Day 6 – Money

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – Henry David Thoreau

Are your decisions driven by value or money?

I would have to say, on the whole, I’m driven by value. When I started my first job ever I decided to write down how much money I felt I needed to earn to be happy in life. I would keep this figure in a drawer, and vowed to let it be my compass whenever decisions were at risk of being money biased. This was in 2007, and the figure I wrote down was € 2100 nett per month. This figure was based on a life without kids, but with a partner. Today, of course, kids are a core of our existence, so the figure would need a revision, but not by much, a new assessment comes to € 2400 nett per month. It’s been a wise move. Whenever I felt tempted to trade up free time, independence or anything else I value greatly, in lieu for more money, I’ve refrained. The one time I did trade up for more money, the move was motivated by reasons other than money. I left ISMS to go to PwC, but did so because of major conflict issues with Geert, not for financial reasons. Whenever I’ve negotiated about money, it was to attain that figure, at less time expenditure, meaning work fewer hours, to receive that amount. So any raises I’ve had contributed not to lining my pocket, but the freeing up time. I think that’s a clever move.

There’s a flipside to this coin though. It also means that I’ve compromised on things, to make sure I never went below that figure. I have never fully jumped into what I’d like to be doing for fear of earning less than said amount. So honesty requires me to say that some decisions ARE driven by money. If money were no object, would I be doing what I am doing? Probably not.

Do you constantly think of ways to squeeze costs, or increasing your topline?

Do I constantly think of increasing the topline? No. Definitely not. Squeeze costs, yes. But I am not very good at it. I am great at finding value deals, but rarely manage to save the extra money. I’m quite impulsive. I buy books without constraint. I think if I tallied it all up, I easily spend 1500 euros a year on books. Toys or clothes for Euan: same thing. I impulsively decided I wanted – nay NEEDED – a vegetable patch to be happy. And consequently spent 450 euros to getting myself one. Half my plants died in a freak hailstorm, but it does give me great pleasure, so in hindsight, probably not the worst investment. But it’s not a cost squeezed. I will go to great lengths to economize on water, bulk items etc. But, meh. The online retailer has suckered me in big time.

Do you pursue ideas that are redundant and add to the clutter, just because they are lucrative?

Well, yes. I work for MindBytes, ISMS and do the occasional translation. While some of the projects do really get me excited and passionate, on the whole, they don’t. So I would have to say I do them because they are lucrative, but they add to the clutter in my life. I got excited about EnablingPlay.org, a webcommunity I was going to build for parents of kids with special needs. I have probably spent 6 months worth of working hours (in evenings, nights, weekends, or times I should have been freelancing), to build the website, research its content, build a webstore, write content, optimise SEO etc. because I thought it would be meaningful AND lucrative. But I think perhaps in fairness, I need to say that what drew me through the project is the menial parts that I could use as an excuse not to do other things I should have been doing. I mean, I love fiddling with names, logos, webdesign, web development, etc. so it was fun. But took away a lot of valuable time. Weirdly, I would never want to do those things as a job for others. It’s just fun for myself, like a hobby.

Do you measure your success by the money you earn, or by the value you give?

Probably both. The money you earn can be a sign of respect or testimony of your skills and expertise. Which, to me is success: being expert or competent, more so than others, in a particular field or skill set. But what I really want is to produce valuable things. I would never deliver something substandard, and I consider something a success not by whether I’ve earned loads with it, but by whether I think it was high value/quality and the feedback I receive from others.

Do you charge money for everything you do, even if there can be projects that don’t earn big bucks but can serve the greater good?

Not always, but mostly.

Do you buy stuff frivolously and then throw them away (or not use them) after that?

Yes. Too often. I think I need or want something, but then don’t really ever use it. I could do with a cool-off period before actually purchasing something. Or, a test-run, to see if I really need/want it as much. Examples include: clothes (always), cooking books, kitchen devices, …

When you purchase things, do you think about the impact this purchase has on the environment and world?

Not enough.

Do you consider those who earn less or little money as inferior? 

No. I generally consider them less fortunate. Because luck has everything to do with it. No one picks the gene pool, location, political reality or social circle they are born into. So it’s luck of the draw for a large part. Some people also choose to earn less, which commands respect. Conversely, though, I do at times feel inferior when faced with people with considerably more wealth than me. Which is stupid.

Are you intimidated by or jealous of other people’s wealth (or display thereof)?

See above. Intimidated yes. And I genuinely don’t know why. I grew up in one of the richest communities in the country, so I am used to wealth or at least the display thereof. I also have first-hand experience that wealth is absolutely not correlated to what I consider to be superior qualities in a human being. I’m not even entirely sure whether I feel intimidated, or embarrassed and out of place. And worried about what effect the pull of wealth has on me. Like, I’ve had moments as a teenager where I felt compelled to mention that we do also have a pool and a house in France etc. Which is beyond ridiculous. How would that in any way reflect on anything but my parent’s earnings. I have an awkward relationship with money, and I should probably investigate that further.