Tackling the hidden dichotomy of adulthood: Money is Everything Vs Money is not Everything

money map

Recently I was having a conversation with my friend and we touched on this sticky topic: Is money everything or money is not everything? We got into an interesting debate, and clearly, neither one of us were willing to back down from our viewpoints. It got me thinking, how much do I know about this topic? How much do I understand? Why haven’t I spend sufficient time pondering about this? What is my view on this? And so I spent 2 weeks talking to friends, reflecting upon my past experiences, and doing a little research on my own.

Here are my findings.


I’m neither a subject matter expert on economics nor Nobel Peace Prize laureate, these are my opinions based on my observations, research, and general experience. It is also meant as a satirical, opinionated, and critical piece trying to promote self reflection and discussions.

Arguments supporting ‘Money is Everything’

1. If you have no money, how are you going to do anything?

cash rules everything

The first and perhaps the most powerful statement of all time. Dished out to shut out money haters. One could argue all day and never win because we simply need money. We need money to buy food and water for survival. We need money for transportation. We need money to buy clothes. We need money to buy a home for shelter. We need money to buy a phone for communication (or the latest Apple X or Samsung Note X). We need money to do stuffs. If we have no money, we simply cannot survive.

2. Money makes the world go round.

Currency is the basis for trade, used as a medium of exchange for goods and services. The common denominator of most trades uses money as currency. Try explaining that we exchange food using money to a 2 year old kid or an alien who just arrived on earth is just pure garbage.

But that is the world we live in. This goes deep into STEM disciplines, but for the layman, let’s just accept the fact that everything in life requires money.

everything is money

3. If I have $X, I’m will be/can __________

If I have $X, I’m will be happy.

If I have $X, I’m will not worry.

If I have $X, I can travel around the world.

If I have $X, I can visit michelin star restaurants.

If I have $X, I can buy my dream car(s)/ house(s)/ watch(es)/ iPhone(s)…

You get the idea.

People here are purely in pursuit of hedonistic pleasures, which quickly turn into a never ending treadmill where one is constantly seeking the next fix.

Kind of how Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) describes himself in Wolf of Wall Street.

It also grinds my gears that when people say if they have $X, they will be able to invest the money, which in turn generates even more money. I’m no expert in investment, but I do know there’s no investment that is risk free. Statistically saying, even if the risk rate is 0.0000001%, you still can lose money, right? But the unwillingness to forego this argument is madness. Why? Because when you have no money (i.e. currency, or resources), what you have is time. If you have a keen mind to learn and better yourself (i.e. spending your time wisely, see what I did there?), one day you may well earn enough kah-ching to do the things you want.

Arguments supporting ‘Money is not Everything’

1. Money is the root of all evil

Because money makes people do really mean things, like war. Lives are lost. Once you lose your life, you can’t really get it back anymore. Therefore best not to let money run your life.

2. Some things in life are priceless

Like altruism, which is defined as ‟a mental state that seeks to accomplish the welfare of others.”

A truly altruistic deed must not be motivated by the desire to gain some personal benefit, either in the short or long term, or by the wish to be praised or to receive a token of gratitude, or by the fear of being criticized should we not come to the help of others. An action is not considered altruistic if the sole aim of our behavior is to ease the personal distress that we feel when faced with the suffering of another.

In short: You can’t really buy altruism.

Like air. The air we are breathing can’t really be brought with money. It’s just free.

air is free

Like meaning of life. Most of us aren’t born with an end goal. We do not know why we exist on earth. We don’t know what are are meant to be or do. Even with all the money on earth, you cannot buy the meaning of your own life.

You create it.

Like the genuine look your partner or children gives you can’t really be brought with money. You simply just can’t pay someone $1million to love you genuinely.

500 days of love

3. Genuine relationships can’t be bought with money

Relationships requires a lot work to nature. It takes a cumulative series of goodwills and compromises to achieve the state of genuine mutual connection. Similarly, you just can’t pay someone $1million to the friendship or love.

money can buy love


At the end of the day, like everything else in life, balance and moderation is key. Even if you have acquired $X, you won’t be truly happy if you don’t have genuine relationships. On the flip side, even if you purely undergo altruistic pursuits, you still need money to survive. Different phases of our lives requires us to pursue each notion more than the other, what’s important is to bring ourselves back when we get carried away.

Header photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

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