wealth is never free

You may be earning a great salary every month, maybe you would have got a raise or a new contract recently, or maybe you are about to start a new well-paying job that you traded for the less-paying one. But there’s an important question that you must ask about money: What is the net outcome I’m getting at the end of every month or quarter? What costs am I paying to get paid this income?

One key truth that we can all learn is that wealth is never free. It always comes at a cost. And ultimately it’s you who decides the magnitude of the cost you’re willing to pay.

Your wealth can soon become a path to slavery. And you may keep paying the price, continuing to be a slave. In doing the work that is required to get it, in maintaining the status that you’ve earned over time, in keeping up with the social circles and the expensive hobbies that you’ve cultivated over time, and if you’re reckless and lazy about it, even in the amount of mental energy and time and attention that you spend in managing it in the long run. 

Wealth, status and power — all come for a heavy price. As Joshua Fields Millburn writes in The Minimalists blog, “I used to think money was more important than just about everything else in life. So I sacrificed to make money, and then I sacrificed more to make more, and then I sacrificed even more to make even more, working too many hours, forsaking my health, forsaking the people closest to me, forsaking everything important in pursuit of the almighty dollar.” He further adds, “I made good money—nay, great money—during my days in the corporate arena, but the problem was I spent even better money. And that was a serious source of dissatisfaction in my life, one that would haunt me for most of my twenties.”

If you’re not aware and diligent with the way you design your professional and personal life, with wealth you may get trapped in a vicious circle that may be hard to escape from. This is the major reason why Marcus Aurelius spent so much time reflecting on wealth and power, criticizing them and disqualifying them in the pursuit of becoming a better human. He was an emperor and had access to plenty of wealth, but he constantly worked to lessen its power over him. He knew it could soon become a form of slavery if he was not careful. 

Celebrate your success and your fortune, but also be aware of their costs. 

Work towards not acting in stupid and ignorant ways. Money is important, but don’t make it your master. Bring home a salary every month, not debt and all the misery and anxiety that comes with it. Make money a source of good and positivity, not a reason for negativity and stress. You’re in charge, and it’s all in your hands.