Sunday, November 30, 2008

Money: Does it Make You Happy?

At the risk of sounding materialistic and sad, yes, money makes me happy.

Not always, anyway. It's the kind of happiness that is fleeting. It never lasts more than a day. I'm triggerhappy when it comes to my money. My bank account isn't quite the bottomless pit that I'd like it to be, but I like digging into it. On crazy days, very deeply. What the heck do I buy with my money? I like buying clothes, gadgets and expensive food (burp). I'm kinda high maintenance. These days though, I'm feeling the crunch of the crisis happening in the US. I earn in $$$. Anything bad happening in Uncle Sam's turf affects my financial well-being. Yeah, when I know I'm losing money, it makes me feel cranky. I guess money doesn't always make one happy, eh?

Money gives one a sense of security, but I have to stress the all-important mantra that money isn't everything. It just would be sad if your world revolves around money and nothing else and no one to share it with. But take the case of my office assistant. I talk to her all the time. I can tell her everything and she tells me her problems too. Unfortunately, she belongs to the large percentage of the Philippine population that is poor. She had her fourth child only recently. Her salary is minimum wage; her husband earns a little more than her converting swine waste into biofuels. Before she gave birth, I would take her out to Kopi Roti and Chow King to grab a bite. Our out-of-office trips were always interesting for me because she had lots of interesting stories to share. Oftentimes, she would tell me how difficult it was to feed her family. Aside from her day job, she processes government documents as a sideline. But despite that, the money was never enough. There were days when she couldn't come to the office because she didn't have money to commute. On rare occasions I see her beaming with a big smile on her face. She says it's a "good day", she even offers to treat me out to Kopi Roti. But I hate it when I see her crying because I know it's about money again.

Despite the monetary problems, I couldn't help but applaud her for her tenacity to reach her goals. She was able to build a comfortable house for her family and that was when her husband was for a time jobless. She is able to send her 3 elder kids to school. Though she borrows money from other people, she is able to settle them eventually. One time, while we were heading back to the office, I asked her if money made her happy. She says, without hesitation, a resounding "Yes!". I couldn't blame her. I would feel as depressed as her if I knew my family was starving. But I know in my mind that she loves her kids to death. And I know it's them that truly makes her happy.

Money, in the end, can make or break you. If you know how to manage your money and spend it on the right things, you will go far in this world. You keep the people you love and the friends you admire. If you squander money, deceive people and run away from bad debts, no question, you'll lose them all. My mom always said never to do business with relatives or friends. Somehow there is some truth to that. But ultimately it's the way both parties respect each other. With that, money becomes a non-issue. The moment it becomes an issue -- the personal relationship deteriorates into a mere business relationship. And we all know how chilly businessmen turn out to be when something's not right. It's all about trust and honesty. Without that any kind of relationship is doomed to fail.