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What money can't buy: the four dials of a well-lived life

By Sam Instone - December 20, 2023

You’ve worked hard to build your portfolio, but have you ever stopped to think what it’s all for?

When we think of a capable person, we usually picture someone smart, maybe well-off, and who can do what they like with their time.

Basically, someone free to create and grab opportunities.

This implies you can buy freedom... 

And if this is true, is that enough for a life well-lived?

In an earlier blog, I shared core human fears that no amount of money can ease

Irrelevance, insignificance and loneliness to name a few. 

These are particularly prevalent for those with a vigilant money personality


But is freedom something you can actually can buy?

I think so.

In many ways, it's the best thing money can buy.

It means you have control over your attention - which lets you choose which problems to solve and how to solve them.

In other words, money gives you the power to shut doors you don't want open and open doors that were closed before.

But, it's important to remember one thing. 

Achieving freedom might sound great, but it's not all that matters.

It's crucial to look at the big picture and what it means to live a life well-lived.

This boils down to achieving four key things:

  1. Health
  2. Freedom
  3. Purpose
  4. Love

These four factors are like universal guides that influence everyone's life, no matter their culture or beliefs. Everyone wants good health, freedom (whether through wealth or ideology), a sense of purpose, and love. It's something that applies to every single person; no one is exempt.

But it's not a simple 'yes' or 'no' when it comes to these factors.

For example, it's not just a matter of being healthy or not; someone can be more healthy than not. Likewise, people may feel more free in certain aspects of their lives and less free in others.

I imagine these 4 things as being dials on a control panel, which are rarely 100% turned up (or down) in either direction. Some are in the middle, some are high, some are low. And this will continue to be the case throughout life. Lots of life experiences and factors contribute to their positioning, with money being perhaps the main one we think of as being able to turn them up. 

The reason money is often such a focus in our lives is because we believe it can boost all these life satisfaction dials at once. 

But here's the truth: Money can only impact some of those dials. It's crucial for the areas where it can make a difference, but for the areas where it can't, relying on money isn't the solution.

Thankfully, it's easy to work out which is which.

For health and freedom - money can have an impact. 

For purpose and love - money has little impact. 

Let's start with health.

While you can't simply buy yourself a healthier body, money does provide the resources to make it happen. If you're not in great shape, you can hire a trainer to guide and support you on your wellness journey. Improving your diet becomes more manageable when you can afford organic produce and supplements. Money can boost the impact of your efforts, but, of course, without the commitment and discipline, it's like multiplying a big number by zero.

So, if you're dedicated to enhancing your health in any way you can, money can serve as the fuel to help you reach your goals.

Now, let's talk about freedom.

Freedom comes in two types: 

1. Your personal ability to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want. Money can boost this by allowing you to focus on what matters to you instead of constantly chasing more. This is often important to those with a happiness money personality


2. Enabling your loved ones to live the lives they want. Money plays a crucial role here, as it allows you to provide a better environment for those you care about.

The impact of money on freedom is significant because it not only affects your personal freedom, but also the freedom of those you care about. This is top of mind for those with a commitment money personality.

If you've ever wished you could do more for someone with more money, your dominant money personality is driving you and your understanding of the power of money in shaping freedom. It's a dial where money directly influences our feelings of empowerment and shame.


So, if money brings resources for better health and opens up opportunities, maybe money is the key to a good life?

We all know this isn't true. Perhaps it's not surprising how often we forget this simple truth...

Since it seems like everything important comes with a price tag (we have to eat and have a place to sleep to ensure we stay healthy and we spend a lot of time working for financial reward which gives us some freedom).

But what about the why behind it all? 

Why do we want to stay healthy? Why do we want to feel free?

Simon Sinek is famous for his TED Talk on 'start with why'. He believes if we start with this question, you can separate the action from the motive. Now we're starting to think the things money can't influence. These dials are only moved by you.

Take purpose.

You might think money can influence this because it lets you explore options and find what truly interests you. You'd have the freedom to discover your potential.

We know money can open and close doors - allowing you to see other paths that are available and giving you permission to say 'no' to things. But money can't provide a reason why you're interested in the things you are. That's where purpose comes in. 

Perhaps you're really good at something - so this becomes your purpose. Or perhaps it's inherent in you, as in all of us.

Purpose isn't tied to money because nobody's purpose is just to make money. Even if it looks that way on the surface, someone working hard for wealth isn't doing it because a million pounds fulfils their potential. I see this every day when talking to wealthy, successful people.

What truly fulfils them is developing skills and overcoming challenges needed to earn that money. The drive comes from within, and the money is more like a high-five from the outside for their efforts.

This is why purpose comes from figuring out what makes you feel curious (like a child) or a sense of duty (like parental responsibility). Then, focusing on making the most of those pursuits.

Finally, love.

If there's one dial that stands above the rest, it's love. You might be the healthiest person, but without love, what's the point? You might have the freedom to do anything, but without someone to share that time with, what's the purpose?

Can you truly feel a sense of purpose if you think no one loves you?

Earlier I mentioned that money can be used to give some freedom to our loved ones. However, it can't replace love. 

You might provide your child with a great education, a house, and a bank balance that gives them a great start in life, but if they don't feel your love, none of this really counts.

Untangling the relationship between money and self-worth isn't easy.

But understanding these 4 dials can help.

If we step back and look at the bigger picture of what defines us, money is just one part of life's journey. It can impact many things we value, but not everything.

What's key is partnering with a trusted guide to help you understand this relationship, and how to ensure that for the dials money can influence, you aren't drifting off course.

Our team use the collective insight, wisdom and perspective gained from many decades of seeing these events day in and day out, to help you navigate your personal version of an ideal future. This is backed by a world-leading, proven, and data-backed process.

This enables us to shine sunlight on quality decisions, prevent drift, optimise your affairs, overcome challenges, and help ensure you achieve your ideal future pathway.