4 min read
I recently listened to an interview between Joe Rogan and Naval Ravikant in which Naval points out that despite being one little human being, Joe is literally connected to the entire universe whether he likes it or not.
To illustrate this, Naval says to imagine that an alien comes along and points at Joe:
Alien: “What’s that?”
Human: “Joe Rogan”
Alien: “What’s Joe Rogan?”
Human: “A human.”
Alien: “What’s a human?”
Human: “A bipedal ape.”
Alien: “What’s an ape?”
Human: “An animal on the earth.”
Alien: “What’s the earth?”
Human: “A planet.”
Alien: “What’s a planet?”
Human: “An object in the Solar System.”
Naval points out that you literally have to provide an explanation of the entire universe just to explain the concept of Joe Rogan. In that sense, Joe is connected to everything in the universe.
For those interested, the quote starts at 1:39:10 in the video below.
In a similar manner, you would have to explain the concept of money at some point if an alien asked you to explain the concept of human happiness.
Alien: “What makes humans happy?”
Human: “According to research, there are three conditions needed for lasting happiness: (1) meaningful relationships, (2) meaningful work, and (3) autonomy.”
Alien: “Do most humans have all three of those things?”
Alien: “Why not?”
Human: “Because most don’t have (3) autonomy, so they don’t have the time and energy to fully pursue (1) meaningful relationships and (2) meaningful work.”
Alien: “Why not?”
Human: “Because most people have to spend a huge chunk of their time at a day job.”
Human: “Because they have to earn money somehow.”
Human: “Because money is the thing that buys water, food, shelter, clothing, and other things that humans need to stay alive.”
In this sense, human happiness is directly connected to money. The two are intertwined, whether we like it or not.
Why Prioritizing Money is Not “Greedy”
When you think of someone who is obsessed with money, you might conjure up an image of a Wall Street banker or perhaps something a bit more animated like Scrooge McDuck:
However, there’s a fine line between money itself being your end goal and money simply being a tool to achieve an end goal.
If you’re only interested in using money as a tool that you can wield to optimize your happiness, then you’re not greedy. You’re savvy.
What Money Can Buy
“There are many things money can buy, but the most valuable of all is freedom. Freedom to do what you want and to work for whom you respect.” – J.L. Collins, The Simple Path to Wealth
Money can buy many things.
It can buy physical possessions like a laptop, a coffee mug, or a book.
It can also buy experiences like dinner with friends, plane tickets, and hotel accommodations.
The most powerful thing money can buy, though, is freedom over your time. You can buy this freedom by accumulating assets.
An asset is anything that tends to increase in value over time or pays you money simply for owning it. Some examples are real estate, stocks, bonds, websites, and businesses.
When you spend one dollar on a material thing, that dollar is gone forever. But when you spend one dollar acquiring an asset, that asset becomes your employee that works endlessly to earn money for you.
Once you acquire enough assets that are generating income, then you no longer need to report to a day job to earn money. That’s freedom.
What Money Cannot Buy
Money can buy freedom over your time, but there are still several things money can’t buy including:
Fitness: No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy fitness. You still have to do the push-ups yourself.
Diet: As Brunello Cucinelli once said, “you cannot pay someone to be on a diet for you.”
Meaningful work: Money might give you the means to quit a shitty day job, but it doesn’t give you the gift of meaningful work. You still have to work to create that yourself.
Meaningful relationships: Money gives you free time, but you still have to choose to use some of that free time to build meaningful relationships with others.
Peace of mind: Money can eliminate financial anxiety and stress, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have peace of mind in every other area of your life. You still have to put in work to be at peace with yourself about your body, your mind, your relationships, and your actions.
Money is like a genie that can grant you the opportunity to improve your life. It won’t do the work for you, though.
You can use money to buy a treadmill, but at the end of the day you’re the one that has to run on it.
Why Money is Everything
Money by itself means nothing. It’s a slip of paper. It’s a number on a screen.
Used correctly, though, money is everything and it has the potential to change your life. It can give you the means to quit a job you hate and pursue a more flexible work situation. It can give you freedom over your time.
What you choose to do with this freedom, though, is up to you.
It’s entirely possible to have freedom over your time, yet find yourself unhealthy, unhappy, and lacking meaningful work, relationships, and peace of mind.
It’s up to you to prioritize your physical and mental health, to build meaningful relationships with others, and to craft a work situation that you enjoy. Nobody can do these things for you, no matter how much money you have.
You should aim to become money savvy purely because it will give you the opportunity to live your ideal life. And if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few helpful resources:
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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