My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a tax partner and the managing partner of Cunningham LLP in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the position of Cunningham LLP. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are Money and Success the Same Thing?

Moneyville runs a weekly feature called Fame and Fortune, where famous people discuss various financial lessons they have learned and provide financial advice. The last question is always “Are money and success the same thing?” In the columns I have read, I do not ever recall a featured guest answering yes to this question. Yet, the fact that the question is asked insinuates that some people feel the answer is yes. I would further suggest, that we all have met people who we think would answer yes to this question; or should answer yes, based on their actions.

In my opinion, the brevity of the Moneyville column forces a cliché answer from most of the guests. The guests typically say things such as “money is fleeting” or “money does not buy love” or “people should not be defined by their money”. However, this simple question is actually very complex when you peel back the layers. Success can be defined and interpreted in so many ways. I believe that money and success are not one and the same, but are so closely intertwined in some circumstances, that money may allow you to buy certain variations of success, while in other situations it can derail success.

Today, I will not get into how we look at money, a topic I discussed in a July 2011 blog post, but will focus solely on the success side of the question.

What is Success?


The definition of success is elusive. If you ask 100 people, you would probably get 100 different answers as to how they define success. So I turn to some famous and less famous people and their definitions and interpretations of success (and money) are as follows.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous American essayist and poet, wrote this poem about success (although there is some debate if he indeed wrote this poem):

"What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate the beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded."

John Wooden, considered by many as the greatest basketball coach ever, had this definition, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

According to John Maxwell, an evangelical Christian author, success is when “Those who know you the best love you the most.”

A less spiritual interpretation of money and success is provided by American author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer who states, “Successful people make money. It's not that people who make money become successful, but that successful people attract money. They bring success to what they do.”

Finally, and I am not sure who said this, but another more financial oriented definition of success is “The world defines success in terms of achieving one's goal, acquiring wealth, status, prestige and power.”

I have been told by other bloggers that the average reader only pays attention for 400 words (I assume my readers are not average, since I breach the 400 word limit regularly) and since I am already over 600 words, I will stop here. However, tonight, when you are relaxing in your La-Z-Boy recliner (ignore the screaming kids and barking dog), contemplate how you would answer the question of whether money and success are one and the same? I will conclude my thoughts tomorrow.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.

7 comments:

  1. Nice John Wooden quote, the greatest University Coach ever.

    Very Zen post.

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    1. BCM,

      I try to make my blog experience more than a tax and estate planning enlightenment. I aim for an all around mental and physical expereience that brings tranquility to my readers :)

      Wait until you read part two, it is more Bobby Knight.

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  2. Great post.. looking forward to the 2nd installment!

    Sometimes I wonder if it is at all necessary to ask oneself if one is "successful " or not! Instead just keep on doing what makes you happy and ensuring that you don't let down those for whom you are responsible in one way or another. This could entail "gathering" financial assets, say RESPs for your kids etc.

    I think it is important (but not easy) to recognize one's limitations and function within those limits. If you can do that you could consider yourself a success.. but it is not necessary to know that. A constant state of contentment would be the symptom of success. Just aim to feel that!

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    1. Thanks Be*en, I like your philosophy of success. You cant go wrong with contentment.

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  3. While I hesitate to quote Kevin O'Leary, I believe he's correct in noting that money is what buys freedom. Yes, it's not happiness or freedom, but if you don't have money (or more specifically, financial freedom) then you're going to be under stress all the time.

    To provide a counter example, it's my understanding that many/most marriage breakups do so due to money problems. In those cases, not having 'money' led to the opposite of being content or happy.

    Hate our job? If you have enough money, you can quit and do something else. If you're broke, you're screwed. etc.

    So maybe having money isn't the entire solution, but having a control of your finances I believe is certainly a component.

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    1. Thx Glenn,

      Money, success, freedom, happiness, all somewhat intertwinned and that's what made writing the blog post and interesting exercise.

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  4. I can’t really say that Money and Success are the same thing, because you can be considered “successful” without bucks of money by just finishing your studies, and graduating with flying colors is a bonus. I can just agree that money and success go together, when you’re already done with your studies, you already have the edge and confidence to look for a job and earn money.

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