At the core, everyone who pursues more money is doing so for an emotional reason.
They want one of three things:
- to feel special, better than, or unique through buying status,
- to feel in control, independent, or unbound through buying power,
- to feel at ease, worry-free, or untroubled through buying peace.
Now what's really interesting is that each desires fuels a different pursuit of money. Because the ends are, usually, so different, the means are as well.
Status seekers are spenders
Status is the most visible of the three goals, so it requires those who pursue it to spend their money in order to acquire it.
They buy items in order to evoke an emotion in themselves (I deserve this, I've accomplished this, this makes me special), as well as in others (wow, look at what that person has).
Because of this insatiable spending habit, they strive to be high earners almost by default. Thankfully, most of the high-status jobs, like lawyers, doctors, and similar professional titles, also come with high salaries.
The danger is that these people are essentially seeking out the golden handcuffs. What they gain in status through their possessions and career they sacrifice in other areas: time, peace, relationships.
It's worth noting that every person has a bit of status-seeking in them. That's why we prefer certain brands, locations, habits, and even people over others. We want to send the right signals about who we are and what we value.
Not all status is earned through money, but those are usually much more difficult to display.
Power seekers are investors
Power is about leverage and ownership. Those who use their money to build power dedicate themselves to playing a very long game.
When annual billionaire lists are released and the stream of Twitter commentators express their confusion as to why anyone in their position would keep working, let alone be working so hard on so many different projects — they're showing a fundamental misunderstanding of how power-seekers work.
It's hard to fathom what you would do with money once you no longer needed it. Once every bill was paid, every desire met, and even every status symbol neatly tucked away in a mansion you rarely visit.
When money becomes a tool for power, it becomes something else entirely. Often, the moral boundaries around how it should be used get blurry. Do the ends justify the means? If you could shift the direction of history for the better, wouldn't they?
Like the topic before, every person has some power-seeking in them. It's just usually on such a small scale we'd hardly call it that. We run for local offices, upgrade our memberships, or pay to have our problems solved by others.
Power is not the problem. It's that so many people, with and without money, devalue theirs.
Peace seekers are savers
Peace is about safety. And safety-seeking is ultimately about fear.
People who use their money in an effort to find peace play a strong defensive game. They save, budget, use discounts, and delay their desires. Savers are ever-building castles to defend against what-ifs.
FIRE folk are the epitome of this category. They eschew the traditional bindings of status (e.g., nice things) and power (e.g., career ladders) in exchange for their own version of the two: financial independence - its own kind of power, and early retirement - a visible note of status.
And yet, neither of those are an end unto themselves but sought in order to achieve the emotion of peace; enoughness, if there is such a thing.
Peace-seekers are not the moral superiors of the bunch. They can easily become dangerously selfish and fearful when their plans go awry.
Oftentimes, they've resigned themselves to believing they couldn't win in other arenas. So they make their own, smaller one.
No pursuit is better or worse than another. And no person is exempt from any.
So much of what we do for and with our money is emotional, not logical. We spend and save and earn and invest and build to satisfy the stories we've adopted as our own.
The true power, status, and peace lie in crafting a story you fully own. One which allows for anything you want to be true to exist. Your own personal wonderland. And then to make money moves for that.