Does money really not matter?

Have you ever noticed that the people who say, “money isn’t the most important thing in life” tend to be billionaires?

I mean, on one hand, the person who has more money than several small countries do probably has a good chance to prioritize other areas of their lives because finances don’t really top the list.

On the other, it’s not like they’re struggling to pay bills or pay rent or buy groceries, like so many people are. And where I would agree that money doesn’t buy happiness, it does buy stability.

It’s a lot easier to be happy when you have stability.


The Weekly Stat

Brainstorm Strategy Group does a massive annual survey of career and education expectations among postsecondary students. The survey asks questions about everything from what they like and don’t like about their programs of study, to what they’re seeking in a first “grown-up” job.

One of the stats that came out of the 2023 study was this: “Good initial salary level” is the top criterion for students when considering their first full-time job opportunity.

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to read this stat.

We’ve pushed “do what you’re passionate about” way too long. Even if you don’t complete that thought with the idea that money will automatically show up if you’re doing work you love, it’s implied. If you love it, people will notice. Be passionate, and people will hire you for big bucks. They’ll hand out promotions like candy.

I mean…they might. But most businesses have to be more strategic about their budgets than that. Raises and promotions have to be requested and negotiated.

Moreover, people are promoted for tonnes of reasons. Maybe they’re easy to manage, or they asked first, or they’re considered likeable. Maybe their promotion has nothing to do with their skill or talent.

As the joke goes, there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes.


The Place of Money

A 2021 study found that happiness is indeed correlated to higher incomes. One of the lead researchers stated, “money is not the secret to happiness, but it can probably help a bit.”

You know what I think the secret is? Time freedom.

I completed a course called The Science of Well-Being, which you can take for free through Coursera. Research generally shows that the happiest people have the most time freedom. They have time to pursue personal interests. They have time to relax with a coffee on Sunday morning.

If you have more money, you likely don’t have to work several jobs to make ends meet. You can pay for courses or lessons to develop personal or professional skills. You can afford child care, and even pay people to do things like your gardening and your cleaning.

They key isn’t salary. It’s figuring out time freedom.


Money Isn’t the Most Important Thing in Life

Have you ever negotiated a job offer or a promotion? It’s a little scary, but you should do it every time. And instead of thinking about strictly money, think about how to maximize your time freedom.

What you can negotiate (besides salary):

  • Paid days off – vacation, personal days, PD days, sick days, you name it.
  • Work hours – wanna spend mornings on the beach with your dog? Negotiate a later start time!
  • Work location – you get a lot of time back if you’re not commuting 4 hours a day.
  • Severance package – ensure you have enough time and money after a layoff to avoid getting stuck taking whatever is available.
  • Health benefits – pay less (or nothing at all!) for prescriptions or services like massage therapy.
  • Retirement funds – is there an RRSP matching option? Pension plan? Your employer can help you save money for later in life.
  • Job title – what you are called now might have an impact on jobs you can be considered for later. Ask for director or associate director instead of manager. Ask for administrator instead of assistant.

And of course, a classic salary negotiation is also an option.

Money isn’t the most important thing in life. But in a world where the cost of living is getting off the charts in some places, it’s still pretty damn important.

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