Remember the movie “Can’t Buy Me Love” from 1987? It’s a classic. It stars Patrick Dempsey as nerdy lawn boy Ronald and Amanda Peterson as popular cheerleader Cindy. Ronald saves all his hard-earned landscaping money and offers Amanda $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. His plan is to be seen with Amanda, elevate his social capital and cease being a nerd. Of course, the plan backfires. All his new fake friends find out about his scheme and poor Ronald is a social pariah once again. Money can’t buy popularity.
Money can’t buy love, either. Yes, Ronald eventually sets off into the sunset on his riding lawn mower with Amanda in his lap, but it wasn’t the money that made that happen. It was the two of them hanging out, being themselves and slowly falling for each other.
The same holds true in real life. There are plenty of things that money can’t buy. And while it’s important to be smart with your finances, it’s also important not to beat yourself up thinking how much better your life might be if you were wealthier.
Because money can’t buy:
• Talent. I don’t want to pile on because the poor girl has suffered enough, but remember Rebecca Black? She’s that sweet, rich teenager whose parents spent thousands of dollars to buy her her very own music video. The company they hired supplied her with an original song, which she sang poorly, and it became a viral hit for all the wrong reasons. She did end up with her 15 minutes of fame but, as the Kardashians have taught us, we should never mistake fame for talent.
• Respect. How many people respect Martin Shkreli? He’s the pharmaceutical company founder who increased certain drug prices by 5,000 percent – and did it for no other reason than to personally profit. Yep, this zillionaire put medicine out of reach for tons of people who could die without it, just to make even more money.
He also has zero social game. He spends all his time (and some of his money) sitting at a desktop computer and behaving like your typical internet troll. He tries to be cool and calls himself “Pharma Bro.” But don’t be fooled by his 67,000 Facebook “friends”: Nobody likes that guy.
• More time on earth. If you are exceedingly wealthy, you can afford to buy the best medical care around. That can prolong your life in many cases. But when your number’s up, it’s up, and there’s nothing you can buy to keep that grim reaper away.
• A clear conscience. Money can buy bail and a good lawyer, but it can’t erase whatever you did to end up in jail.
• Healthy children. It’s an unfortunate truth that having a low income can affect whether babies are born healthy and whether they remains healthy through childhood. But even among families that can afford to eat the most healthful food, see the best doctors and access all the most expensive tests and treatments, there comes a point at which your money simply doesn’t have any power over illnesses, diseases or injuries.
Any parent would give anything to make a sick child healthy. They’d gladly trade all their wealth to make their baby well again. Next time we find ourselves dreaming of winning the lottery, those of us with healthy kids could spend that time cherishing our own little ones.
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