The Jobs Money Can’t Do

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

French Philosopher and Author Albert Camus wrote, “Having money is a way of being free of money.” While this should be true (because many people think of money as freedom), is this true? The reality is generally the opposite: people we all know who are the most captive by it are the ones with a lot of it. In short, we become slaves of money the more we have it, we become prisoners of money. The truth is it’s not money’s job to free you from money, it requires you to do that work – a different kind of work.

Building on Camus’s thought, it’s crucial to unpack the roles we often inadvertently assign to money, expecting it to perform tasks for which it is ill-suited. There are certain (rather many important) jobs that money can never do, and this post is an attempt to explore these jobs.

Money, in its essence, is a tool, a medium of exchange that can provide comfort, security, and opportunity. It can mean different things to different people. For me, money is a tool to make a happy difference in the lives of people. It’s a tool for impact. Yet, paradoxically, when we begin to hoard it as an end rather than a means, it starts to rule us. We imagine that with enough money, we can buy happiness, command respect, or secure love. However, these are human experiences that money, in its inanimate coldness, cannot purchase.

Moreover, we place upon money the responsibility of defining our success. This can lead us down a path where our self-worth is measured by our net worth, causing us to chase an ever-increasing target. No matter who we compare ourselves, there is always someone who has more. We become trapped in a cycle where money dictates our choices, rather than our choices dictating how we use our money. It’s a subtle but profound difference.

The jobs we assign to money—be it a source of happiness, a measure of achievement, or a ticket to a meaningful life—are jobs it can never fulfil. These are personal victories we must claim through introspection, relationships, and a life lived in alignment with our values.

The dilemma then becomes clear: how do we use money as a tool for genuine freedom rather than as a yardstick for an unattainable sense of fulfilment? The answer lies in understanding the limitations of money’s role in our lives. It’s about redefining our relationship with money so that we control it, ensuring it serves us and not the other way around. Money should be the means to craft a life rich in experiences and values, not just rich in currency. Your money should be the means to a HappyRich Life – a life in which there is an alignment of your use of capital with what’s really important to you.

Here are 10 (there are many others) certain things money can never do for us:

Buy True Love and Genuine Relationships: Money can facilitate social connections and perhaps even attract people, but it cannot buy the authenticity, trust, and depth of true love and genuine friendships. These relationships are built on mutual respect, understanding, and affection that cannot be purchased.

Ensure Lasting Happiness: While money can provide temporary pleasures and remove certain stressors associated with financial instability, it cannot guarantee lasting happiness. True contentment often comes from non-material sources such as fulfilling relationships, personal achievements, and inner peace.

Buy Time: Money can buy conveniences that save time, but it cannot stop the relentless march of time itself. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, regardless of wealth. You, me, Mukesh Ambani, and Elon Musk have the same number of hours in a day.

Guarantee Health: While money can afford access to better healthcare services, it cannot guarantee health or prevent all illnesses. Health is influenced by genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices beyond just the ability to pay for care.

Secure Immortality: Money cannot buy immortality or prevent the inevitable reality of death. Despite advancements in medical science funded by wealth, the fundamental human condition remains unchanged.

Instill Values and Morals: Financial wealth cannot impart values, ethics, or morals. These are developed through personal reflection, experience, and guidance from family, community, and culture.

Replace Self-Worth: Money can contribute to a sense of achievement or status, but it cannot replace self-worth. True self-esteem and self-acceptance come from recognizing one’s intrinsic value beyond financial or material success.

Solve All Problems: Money can solve many problems, particularly those related to financial needs, but it cannot address every challenge in life. Money can only solve money problems. Some of life’s most complex issues require emotional intelligence, creativity, and human connection to resolve.

Create Passion or Purpose: Money can support the pursuit of passions or a sense of purpose, but it cannot create them. Finding one’s passion and purpose in life comes from exploration, introspection, and engaging with the world in meaningful ways.

Ensure Respect and Admiration: True respect and admiration from others cannot be bought with money. These are earned through actions, character, and how one treats others, irrespective of financial status.

Money, while powerful and necessary for navigating the world, has its limitations. Recognizing what money can and cannot do is essential for cultivating a well-rounded, fulfilling life that values both material and non-material riches.

Recognizing the limitations of money is not to diminish its importance. It’s a fundamental tool for achieving security, comfort, and the freedom to pursue one’s goals. Yet, its role should be that of a facilitator, not a dictator of our life’s direction. This shift in perspective is vital. When we understand that money is incapable of performing certain “jobs,” we start investing in areas that truly enrich our lives—our health, relationships, personal growth, and the joy that comes from giving and connecting with others.

Money’s inability to fulfil roles beyond its scope means that we must seek elsewhere for deeper fulfilment. It requires a balanced approach to life, where financial planning supports personal aspirations rather than overshadows them. A HappyRich life, then, is not about the abundance of money but the abundance of life itself. It’s about how well we live, the quality of our relationships, and the personal satisfaction we derive from our daily experiences.

As we align our financial goals with our life’s purpose, we can use money as a positive force, channelling it towards creating a legacy, impacting the community, and living a life that resonates with our deepest values. Money is simply one of the many tools at our disposal, and when wielded wisely, it can create beautiful outcomes. But it should never become the sole architect of our destiny. In the end, the true wealth of our lives is measured not by the figures in our bank accounts but by the richness of our experiences and the love we share. It’s in this richness that the truest form of freedom is found—a freedom that money alone can never procure.