Recently, a couple of my friends have fallen seriously ill in their prime of their life, just prior to graduating from university or in the case of another, just upon graduation. These events made me ponder and think about what wealth truly is. Is it the additional zeroes in our bank accounts that many of us dream of, or is it the quality of the relationships that we have, that truly matter? Many friends have shared with me their career dreams and aspirations of achieving their first million before a certain age. Personally, I have no qualms with their ambitions, as I know that they are truly after the quality of life that they perceive money can give. However, is it possible that one can be rich without money?
Throughout my travels in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Mexico in the last 3 years, I have come to the realization that it is indeed possible. In India and Bangladesh, I have witnessed little children who live in conditions where we Singaporeans would not imagine growing up, yet relishing in the simple joys of life like taking a splash in the murky brown village river. In Mexico, simple family reunions are usually filled with warm greetings and hugs, and the smiles and laughter of everyone never failed to brighten up my day. In Vietnam, where many of its citizens still live in poverty, I had the great priviledge of enjoying a family meal onboard my train journey from Saigon to Hanoi. Strangers shared with me their home-cooked rice and sausages, and often rejected my efforts to buy them a meal from vendors onboard the train.
On one hand, I do sympathise with my Singaporean counterparts, as the cost of living in this city-state has increased sharply over the past generation, while our average income has not increased in line with the costs. On another, I find that the pursuit of money is a never-ending journey. Once we have hit a certain mark in life, we seem to want more. And that could be where it all goes wrong. Money is not the root of all evil; it is “the love of money” which is.
In the recent month, I have rethought my priorities in the order below:
1) My walk with Christ
3) Family and Relationships
4) Financial Freedom
In essence, I believe that my walk with Christ influences every aspect of my life, including health. Without health, one would not be able to enjoy the relationships he has, and may even feel a burden to his loved ones. Many of us focus on working and saving to buy a bigger house, at the expense of the real “house” – our bodies. With good health and loving relationships, I strongly believe that one would find deep contentment in his life even without lots of money. With that as a firm foundation, I believe that I can then focus on achieving financial freedom.
When asked what was the greatest piece of advice he has ever received, Warren Buffet replied, “The power of unconditional love. I mean, there is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean, you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it — it’s not uncritical love; that’s a different animal — but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being.”
And as he famously said, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your life.”