What If Money Didn’t Matter?

I like this video via Mike Covel.  Alan Watts has become a bit of an internet hero in some circles for his heterodox philosophical views.

This one touches on an important point.  As I like to say, you don’t live to invest, you invest to live.  Or said differently, you don’t live to work, you work to live.  It’s about balance.  

I’ll stop blathering and just let you watch:


Got a comment or question about this post? Feel free to use the Ask Cullen section, leave a comment in the forum or send me a message on Twitter.

Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • LVG

    I love listening to Watts. What a great thinker. Thanks for posting.

  • Greg

    Agreed about Mr Watts. Brits always sound so damn smart

    Your title got me thinking (yes that may not be good I lknow)

    According to the “money is a neutral veil” type economists, money DOESNT matter. We can understand all economic transactions without understanding money. To them we are just overlaying money on top of a barter economy. The absurdity of this position is boggling to me yet it is taught at an econ 101 level.

    Does anyone think that in an economy where you are always trading something of equal value to someone else it would be possible for 1% of the people to have more stuff than the bottom 50%?! That type of inequality is impossible in a barter economy

  • SS

    I always love this type of thinking, but it’s easier said than done. Cullen started his own business, but does he really LOVE finance? I doubt it’s what he’d spend his time doing if he could pick anything. So it’s easy to just say “do what you love”. But the reality is that the things we love are hobbies because you can’t make a living doing them. If everyone could make a living playing golf then they’d do it. They can’t. At least I can’t! Damit.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    I wouldn’t say I love finance, but I find meaning in it. Personally, if I played golf all day I would get bored. I would feel useless, like I wasn’t contributing anything. This website has become a way for me to think about big ideas and try to resolve issues in the world that appear excessively complex. I like to think I am contributing something through my work in finance. Not just drifting by. To me, that’s a meaningful life. Whether you love it or not. I don’t think you should just find something that makes you happy. You should find something you’re passionate about.

  • ES71

    If you are trading glass beads for gold, yes it is possible.

  • Greg

    Not if its an equal value of glass beads

  • http://Macronomy.blogspot.com Martin

    “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

  • Anton

    A great video. Thanks for posting. Sounds a lot like this Paul Graham’s essay, “How to do what you love” http://paulgraham.com/love.html

  • Chattanooga

    I’m thankful for your work, Cullen. I have visited this blog almost daily for the last 3 years, and I have learned an immeasurable amount from the topics, conversations, and debates. Even with that, you just went up a notch with the Alan Watts link; he’s another one of my regular check ins. And Watts would agree with you– find the passion. It will have its highs and lows, but it is the only life worth living.

  • Stevo

    Alan Watts is WRONG. This is the same nonsense people my age (25-35) have been hearing our whole lives, by people from the boomer/60’s/70’s generations. As a result, we have schools churning out hundreds of thousands of kids a year, with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, for a degree in something “cool”. These degrees are literally worthless. Mine is in philosophy, my girlfriends is in acting. This is what we wanted to do. Now guess what we have to do? Earn a goddamned income so we aren’t destitute for the rest of our lives. I was lucky enough to get into a customer service position at a start-up, and work my way into marketing. Now I have a bright future, not because of pursuing my dreams (philosophy, music), but in spite of pursuing my dreams. Most people, my girlfriend included, aren’t so lucky. The sort of advice that Watts is giving, and that is very cliche and common out there, is literally ruining lives every day. The question isn’t, “what do you want to do?”, it’s “how do you want to live?”. When you frame it that way, you might get a different answer. To choose a profession in a field that offers a middle/upper middle class income at the expense of doing what you “want” to do is not putting money above all else. It’s making a smart decision about your future. It’s realizing that, while of course you’d rather parachute into sink-holes in the amazon, you wouldn’t do it if it meant working as a waitress, with a $500/month student loan payment for the rest of your miserable life.

    I’m sure this stuff seems profound to investment bankers. “Money isn’t everything” blah blah…. When you don’t have any money, when the job you go into every single day, makes you feel insignificant and unimportant, and the reason you have that job is because you “followed your dreams”, yeah, money kind of is everything.

    Study computer science, study business management, pursue something boring that will ensure some form of security, then maybe you can pursue what you want in your free time.

  • Darial


  • Cowpoke

    Caution must be exhibited when entertaining this pollyannish sort of “heterodox philosophical view”.

    “Were getting out of college and have the faintest Idea of what to do?”

    Umm I would question the whole damn process of educating a populace through 16 YEARS of schooling and they have NO CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR LIVES??
    You gota be kidding me.. (Especially nowadays after raking up 1000’s in debt)

    I Say
    Then the questions getting the money?? Hell These kids are IN DEBT up to their eyes living the dreams.

    Life is about doing things we don’t like (but are good for us in the long run) and making the best of it, it’s not about just doing what I like.

    Hell, who liked making their bed and taking out the trash instead of watching cartoons and playing with friends as children.

    As adults , heck who likes punching the proverbial time clock? Not me I would have rather hung out all day with the lil hottie I met the night before at the party, but life does not really afford us all that resource
    It’s good to challenge the grain at times, but it wise to know when your challenge is a waste of time and a detriment to your well being.

    Telling Kids to follow their hearts dreams and desires is a fools errand IMO..

    The only way that people will be able to realize their dreams is if the Govt prints money and gives it to them to spend on what they want..haha

  • DJ

    So true. And, to add to your last thought. Pursuing what you are interested in, only in your free time is usually good enough. If you spend 100% of the time doing what you really love doing, you will stop loving it and end up in the same situation even with the thing you love doing. Think about that!

  • Johnny Evers

    Well said.
    It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Have the same passion for washing the dishes as you do for your hobby.

  • Cowpoke

    Agree, I have tried to post here with basically the same thought concept but My longer post always seem to get hung up in some filtering or server time frame issues and is delayed posted.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    I think that’s pretty accurate. “Do what you love” is largely a BS line from people who are fortunate enough to be doing something they really love. You have to find a passion, but that’s very different from finding something you love. As I said above, I love golf, but I can’t make a living playing it and neither can 99% of the rest of the world. But I have a passion, even if it’s not something I would say I love.

    Ultimately, I think we want to contribute. We want to give something back. We want to feel like our work is meaningful. What you love often doesn’t match up there. Maybe I am wrong, but that’s my take….

  • Dennis

    As a 14 year old teenager he likely put his folks in deep and permanent debt. Obviously inherited his money from a doting Grandma, spent it all, and is now unable to repent.

  • The Undergrad

    Lolz. You just recommended people study business administration or computer science. Talk about two worthless degrees. Don’t you know, its not what you study that matters, its who you network with.

  • Ted

    Agreed – I think a happy life comes from balance, including a variety of interests. If your job is even occasionally interesting, complex, or in some miniscule way makes the world a better place, that’s often more than enough. It also helps greatly to work with people whose company you enjoy.

  • Mephisto

    Co-sign with Chattanooga.

  • Johnny Evers

    How come these pop culture gurus are always talking about how to fulfill yourself?
    Why don’t they encourage you to change a diaper or help a friend move?
    I know that when I was young and looking for myself I wound up miserable and lonesome, but when I started a family I found something that made life meaningful and joyful.

  • Joe in Accounting

    Occupy Augusta? Time to tell the 1% of the golf world us 99%ers won’t stand for this inequality!

  • Bob

    This is a wonderful thought, and of course money really does not matter execpt for a few small things, like purchasing your home, buying a few clothes, and getting a 1993 Ford Explorer, and some petrol.

  • Greg

    I usually say that I love my work but I dont always love my job. If I could always do my work without the BS surrounding the job it would be great. Only at my job though can I pull in 6 figures and help pay for grad school….. gotta sacrifice somewhere.

  • Obsvr-1

    six figures for grad school … gotta love the ivory towers …

  • Obsvr-1

    you validate the Lincoln quote:

    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

    Abraham Lincoln

  • The Undergrad

    While Lincoln may have said this quote, he did not invent it. Therefore it is inappropriate to attribute the quotation to him.

  • http://www.nowandfutures.com bart

    “…BS line from people who are fortunate enough to be doing something they really love.”

    Would you please rephrase that? It’s insulting to those of us that managed to succeed at finding things that we love and doing them.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    No need to rephrase. Youre one of the “fortunate” ones. :-)

  • Valuation Consultant

    This assumes everyone knows the proper exchange rate for all goods, which changes constantly.

    What ES71 is talking about is human arbitrage. Finding someone who doesn’t know the true value when you do.

    Human arbitrage is ever present and very real, and would continue even in a pure barter economy.

  • Nils

    Well when I was a kid I was playing around a lot with computers, writing software and the like. I enjoyed doing it. Didn’t help with the ladies though. Now I do it for a living, and it sucks. And still doesn’t help with the ladies ;) Now is really the question, what do I love doing? I never asked myself that. I grew up with an attitude of “you do what you gotta do”, it’s probably still a bit different over here in Germany, anyone enjoying themselves/live is suspect.

    In any case, as a single man without anyone to support I can live on less than a third of what I make. I only keep on doing it so one year of work can buy me one year of free time to do whatever the hell I want, and maybe rediscover my passion for my original career. Do what’s expected of you half of the time, do what you want the rest.

    This might be a more practical solution than to try and make a career of mountain climbing, golf or playing the guitar because someone who enjoys what he does told you so.

  • Nils

    It’s funny because we hear those lines from the same people who expect us to support their lavish retirements. How is that gonna work out if I play the mandolin for a living?

  • Obsvr-1

    it was not the attribution that was my point, perhaps a better choice in school would be appropriate…

    … I will seek to correct the attrib in the future.