The Money Game

3 min read

The “money game” is a game that everyone on Earth has to play. As soon as you’re born, you become a participant.

The premise of the game is simple: You need certain stuff to live. That stuff costs money. You have to acquire money to pay for that stuff. The traditional route to acquiring money is through actively doing work that someone else finds valuable and is willing to pay you for. Thus, you trade your time and effort for money. That’s the game.

There are other games in life, though. Ones that are optional, but more rewarding to play.

The skill-building game is one where you develop new skills through persistence and effort. The contribution game is one where you use those skills to improve the lives of others. The creation game is one where you use those skills to make new things that don’t currently exist. The social game is one where you form connections with other people and spend time around those people. These are all worth playing. 

The only problem is that the money game often consumes so much time and energy that it gets in the way of these other games. 

Fortunately, there is an end point to the money game, but no end point to the other games.

The end point of the money game is the point at which you no longer have to spend most of your time accumulating money to pay for the stuff you need. You accomplish this through buying more assets and less stuff. As you do this over time, your savings begin to increase and your assets begin to pay for more of your expenses.

This could mean saving up 25 times your annual expenses and achieving financial independence or it could mean saving up just enough (10 – 15 times annual expenses) so that you can pursue a flexible work situation.

And once you reach this end point, you no longer have to keep playing the money game. Continuing to increase your net worth no longer leads to higher life satisfaction.

Luckily, the same isn’t true for the other games. No matter how many skills you acquire, things you build, contributions you make, or relationships your form, there is never a point at which you’ll say “OK, that’s enough, these game aren’t bringing me joy anymore.”

You can play these games indefinitely and keep receiving newfound joy and meaning.

The mistake many people make is in thinking that reaching the end point of the money game will bring them permanent happiness and joy. It won’t. It simply gives you more time to play the other, more important games.

In fact, once you reach a certain point, it becomes impossible to keep playing the money game. Money simply begins to lose its importance. 

You might be thinking,

That can’t be true. Look at multi-millionaires and billionaires. They just keep chasing a higher and higher net worth for their entire life. They never stop playing the money game.

I would argue that they’re actually playing a different game. They’re playing the business-building game, which is just a form of the creation game. Or they’re playing the contribution game by doing work that improve the lives of others. I can’t imagine that increasing their net worth from $109 million to $110 million actually leads to any change in their happiness levels. The real satisfaction comes from seeing the fruits of their labor.

I have noticed the same trend among personal finance bloggers who have achieved financial independence. They often start podcasts, build coaching businesses, or find other ways to pick up new skills and contribute to others. Since they no longer have to play the money game, they spend their time playing the more important games.

Oddly, the money game is both the least and most important game to play. It’s only important to reach the end of it so that you can play the other games more effectively. Keep that in mind whether you’re financially independent or just starting on your journey.

My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out.

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3 Replies to “The Money Game”

  1. It truly is a money game. I’m not sure when our adult lives didn’t center around it. Our household has degrees in the engineering and medical fields and we used to do well. The last 10 yrs haven’t been kind and we are surviving but not saving. We did want to plan for some kind of retirement, though. We knew we had to do something.
    We recently acquired rental properties at age 50 (by cashing in a 401k and taking on another loan). However, I don’t think we’ll make the mistake of reaching the end game and thinking it will bring us happiness. If we ever reach FI, it will certainly bring relief. And maybe I can get some rest.

  2. The multi-millionaires / billionaires aren’t playing the money game then why do they keep on supporting politicians who will give them massive tax cuts?

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