Thinking a Lot About Money

I think a lot about money. I keep a detailed Excel spreadsheet listing all my assets and current values. I wish I didn’t. But I do. I hope you don’t, Vera. But there’s a good chance you will think a lot about money, too.

NYU professor Scott Galloway made this observation about himself last week:

I think a lot about money. I realize how awful that sounds. When I didn’t have much of it, I didn’t track it. And even now, when I know my portfolio has been beaten up, I don’t check my brokerage accounts for a few days, as I don’t want to get bummed out and know that (most of the time) they’ll recover. Like most things in life, your gains and losses in the market are never as good or bad as they seem. I’d much rather work in private equity or venture capital than a hedge fund, as having a scorecard every day is just plain stressful.

Wealthy people claim they don’t think much about money. That’s bullshit; they are obsessed with money. The notion that rich people don’t think about money is an attempt to dampen resentment (e.g., revolution) from the 3.5B people who have fewer assets than the wealthiest 12 individuals. What, like, rich people got there because they are just so benign and talented, it just happened (oops, I’m rich)? People who tell you to follow your passion are already rich. They have doggedly pursued a path and have been obsessed with success for a long time. They want to sound inspirational and give you a sound bite, because the truth that success requires 60-80-hr weeks for several decades doesn’t get applause in graduation speeches.

Every wealthy person I’ve known measures their net worth in frightening detail, and often. You have to stay nimble, or you stand to lose a lot. We live in a capitalist society, and the amount of money you have is a forward-looking indicator of the effectiveness your healthcare, the comfort of your home, the harmony of your marriage, and the quality of your children’s education.

I wish it weren’t so. But it is.

I wish there were ways to keep such precise account of other more valuable things. Perhaps there is, but I can’t bring myself to create a spreadsheet with all the names of people who matter to me and try to assign a number to their relative worth.

They say money can’t buy happiness but no one really believes that. Well, perhaps some people do. But most don’t.

I’d like to think money can’t buy happiness, but I’d rather not find out what being poor is like.

I’m certainly not wealthy; there are a lot of people in the world whose spreadsheets would make mine look pathetically meager. But I have far more than I need. Most people don’t. I know that.

Sometimes, I wish I had more. Sometimes, I feel guilty about what I have. Sometimes, I feel secure. Sometimes, I feel vulnerable and worry.

But most of the time, I just wish I didn’t think so much about money. And I wish everyone had enough. And no one thought so much about it.

But that isn’t going to happen. And so I’ll think too much. And cede more power to money than it should ever have.

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