How Do You View Money: As a Means to an End, or the End Itself?

by Miranda Marquit

Whether or not you achieve your own definition of financial success depends a great deal on what your goals are, and whether you use money in a constructive way that helps you achieve your goals. One of the decisions you have to make is whether you view money as a means to an end — or whether you you view money as the end itself.

Money as an End Itself

is money a means to an end?

Is earning money your main goal, or a means to an end?

Many of us talk about how we want more money. We think about ways to earn more, and meticulously add up the money in our accounts, saving money in the hopes of some day having enough.

While this approach isn’t particularly bad, it is important to ask yourself why you want the money. Do you have a plan for the money? Or is it a way of keeping score? You might be keeping score against yourself, or against others. In some cases, having money becomes a status symbol. At that point, money is the end. You amass money just to amass money. If that satisfies you, and you are content and happy with your life, then piling it up works for your situation, and you can feel good about reaching a goal of $1 million net worth, or $1 billion net worth, or whatever your goal is.

Money as a Means to an End

On the other hand, money can also be viewed as a tool. You might have a goal to earn more money, but if you think of money as a way to reach your life objectives, that goal to earn more is about achieving something else.

I like to travel. Over the summer, I set a money goal of earning enough to go to the Financial Blogger Conference. Right now, I am working on making sure I have enough money to go to BlogWorld, and to next year’s FINCON. I also like to earn enough money so that I can go on other trips with my family, and so that we can eat out.

Money can also help you accomplish other goals. If you want to support a worthy cause, you can use your money to accomplish a great deal of good. You might also use your money to help you reach retirement goals of comfort and health, or you could use your money to ensure that your children can participate in extracurricular activities.

It’s true that, for many people, just having more money isn’t going to add to happiness. However, money can increase your enjoyment of life, and help you meet your objectives. Becoming fixated on money, though, can result in feelings of discontent — you can always have more (and others can always have more than you).

Depending on your outlook, money can be the end of all your efforts, or you can use money to help you enjoy your life and help others. Think about what’s important to you, and be honest about your values. When that happens you will find that money can be a tool, a way to help you enjoy life a little more, without becoming too hung up on how much of it you have sitting in the bank.

 Photo credit: jollyUK

Published or updated November 26, 2011.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Krantcents

I view money as a way to enjoy life whether in retirement or life in general. It is the reward for saving and investing.


2 Emily Guy Birken

Hi Miranda,
I’d like to add one more reason why people might see money as an end in itself–for security. My husband grew up somewhat disadvantaged, so for him, having a heft bank account means that he is financially secure. Since I’m of the “money is a tool to be used” philosophy, we’ve had to do some compromising so that he still feels comfortable and I feel like we’re actually using our money rather than just stockpiling it.


3 Jonathan

Money is an essential part of everyday life. Only those with lots of money can say that money doesn’t matter, for the rest of us it does become something that directly impacts everything that we do. I do not see money as an end in itself, but am I focused on gathering money to be comfortable, in all honesty yes. However do I hope that one day I’ll have enough, no, because when you have money you always want more. In a nutshell there is nothing wrong with amassing money, as long as it doesn’t consume your everyday life


4 Sun

Some have quantified money as making you happy at $60k a year:

Beyond that, it does not matter much. People that struggle with income having to choose between different needs will obviously want to earn more.

Since I have debt, I am probably somewhere in between. In the end, I’d like to have a retirement fund that we can live off without having to touch the principal. This will allow us to also leave a legacy for our children, family, and church.


5 K.C.

Good food for thought. For Rosa and me, more money gives us more choices. More choices equals more freedom. That’s it in a nutshell.


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