Insights

The Never-ending Pursuit of Money

What would it be like to be ultra-wealthy? Would it mean homes in Hawaii and Paris? Do you envision sailing a luxury yacht across the Mediterranean? What about chartering a trip to space? While it’s fun to imagine, this isn’t the reality for most of us. 

You might have heard the term “Ultra High Net Worth” (UHNW) before. It’s a term for those who have north of $30 million in net worth. There are currently 142,990 UHNW individuals in North America1 out of 369 million in total2. That’s less than one-tenth of 1% (.03% to be exact). 

There simply aren’t that many people flying private, sitting front row at sporting events, or buying private islands…contrary to what we see on TV or in social media. So why do we sometimes feel the desire for more, even though we’re doing just fine financially?

The mindset of accumulating wealth is deeply ingrained in most of our psyches. It’s important in the sense that we all have goals and want to retire comfortably, but it can be dangerous in its extremes. Let’s take a moment to understand some of the psychology behind why this happens:

  • Social Conditioning: From a young age, we’re bombarded with messages that equate success with material wealth. This fosters a mindset where financial achievement is seen as the ultimate marker of success.
  • Comparison Culture: Social media and the digital age have amplified our exposure to the lives of the affluent, often presenting a skewed reality that glamorizes wealth and luxury. This constant comparison feeds into the desire for more.
  • Economic Insecurity: For some, the pursuit of wealth stems from a place of economic insecurity during their upbringing. This drive, while initially motivated by a quest for stability, can evolve into an endless chase for more.
  • The Illusion of Happiness: There’s a widespread misconception that more money directly correlates with more happiness. This can lead people to prioritize wealth accumulation, often at the expense of other aspects of well-being.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Witnessing peers or counterparts achieve financial milestones can trigger a sense of FOMO, propelling the urge to amass wealth in order not to feel left behind.
  • Seeking Validation: Accumulating wealth is often viewed as a means of garnering respect, admiration, and validation from others. This external affirmation becomes a driving force, overshadowing intrinsic motivations and self-worth.
  • The Hedonic Treadmill: As people acquire more wealth, their expectations and desires adjust upward. For example, it might have once felt aspirational to sit in first class, but having experienced that many times, you set your sights on flying private. 

You’ve probably heard that additional wealth does not equate to increased happiness. It’s so true, but we can all use a reminder from time to time. The same holds true for habits that help us practice contentment. Here are a few to get you started:  

  • Cultivate Gratitude: Regularly acknowledging what you’re thankful for can shift your focus from what’s missing to what’s present.
  • Embrace Simplicity: Simplifying your life can help clarify what truly matters, reducing the noise of material desires and fostering a deeper appreciation for the essentials.
  • Invest in Relationships: Strong connections with family and friends are a cornerstone of happiness. Invest time and energy in nurturing these bonds.
  • Pursue Passion: Engaging in activities that resonate with your interests and values brings intrinsic joy and satisfaction.
  • Give Back: Contributing to the well-being of others through acts of kindness, volunteering, or philanthropy can provide a sense of purpose and happiness.

As we navigate our financial journeys, it’s vital to remember that the true essence of wealth lies in well-being, not in the endless accumulation of money. The moments of connection, the pursuit of passions, and the acts of generosity are what truly enrich our lives. By finding contentment in what we have and who we are, we can escape the never-ending pursuit of money and embrace a life filled with genuine happiness and fulfillment.


Sources: 

1 Imberg, Maya, et al. “World Ultra Wealth Report 2023.” Altrata.Com, 1 Sept. 2023, info.altrata.com/world-ultra-wealth-report-2023-pdf. Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

2 “Population of North America.” Theworldcounts.Com, www.theworldcounts.com/populations/continents/north-america. Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

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