Money, Large and Small

A few decades ago I was being trained in estate planning. John Briece, a very astute planner, told me something that clarified my experience with my clients, and changed my understanding of finance and economics.

“You need to understand that some of the people you talk with have already made all the money they will ever spend. More money for them is not about being able to buy things, or about security. It is about investing – it is about power and control.”

It is hard for most of us to really take this in: having all the money we will ever need – to pay the rent or mortgage, car payments, food, clothes, gas, electricity… everything we will ever need to pay money for.

Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Well, John was right.

There are those of us who have a completely different view of money: it is not about paying the bills, because all that is already taken care of. Money is about power and control – donating money to the college and getting a building or stadium named for us, having the power to call the mayor, or the governor, or our congressperson, and to get through to them personally, and to have our opinions taken seriously. Power to have laws enacted that favor us and our friends and what we want to have happen.

These are the people who do not understand what it is like to try to work for a living in this country. They do not know the month/money problem (is there money at the end of the month or month at the end of the money?) They do not understand what it is like to be unable to find work, even when you are well qualified, because the jobs simply are not there. They do not know what it is like to be stuck in a job that is underpaid, but to be unable to leave for a better job because there is no better job, and this job includes health insurance, although the insurance does not provide much actual health care.

From this pool of very wealthy people come most of our politicians, and we elect them to public office, to represent our interests and to make our laws.

Maybe we should stop. Maybe we should start electing people who know what it is like to work for a living, and care about the rest of us who still do, or are at least trying to.

Then perhaps our laws would reflect our needs and desires. And our economy would provide rewarding jobs for us all, paying living wages and providing real health care.

What do you think?

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