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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Question 9

Dear Dr. T.,

   I am a college student taking a class in which your book, Money And The Pursuit Of Happiness, is assigned.  By reading this book, I have learned that  love and meaningful work are what creates life satisfaction. I honestly believe this to be true. However, I have grown up in a home with 2 high-earning incomes and little to no concern over finances. I have always been provided for, and my parents have always paid for everything for me. We go on vacations, go out to eat daily, and I am given money whenever I need it. I am concerned that when I get older that money will be a bigger issue than I think it will be. I am going to be a teacher, which has high satisfaction for me as I love to help others and I hope to make a difference. Yet, I am worried that my income will not be able to satisfy the lifestyle that I have become accustomed to. Will my love for my work really trump my desire for other pleasures, or will I be stuck regretting that I do not have the money to do luxurious things and have no worries over finances?

Dear Worried in Ohio,

   Your question is really about a choice between two kinds of values: the inherent value of doing good meaningful work which you believe you will love, and the value of being able to enjoy a life that includes the pleasure of luxury and lack of worry over finance. To have the first you may have to give up much  the second, although this need not be a completely black and white choice. Many people do have some occasional worries over finance yet still are able to focus on what they find rewarding in life most of the time. If  you become a teacher you may, from time to time worry about money. But dealing with difficulties is part of becoming an autonomous adult. You may also struggle with  some occasional regret for having given up the luxurious lifestyle you remember, or find  yourself envying others who have more money. But, even if you can't see it, those same people may have problems worse than any you have and be less happy than you.

If you haven't yet read Exercise #12 in my book (pages 268 -272), do take the time to not only read it but to do the work it suggests. It will take time and effort, but should help you address the worry you express in your question.

One more suggestion. It sounds like your parents are very generous but, because of that, you  have not had to learn what it is like to have to live with financial limitations. It would do you good if you could have this experience. Could you speak with your parents and ask if they would be willing to help you by not giving whatever you want but, instead, giving you a reasonable allowance: one that you are expected to live within? That would force you to make some hard choices as to how you spend money, rather than getting everything you want whenever you ask for it. It might help you to prepare for a life of teaching if that is what you choose to do. It would also help you to understand what other people's lives are like, which is important for anyone who wants to work in a helping profession.

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