Is money the only measure of success?

Is Money the Only Measure of Success?

Financial Management and Success

During this time of year, I tend to reflect upon my accomplishments and goals. I make note of what I did well and what I need to improve going forward. I frequently think of my parents, their successes and their influence on me. I lost my Mom after a six-month illness and struggled with sadness, loss and emptiness due to her passing. I still feel her presence, and that of my Dad, who passed earlier, in my life every day.

As the new year appproaches and I’m updating our personal portfolio and other investments that I manage, I wonder, “Is Money the Only Measure of Success?” After all, my Mom and Dad amassed a certain degree of financial success, yet she was so much more than her net worth. Occasionally, I struggle to separate my worth from my net worth!

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And as I also get closer to the end, than the beginning of life I ponder, “Why is money the most common way of judging success?”

What Does Success Mean to You?

Look, I understand we all espouse a variety of success measures. Yet, I encourage you to consider all of your qualities, not just those related to money and financial matters. In fact, I meet people frequently who are doing amazing work in activism, social justice, the arts, media and service to the community. I don’t know whether they are wealthy or not. And realistically, I don’t care. Try looking deeper at yourself and others, and allow your self-judgement to broaden and encompass more of what you bring to the world. There’s so much more to you than your net worth. Spend time evaluating whether money is the only measure of success, for you.


Money Doesn’t Equal Success

Here’s a sample list of success traits and values:

  • Giving back and contributing to society
  • Being a good parent, neighbor, and friend
  • Giving to charity, in both formal and informal ways
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Practicing persistent hard work
  • Working out and physical fitness
  • Continuing to learn 
  • Enjoying design, art, and creativity
  • Doing your job well and appreciating the service that you provide to others

I’m sure you have your own list.

But do you overweight financial success? Do you believe that money and success are the ways to happiness?

Do you think money can buy happiness?

Is money the only measure of success for you?

Consider how you define success and ask yourself if it’s helpful. 

Do you think those who earn more are more successful?

Believing that money = self worth is common in western cultures. This belief is difficult to escape. Yet, is it really true?

After earning, saving and investing enough to meet your basic needs, there’s little evidence to suggest that more money equals greater happiness. There are unhappy millionaires along with content and fulfilled lower income workers. In fact, I write about this very topic in secrets of the super rich.

Peter Cohan of Inc. magazine recently wrote in a article that he believes that success is controlling how you spend your time, not how much money you have. Ways to make more money abound, but nobody that I’ve encountered knows how to make more more time. When your time is up, you’re done. No amount of additional wealth will create more time.

Have you set a financial and personal goal, and found that after you reach that goal, you’re not satisfied. It’s the same with money. Imagine you want to amass one million dollars. After reaching that goal, most people raise the bar, and set a higher financial goal.

The same goes for success, maybe you want to reach a specific career goal. After reaching the goal, are you satisfied? Probably not. You’re probably raising the bar to achieve another higher goal, which may also come with a higher salary. Don’t be surprised if upon reaching that goal, financial and career, you don’t feel any more successful

Success is Not Measured by Money

The secret to success is not money. The secret to success is living a life congruent with your own values. The secret to success is defining what is important to you and appreciating what you have.

In a recent article on the website, Hanan Harchol and Rabbi Leora Kaye shared one of the great teachings of the Jewish faith, “Who is rich? Those who rejoice in their own portion.” In other words, if you are content with what you have, then you are wealthy.

Money is not good nor bad, but simply a tool to buy goods and and experiences, and to give to others. Believing that having money makes you successful, is a recipe for unhappiness.

Time is Finite

“Do you want to be the richest person in the graveyard?”

It’s certain that time is finite. Once it’s gone, there is no more. I lost my dad a few years back, and seeing him during the last few years of his life drove this concept home. Couple that with the fact that no one knows how long they will live, and these realities underscore the importance of spending your time fruitfully.

I don’t have the answer to whether money is the only measure of success nor what is the best use of one’s time.

I resolve it by attempting to balance work, leisure, time with family, and time on hobbies.

Bonus; Go Beyond Keeping Up With the Jones’ – Change Your Perception, Change Your Net Worth

Yet, returning to the beginning of this story – while updating our portfolios I began to mentally project some of our annual income and realize that we have enough, and that having more money will not equal greater success, nor happiness.

Is the marginal time spent earning a few extra dollars more important than a precious afternoon spent with your family? Consider what really matters to you, and whether having greater wealth will give your greater happiness.

Yet this question also relates to your age and stage in life. If you’re looking to buy a house, maybe working that second job is really important right now. Or maybe you have a ton of debt and are determined to get it paid off. Then every extra cent earned is important.

Multiple Measures of Success

There are so many ways to measure success, and yes, money may be one of those ways. Yet the pursuit of an answer to, “How do you measure success?” is multifaceted. The happiness research intertwines the importance of finding your purpose in life, having control, and making a contribution.

Does that mean that those who are happy are successful? Happiness is a fleeting emotion. No one is happy all the time.

And realistically, success might not be directly correlated with money or wealth.

Think about the single mom social worker with a few kids. It’s unlikely she’s swimming in extra cash, but she is definitely making a contribution to the betterment of society.  If she helps place a child in a good home, she’s a true success.

What about the community volunteer, donating her time and working for the betterment of society? He’s definitely a success.

The mom who coaches the kids soccer team and the dad who helps with homework each night are successful within the family and helping the greater good.

Is Bill Gates, one of the richest in the U.S., more successful than Mother Theresa?

In a broader sense, every job makes a contribution. And doing one’s job enthusiastically and competently can make you a success in any area. Society needs successful trash collectors, school teachers, accountants and plumbers. When a pipe bursts, you value and appreciate a plumber more than a highly paid company president or wealthy movie actor.

Before you mindlessly dive into your next activity, think about the things you do that make your life successful. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Realize what more money can and can’t do. Money can buy things and experiences, but it can’t buy relationships, time or true contentment.

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up or buy through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally believe is valuable.

Empower Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) compensates Wealth Media, LLC. (“Company”) for new leads. Wealth Media is not an investment client of PCAC.

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