Why having more money won’t simplify your life

Photo courtesy of Barret Anspach

 

You may think that making more money will solve some of your problems. And you’re right. That’s certainly what I’ve found in my life.

But when that happened, I found that new problems were created, greater in number than were solved.

Yes or no

When you have little money, questions of purchases tend to come down to a “yes or no” criteria. You probably pick out an inexpensive version (if not the most inexpensive version) of whatever it is you’re looking for and then ask yourself one single question: Can I afford it at all?

  • “Can I afford a new TV…at all?”
  • “Can I afford to buy a car…at all?
  • “Can I afford _________…at all?” (You know what you’re thinking of.)
  • “Can I afford to go to Europe…at all?”

If you can, you do. If you can’t, you don’t. Easy.

The Peril of Yes

But when you have more money to work with (either by making more, spending less, or just having fewer expenses and less debt) it sounds like the question should be easier. Can you afford it at all? Well, yes you can.

Problem is that the single question is replaced by a few different questions.

Take the specific example of the quintessential trip to Europe (European readers, fly somewhere else for this example!). Yes, you now can afford to fly to Europe. So now the new questions are:

  • “How long do I go to Europe?”
  • “Do I stay in hostels or hotels?”
  • “Do I buy a train pass or fly (or drive) between places?”
  • “Do I eat at restaurants or shop at grocery stores?”
  • Etc.

And each question, in turn, creates more questions:

  • “Do I eat at restaurants or shop at grocery stores?”
    • “How often do I eat at restaurants?”
    • “Which restaurants can I afford?”
    • “Do I go to nicer ones less frequently, or cheaper ones more frequently?”
    • “Do I want to conserve my money and shop at grocery stores anyway?
    • Etc…

And that’s just one set of sub-questions. See how much simpler the decision was when you had less money? Like the brooms of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, when you think you’ve solved one problem, more appear.

They should totally make a cartoon out of this story.

They should totally make a cartoon out of this.

But Europe is an aspirational trip. Closer to home, you’ll find that this question proliferation happens everywhere. It happens with where you live (how close to the city?), what type of dwelling you live in (what size place? apartment or house?), how you fill your dwelling (new furniture or Craigslist?) how you get around (what kind of car?), etc.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “yeah, I wish I had that problem.” And I do hope you do have this problem, just so you can understand that it actually is one. You replace the stress of wondering whether you can afford something, with the stress of figuring out all the parameters of what you can actually afford.

But don’t let that stop you

I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to make more money. I look back on my first trip to England, agonizing over whether I could afford a £5 order of fish and chips and I really don’t miss those days. (Those of you who don’t agonize might have the reverse problem, coming home with a credit card full of £5 fish and chips orders, which is worse.) It’s just more complex on the other side. And I suspect that it only gets more so.

There are many great aspects of having more money. But simplicity is not one of them.

Have fun in Europe.

But enough about me. Have you found that having more money has made things more complex for you?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on August 12, 2013