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. Last year was challenging. I lost my Mom after a six-month illness and struggled with sadness, loss and emptiness due to her passing. One-year later, I still feel her presence in my life every day.

As the new year begins 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 amassed a certain degree of financial success, yet she was so much more than her net worth. Actually, I struggle to separate my worth from my net worth!

What Does Success Mean to You?

Look, I understand we all espouse a variety of success measures. Yet, I remind myself to consider all of my qualities, not just those related to money and financial matters. I’m certain that I’m not the only one pondering whether money is the only measure of success.

Here are a few of my 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. (Listen to my recent podcast appearance on Jim Blasingame’s Small Business Advocate show on this topic.)
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Practicing persistent hard work
  • Working out and physical fitness
  • Continuing to learn 
  • Enjoying design, art, and creativity

I’m sure you have your own list.

But do you overweight financial success? 

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. 

Is money the only measure of success?

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.

On occasion it’s useful to look inside ourselves.

Do you spend time in self reflection?

Do you try to live in accord with your personal values? For example, which is more important; planning a fun day with your family at a local park or event or spending that day working to earn extra income?

There’s no correct answer. This is a decision I struggle with all of the time.

I love to work and I value earning extra money. Yet, spending time with my family is the most important activity for me. But, sometimes my actions don’t match up with my values.

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

I’m certain that this balancing act confronts most adults. In fact, just a few minutes ago I found an email in my inbox from Darren Rowse of Problogger fame offering a new book with the title Blog Wise: How to do More with Less. Although tempted to purchase, I realized there really is no secret message for productivity and success.

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.

Yet, how much is enough?

Is the marginal time spent earning a few extra bucks more important than a precious afternoon with my family? Personally, after a certain level of income is reached, the answer is; the best use of my time is to spend the time with my family!

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.

Get Wealthy by Giving – A Guide to True Contentment

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 Donald Trump 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.

Learn to get rid of financial worries, so you have more time for what really matters.

 How do you measure success? Do you value money over other factors?

Updated; January 5, 2019

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