To my mind, little else better sums up what it means to be wealthy than the poem ‘Money’ by Philip Larkin. It begins:
Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’
Coins and notes – more recently, contactless cards and PayPal – are our lauded tokens of transaction. Accumulate enough money, we’re told, and in exchange the world can be yours.
Is that really true? The recent Panama Papers revealed the lengths to which rich individuals will go to protect their treasure trove from the tax-collector. The idea of losing money to something that does not benefit us directly has become utterly repugnant. It’s easy to accuse those named in the Panama Papers of moral bankruptcy. Can we honestly claim we wouldn’t do the same if the roles were reversed?
What’s a Lamborghini worth without a companion to sit in the passenger seat?
It’s a serious misconception that ‘more is more’ when it comes to money. Six figure salaries (or more), luxury cars, mega-yachts, and private islands have become symbols of the super-rich – the ultimate aspiration. Their hefty price tags are supposed to indicate their enormous value. Their value to whom? What’s a Lamborghini worth without a companion to sit in the passenger seat? How much better does a Michelin-star meal taste when dining amongst friends?
Wealth is the plentiful supply of a desirable thing. “Clearly money has something to do with life” – without it, we’re surely limited. I’m yet to be convinced, however, that winning the lottery would would make me significantly wealthier. As Larkin puts it:
“… however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.”
In other words, you can’t take it with you in the end.