Two years ago, I gave my yearly talk before The Applied Philosophy Institute in Sunnyvale, California. The topic was "Money & God." The audience turnout was excellent. Almost everyone had some deep feelings about money and God -- taken separately or united in various holy and unholy alliances.
I struggled to bring these two ultimate subjects together in the same breath. One businessman wanted to make it simple. He said, "Money is God. Anything you can say about God, you can also say about money."
"What do you mean?" I responded.
"Well, think of the traditional statements about God," he said.
"Okay. God is love. God is everywhere. God is infinite. God is all powerful," I remarked.
"That's it!", he said with delight. "Money is love. Money is everywhere. Money is infinite. Money is all powerful. People want to treat you as if they love you when you have lots of money. Everywhere I go there is money -- an ATM machine or bank in every part of the world. Money is so powerful that we go to war and give up our lives for it. And, since money is abstract, we can create infinite numbers out of it. Therefore Money is like God, Money is God."
This businessman was serious. I could see that he was deeply disturbed by his position. He was admitting an awesome truth that most people would not take seriously.
Afterwards an older white-bearded gentlemen came up to me and asked this question: "With what do you buy your money?" I looked at him, just to make sure I understood what he said.
Again he asked, "With what do you buy your money?"
"I can only think of one good answer, " I said, "I buy my money with my life."
"Right!," he said. "You might win the game of life. I wish I had asked myself this question when I was much younger. I worked for money for so many years, not realizing that I was trading life for money."
"Don't the bad guys always say, 'Your money or your life?'," I said.
This old man had the clear eyes of a wisdom seeker, not those of a man lost in the money game. Perhaps, I thought half in jest, he had put away a good sum for his retirement, and was living well off of it. Yet, most older people that I knew were still obsessed with money even if they had enough. They had spent their youth fixated on it, such lifetime habits cannot be easily dropped.
Ultimately, all of my investments start with how I use my time. Some say, "Time is money." I say, "Life is the time we have, so use the time allotted well. You may not have any time to spare." I may spend so much time working for life and health insurance payments, that I die earlier of stress-related disease. Such is life.