of which involve exploiting specific niches and one-off opportunities, to say nothing of luck. Universal rules about how to get rich are hard to come by.
But losing money, or losing happiness when you have money, or becoming a slave to your money – those stories tend to have common denominators. They are so common you can call them laws.
Measuring wealth is easy. You just count it up. Measuring some of the downsides of wealth is so much harder and more nuanced. They can be so nuanced and hard to measure that many people won’t even believe they exist. A downside to wealth? How could that possibly be?
Let me propose that the absurdity of talking about the downside of wealth is part of why wealth doesn’t tend to make people as happy as they thought it would.
When the benefits of money are so obvious but the downsides are so subtle, the downsides you didn’t anticipate can be more jarring than the benefits you expected.
I want more money, of course. Almost everyone does, albeit for different reasons.
This is not an anti-wealth list – just a collection of subtle downsides that are easy to ignore, and so common you may as well call them the only true laws of getting rich.
1. Most of what makes you happy in life has nothing to do with money, and realizing that once you have money can be a painful admission.
Will Smith wrote in his biography that when he was poor and depressed, he could dream about a future when he had more money, and that money making his problems go away.
Once he was rich, that optimism was gone.
He had all the money he could ever need and he was still depressed, his life was still filled with problems.
Rick Rubin once echoed something similar:
It’s hard to get really depressed until your dreams come true. Once your dreams come true and you realize you feel the same way you did before then you get a feeling of hopelessness.
Happiness is complicated, but if you simplify it into things like a loving family, health, friendship, eight hours of sleep, well-balanced children, and being part of something bigger than yourself, you realize how limited money’s role can be. It’s not that it has no role; just smaller than you may have assumed.
Think of it this way: Would you rather make $100,000 a year with a spouse who loves you, children who admire you, good friends, good health, and a clear conscience, or make $1,000,000 and have none of those things? It’s so obvious.
Of course you can be poor and miserable or rich and happy. But only the rich are aware of how tenuous that relationship can be. Gaining money probably didn’t fix your marriage, it didn’t make your friends like you more, it didn’t make you more fulfilled. So what used to be comforting optimism about what money could do for you is replaced by the stark reality of what it can’t.
Sometimes the dream is what feels good, and once you’ve hit it the dream is gone and you actually become depressed. Malcolm Forbes: By the time we’ve made it, we’ve had it.
2. What you think is admiration of your success may actually be envy.
The rapper Drake once said, “People like you more when you are working towards something, not when you have it.”
It can be hard to tell when that transition takes place, and it’s common for a rich person to think they are being admired when they are actually envied.
Author Robert Greene once wrote:
Never be so foolish as to believe that you are stirring up admiration by flaunting the qualities that raise you above others. By making others aware of their inferior position, you are only stirring up unhappy admiration, or envy, that will gnaw away at them until they undermine you in ways you cannot foresee.
This is especially true when what made you rich was some form of advertising your success in a way that made others want to help and support you. When admiration turns to envy, that support dwindles, and people’s tolerance for your errors shrinks. If a no-name journalist wrote a book obliquely defending Sam Bankman-Fried, no one would care – they may have actually congratulated the author. But since Michael Lewis did, the pitchforks came out.
Thoreau said, “Envy is the tax which all distinctions must pay.”