As we start the week holding our stomachs, worried about whether our 401(k) plans are safe from these rocky markets, let's spend a few moments talking about money.
Many of us spend our lives trying to make lots of money. For those who already have tons of it, money is a surprising disappointment. That's why I loved the tweets from Markus Persson, the creator of the online game Minecraft, over the weekend. As you may recall, Persson sold his company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion last year, making him an instant billionaire--though not necessarily a happy one.
In one tweet, he writes: "Hanging out in ibiza [sic] with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I've never felt more isolated."
Research backs Persson up. According to one oft-cited 2010 Princeton University study, researchers found that people's well-being did not go up much beyond an income of $75,000. And according to the Happy Planet Index (yes, there is one), the Costa Ricans, Vietnamese, and Jamaicans are far more happy than good ol' Americans, who unfortunately rank 104th out of 151 countries. Tell that to Kimmy Schmidt.
Or tell it to Dan Price, the chief executive of Gravity Payments, who took the Princeton study to heart and decided to pay each of his employees a minimum of $75,000 a year, which resulted in a loss of some key staffers, a lawsuit, and the departure of some clients. Turns out, you can’t really buy happiness. (Price came on Bloomberg TV to talk about the backlash. Watch our interview here.)
But there is one thing money can buy and to some, it may be just as important as happiness. Money can buy you freedom.
This is what most people are striving for--having enough money to throw away the "golden handcuffs" and pursue their dreams. Having that freedom in incredibly important and it doesn't necessarily mean you need to have a billion dollars in the bank to get it. The late AIG CEO, Bob Benmosche, said to me that from an early age he always had "f--- you money" in the bank so that if ever he needed the freedom to leave, he could.
For anyone who's thinking of leaving a stable job and starting a business, keep that "f--- you money" in the bank. The freedom will give you the confidence to pursue your goals without any hesitance. Just remember that once you make it, life won't be any happier, thought it'll most certainly be a lot easier. As Persson has found out, money has only underscored who he is--I can't imagine anything more miserable for an introvert than to be stuck in Ibiza partying with a bunch of celebrities. Maybe he should do what he's done best--repair to his now-much nicer digs and play some video games.