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How Much More Money Do You Want?

How Much More Money Do You Want?

Most of us, if we are honest, would say we want more money. We may not all want it handed to us on a plate, we might be willing to earn it. Neither will we be identical in the amount of extra money we would like – for some a little bit more is all we need to achieve what we want, whether that is to provide for our family or to purchase a new DVD. For others who have been eyeing up Ferraris in the window of their local dealership, ‘more’ might mean a significant amount.

In the Bible, the love of money is deemed to be the root of all kinds of evil. The verse in the book of Timothy goes on to say that people craving it have ‘pierced themselves with many sorrows’. Note that it is not saying that money per se is bad or even having it but being driven by money is the problem. On the other hand, they say that ‘money makes the world go round’ and certainly without enough of it in this day and age we are a bit stuffed. So I’m not against having money or wanting a bit more – I’d happily work with extra! However, I am becoming conscious that we live in an age where we all want lots more of it. How much more do we want though?

In this age of capitalism we are bombarded from every side with messages suggesting we should aspire to be wealthier. We’re constantly getting messages that we deserve it, it’s our right etc. What follows are three thoughts we ought to bear in mind though as we chase riches.

Having more money does not make us happier.

Yes, we will be able to buy more things that we might have had our acquisitive eyes on, but it does not being us greater happiness in the long run. Studies in the journal Motivation and Emotion (July 2013), referenced by George Monbiot in the Guardian, suggest that as our level of materialism rises, our health and wellbeing reduces. This includes the quality of our relationships, our susceptibility to mental health issues and our sense of purpose. These studies covered US and Icelandic adults (the latter during the financial meltdown that occurred there) across a variety of timescales and one of the conclusions they came to was that becoming less materialistic equated to being happier.

There is another study (from Psychological Science) that exposed people to images and words associated with luxury possessions and consumerism generally. There is a noticeable rise, albeit temporary, in their material aspirations but also in negative things such as their anxiety and depression levels. Even the Journal of Consumer Research found a relationship between materialism and loneliness, going in both directions.

Thinking about money has a corrosive effect.

Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota carried out studies on people who had been primed to think about money (quoted in Ian Robertson’s ‘The Winner Effect’). Compared to a control group, they became significantly less generous towards other people. Maybe this is not a huge leap of understanding. Maybe more concerning though were her other findings; the money-primed bunch became less helpful towards others as well and in fact were less interested in interacting in any way with people around them. The suggestion is that money leads to self-sufficiency which makes us focus more on our personal goals, becoming less altruistic in the process.

Whatever you believe lies at the heart of the ills our society faces, regardless of how you think the problems can be solved, we would all agree that looking out for others is part of what keeps our communities strong (however broad you choose to define ‘community’, from household to nation), which is where we will always be looking to get our support. Becoming people who only think of our own monetary gain will not always have the trickle down, or sideways, effect that people hope for.

Prospects of more money do not help us perform.

In the late 1950s, Frederick Herzberg said that offering more money did not motivate people to work harder or better. Instead he suggested that a lack of money demotivated them. Daniel Pink, in his book ‘Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us’, reiterates this point. He does accept that for very simple tasks it might work but for more complex jobs, the prospect of money does not make us more motivated. As well as motivation though, people offered more money will usually perform worse. This is also seen in a study detailed in The Winner Effect where an increase in prize money makes participants lose more often. Robertson also talks about Picasso’s son Paulo as an example of someone who always knew he would inherit enough money to be comfortably off and so was never motivated to make anything of himself. Inheriting lots of money will not drive us to success.


Money is great. Wanting money is fine. Aspiring to earn more is okay. We just need to remember the dangers inherent in money. Wanting enough to ‘take money off the table’ as Pink puts it is normal.

None of us wants to have to constantly worry about money; we don’t want it to be an issue. Having ‘sufficient’ is surely not an unreasonable goal? Maybe the problem comes as we start to define how much is enough. I know of some amazing people who have calculated what they need and anything extra is automatically given away. This is rare though and especially in a culture where we are constantly bombarded by marketing that suggests we need more stuff, or images of people with more than us that tempt us to emulate them. Thinking, ‘I have less than him so I obviously don’t have enough’ is a slippery slope for any of us who want to be happy and motivated, performing well in a sociable atmosphere. ‘Maybe we just need to alter our sights accordingly and recalculate how much will be enough’.