Blogger Mark Manson tells the story of a group of recent college graduates who decide to visit their favorite professor at his home during the summer. The graduates had been out of school for a year and were trying to make their way in the “real world”. As they sat down with the professor, they began complaining about the frustrations and difficulty of making a living and supporting themselves. They talked of long hours, demanding bosses, wildly different salaries and how competitive the job market was because everyone just cares about money, money, money.
After a while, the professor got up and made some coffee. He then placed one cup for each student on the table. Some of the cups were paper, some were cheap old mugs and a couple of them were made of the finest porcelain. He then told the former students to help themselves to the coffee. Immediately the kids started bickering about the cups. “Wait, why do you get that cup?” “I drove here”; “I had it first. “It was my idea to come here”. When the kids finally sat down after a friendly little battle over the cups, the Professor told them, “You see? That’s your problem. You are arguing over who gets which cup, when all you really wanted was the coffee.”
A lot of unhappiness and frustration over money stems from confusing money, which is an arbitrary storage container for value, with actual value. Money is simply a medium of exchange so people can trade their work, skills, time or saved financial wealth for something they value – which is deeply personal. The container (whether it’s cash, gold, silver, bitcoin, stocks or real estate) isn’t as important as what it is we actually value (like time with family, knowledge and awareness, emotional well-being and happiness, athletic or artistic achievement, helping others, a secure, stable lifestyle with those we love – and many other forms of personal fulfillment).
Not everyone has the same values. And Government should not be in the business of telling families what to value! Once secured, value must be guarded, stored and maintained over generations in an Estate Planning War Chest, because politicians and other threats to what we value are lurking in the shadows of time, waiting to take it away. Actual value is a positive emotional experience – living the life we choose. We don’t buy things. We buy experiences including the feeling that you have what you want and need, even if it’s in a cheaper albeit fuller cup than your neighbor’s fancy cup, which may only be holding only a few drops of true value.