2012 September 22 Saturday
Why People Deny The Advantages Of More Money

In the comments section of the Half Sigma post about Marc Andreesen (Netscape founder) about the vanishing middle class which I previously linked The Legendary Linda makes a pretty accurate claim about why people deny wanting money.

To not want money is irrational because virtually everything a human could want (status, luxury, sex, food, beauty, health, love, knowledge, power, intellectual stimulation, children, convenience, happiness, time) is for sale if you have enough money and you know where to shop. To not want money implies either that one don't want anything or that one is not intelligent enough to figure out how money would get them what they want.

Most likely people say they don't want money because they don't have any, and so to admit that they want something they were unable to get makes them look like a loser. People would rather create entire subcultures eschewing material success than admit they are losers (as predicted by Half Sigma's Loser theory)

It makes sense to try to dampen one's desire for the unattainable. On the other hand, the dampening down can go way too far. You can fail to get up one or two attainable ladder steps because you know you can't make it up 10 ladder steps. The benefits of moderately higher status and money are foregone because one has too great a need to deny the advantages of more money.

My own take on the utility of money: The cost of not having lots of money is going to rise as early stage rejuvenation therapies first hit the market. You'll likely have to travel to get them because the US Food and Drug Administration has created such high barriers for the introduction of stem cell therapies.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 September 22 08:01 PM  Human Nature Status

Mike M said at September 22, 2012 11:22 PM:

Even if they deny it, everybody wants money or they want the things that money can buy.

sabril said at September 23, 2012 8:36 AM:

Yes, part of what's going on is that people are simply lying about their feelings. Just like most people lie when you ask them why they never choose to live in black neighborhoods.

Mercer said at September 23, 2012 9:33 AM:

Linda ignores the trade offs between money and time. In order to make the most money people frequently have to work long hours in boring or unpleasant jobs. Is it worth the money to make a high salary if you are unhappy at work for fifty weeks a year so you can afford a BMW and a European vacation instead of working less and having a Corolla and a vacation in the nearest state park?

James Bowery said at September 23, 2012 12:37 PM:

Inverting the argument:

Those who are relatively successful at acquiring money tend to value it because of the "sunk cost fallacy".

Of course, a more rational assessment of money is in the context of evolutionary psychology. If the cost of successful reproduction increases, one must obviously value that which pays the cost. In some instances, the cost is non-monetary (or at least proximately non-monetary) such as joining a sexist religion that demands adherence to beliefs that are not commensurate with the requirements of modern society. Good examples of this are the LDS, Islam or Orthodox Judaism*.

*Too bad belief in "the demographic transition" has become a religious belief all its own that anesthetizes the loss of reproductive potential by those who have sunk huge evolutionary costs in the acquisition of money by sacrificing reproductive viability. Exponentials are powerful in more ways than one. These sexist religions (and sexist genotypes -- yes they do exist and are inevidence by their resistance to modernization and high reproductive rates in the present) may represent a minor aspect of present developed societies but that won't last. The genocide of those who value money over family is nearing completion.

Mthson said at September 23, 2012 12:50 PM:

"Is it worth the money to make a high salary if you are unhappy at work."

There's no such thing as being unhappy at work if you're excellent at what you do. Excellence and its fruits, including contributing to the world, are their own reward.

I've watched dopey, mediocre geniuses in Silicon Valley give up jobs that are in the 1% most desirable and cushy jobs because they're "not happy" and they need to hang out with idiot friends and travel to "new locations" in order to "recharge." That's good news, because it means anybody can become highly successfully if they can figure out the right track.

McNeil said at September 23, 2012 3:24 PM:

Another way to put it would probably be: Why do people deny the advantages of BEING over having?


Certainly one of the greatest minds.

Lono said at September 24, 2012 9:32 AM:

I would also add that while most people honestly value having assets - they do not always subscribe to wanting things that are contrived and which are sometimes abstract, intangible, assets - such as fiat money or corporate stocks - especially when they feel these virtual assets are easily gamed and/or their value is easily or arbitrarily diminished.

And - as several other posters have already pointed out - trading time for money has a real opportunity cost as well - since you can't take it with you.

Zamman said at September 24, 2012 3:46 PM:

Rich is not he who has more, but he who needs less.

Success has nothing to do with being rich.

Zamman said at September 24, 2012 3:59 PM:

I do deny the advantages of more money over health. I do deny the advantages of money if there's more crime and more people in need who would like to steal it from you. I do deny the advantages of money if you miss your family while working for that wealth. I do deny the advantages of money if you have to give half to your ex that divorced you because you were never home. I do deny the advantages of money if she shares it with the latest man who is now raising your kids. I deny the advantages of money if you suffer from an incurable disease produced by the environment you had to be in in order to get the money.

Some people just never learn. Money is a means for, not the end.

Zamman said at September 24, 2012 4:05 PM:

Wanna real investment?

Here they are.

Health, nutrition, culture and love. Those are some real investments in life.

Mike M said at September 24, 2012 7:31 PM:

Linda's argument said NOTHING about the costs involved in having to exchange anything for money. She simply argued about wanting or not wanting money, not about what someone would be willing to give up for more money. while I realize that her comment was made in response to a post that responded to Mr. Andreesen's original post about the future of work, her comments dealt only with wanting or not wanting money and I took Randall's comments to deal primarily with the utility of having or not having money and only tangentially touching on what one would be willing to give up for money (although he did touch upon giving up on trying to attain more money because of one's feeling of hopelessness, but not due to one's desire or lack of desire to make the necessary trade off). All else being equal, people want more money (or the things that money can buy).

Randall Parker said at September 25, 2012 9:53 PM:


Hard working people live longer.

Also, people who work hard and ambitiously are more likely to advance to a position of greater autonomy. Greater autonomy at work will increase your longevity.

Nutrition: Vegetables and fruits cost more than less healthy grains. Culture: Opera season tickets are so expensive. Ditto trips to see the Louvre. Health: We'll have to travel to get stem cell therapies because the US FDA has put such huge cost obstacles to getting stem cell therapies approved in the USA.

Mike M said at September 26, 2012 8:06 AM:

Zamman - you're a freakin' moron. You've pooh-poohed money, by stating some far eastern crap about needing less, but in your subsequent posts you extols the wonders of having things (fruits and veggies, opera tickets, stem cell therapies, etc.) that are necessarily more expensive than the alternatives, i.e. that you need money to purchase. Now, if you want to make an argument about working hard only to hoard the money you earn versus using that money for such things that you describe, then outline your tirade in a manner that makes that point rather than your incessant rant that is both inconsistent and incoherent.

PS - Whether someone wants to hoard their money, spend it on those things that you champion or spend it on some other wants they may have is their choice, not yours. when you grow up and get a job, you can spend your earnings as you so please.

McNeil said at September 29, 2012 3:52 PM:

Randall Parker wrote: "Hard working people live longer."

I think you've got that one out of your sleeve. You don't really know or have any statistics on that really; do you.
I've always thought less stressed people live longer, but that's just my guess. I could be wrong, but I really can't buy your statement.
Interesting post you posted, though.

>@ Mike M:
Relax Mike and don't get a heart attack. You've already been told about your tendency to insult those you don't agree with. The thing is that you don't read carefully and probably are prone to imagine somebody is implying more than it is written. Zamman only wrote about needing less, and that seemed to have raped your capitalistic sensitivity. By the way, what you call "far eastern crap" is a simple statement by a Greek Philosopher called Diogenes, whom you probably know nothing about. Am I right?
I think that you'd feel very happy and powerful being able to spend thousands on a NEEDED medical treatment, lodging yourself in the best hospitals, while Zamman, who's probably not very rich, would probably prefer NOT TO HAVE THE NEED to go into that hospital for treatment, whether free or very expensive.

Relax Mike.

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2012 9:35 PM:


The relationship between life expectancy and work is fairly complicated. Here are some points from what I've read. You can find verification of these points with not much web searching. I've written on some of them on my FuturePundit blog in the Aging Studies category:

- People who have more control of their work situations live longer.

- Higher IQ people live longer. So part of the effect of higher status in jobs on life expectancy is really about higher IQ enabling both higher status and longer life. But the higher status at work is part of the mechanism for why smarter people live longer. Greater control of work conditions lowers stress. But also smart people take better care of themselves and manage their health and medical care more effectively.

- People who sit for too long of stretches (3 hours or longer) die sooner. So if you work longer and sit the whole time that's bad. But if you work longer and get moderate exercise thru working that's probably a net benefit.

- Those who retire at 55 do not live as long as those who retire at 60 or 65. That's probably not entirely due to unhealthy people needing to retire sooner. Note that people who get exercise thru work will benefit from continuing to work if their alternative tendency is to become a couch potato.

- Harder workers tend to be more conscientious. Well, conscientiousness extends life expectancy because it causes people to take better care of themselves and to plan their life and finances in ways that reduce stress. It may also cause people to work longer hours.

It ends up being hard to separate out causes and effects as the IQ effect demonstrates. Higher IQ enables people to get more control of their situations and avoid stress. Higher IQ may even make people more conscientious because they can see the effects of choices better.

I expect the life expectancy extending effect of money and of IQ to rise. Already life expectancies are dropping for lower class whites. It is unhealthy to be dumb and fat.

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2012 9:51 PM:


How I think harder work can reduce stress: Those in leadership positions had cortisol levels that were 27% lower than non-leaders. My reaction: Work hard to rise and you'll rise out of stressful situations.

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