Where Intelligence Meets News Analysis.

The Money Scoreboard

Esquire Magazine had an interesting piece a few weeks ago about the income of four men in the United States spanning distinct income groups. It was a candid lesson in sociology, especially in such socioeconomic climate as we have today. Whatever the demerits of his inflammatory rhetoric, according to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the past 50 years. A poignant point as one begins to ponder a particularly salient question in the piece: How much money do you think you’d need to have the life you want?

It is a question I have considered as well, but can’t readily recall if I’ve ever attached a figure to such query. Somehow in the abstractness of it all, I think I alight on a number only to flee from it once I think of all the possible future wants and needs an undeterminable future self could possibly demand.

But I do think one inevitably reaches a point of diminishing returns, where no matter the amount of wealth, the tag on the wealth becomes nothing but that…a tag. In the Esquire piece, Tim Nguyen, the 35 year-old who makes a million dollars a year and lives in a million dollar house with no mortgage, puts it quite poetically: There’s a certain amount of mon­ey you need to live the life you want. Beyond that, it’s really a game, and money is the scoreboard.

But then, Yakov Villasmil, the 41 year-old real estate agent who makes $250,000 a year interjects an unforgettable aspect of human behavior into the equation. In being candid with the inherent dilemma we all face even when decisively at our best selves, he demonstrates how often there is no longer there when we get there—wherever there is. In his futuristic scenario, a yearly income of $600,000 would suffice—but then, he is quick to point out how when he gets there, he would want to buy a jet.

It’s classic, human wants are insatiable. And a successful achievement of a want invariably creates a series of needs and wants which couldn’t have occurred at a lower rung in the ladder. I don’t care for caviar because I have never tasted caviar and its many assortments. But the moment I begin to move in circles where caviar is a regular feature, whether I wish to admit it or not, subconsciously, my taste buds undergo a shift and I begin to perceive as needs those things which come with a caviar lifestyle. Michael Greene though, the concierge in Brooklyn who makes $53,000 a year and prides himself on not being greedy and would be contented with $200 – $250,000 a year, might handily disagree with me on this thought.

But just like power, money matters not only for the access we are able to buy ourselves but the positive influence we are able to have with it on the lives of others. From this standpoint, it becomes understandable why Mr. Nguyen yearly gives out 6 percent of his earning to charity, and many of the world’s wealthiest families are signing up for The Giving Pledge instituted by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Ultimately, it is this simple pleasure that makes the game worth playing and the score fun and worth keeping. It is the there that keeps on giving.

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