This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and
works as a financial adviser retired at 34. He is married, has three kids. Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.
Steve Jobs died October 5, 2011. He was one of the richest people in the world, with an estimated worth of $7 billion. Just to get an idea of how much money that is, at current gold prices ($1645US/oz), it would be roughly equivalent to 120 (metric) tonnes of gold. Was his life better for all that money? Did it change him? Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, based on over 40 personal interviews. Yesterday, just before the book launch, CBS did a 60 minutes report, interviewing Isaacson.
Steve Jobs said, “I did not want to live that nutso lavish lifestyle that so many people do when they get rich.” He lived in a regular house on a regular street in Palo Alto. His kids could walk, go to neighbours houses. They had no live-in help or entourage. Steve Jobs was not materialistic. That may be a trait he learned from Buddhism.
When Apple Computer Inc. went public in the early 1980s, over 100 people became millionaires. But money affects different people in different ways. Steve Jobs felt that some people tried to play the part, started acting rich. They would buy a Rolls Royce, a huge home, their wives would get plastic surgery; he sums it up by saying they turned into “bizarro people.” For his part, he made a promise to himself: “I’m not going to let this money ruin my life.” You can watch the entire “money” segment here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385676n (0:01:53).
I personally don’t believe that money changes people. Money allows people the freedom to express, without inhibition, who they really are. I was biking through my neighbourhood with my son, and we rode past the million-dollar houses that back onto the (man-made) lake. In front of one of the houses was a Rolls Royce. Granted, it was old and painted an unattractive brown. But I hesitate to conclude that the people living in the house are “bizarro people.” On the other hand, I know people who don’t have money, and are bizarre. As an example, one would have to be a little bizarre (and poor) to help organize Occupy Calgary.
Money gives a person more opportunity to express their true nature. Each of us, whether or not we acknowledge it, has positive and negative tendencies. I don’t worry that money will ruin me for two reasons. One, I never plan to have a great fortune, almost certainly less than a million or two. Second, and more importantly, I already know the type of person I want to be. I don’t feel that I’m more (or less) special than any other human being on this earth, and I don’t have any more (or less) right to enjoy my life. I also know that I enjoy life most when I’m working at something meaningful with people whom I admire. None of that requires obscene amounts of money.
What would you buy or do more of, if you had unlimited riches? How would you behave differently, if prices didn’t matter?