Why is success connected with money?

This is something that has bothered me in life.

It seems whenever you talk about successful people, it’s always linked to money. Even when it isn’t directly about somebody becoming rich (i.e. a successful businessman) and their success might be based in a particular field, such as singing or acting etc. the success is always in some way linked to becoming rich. If somebody was a great singer but didn’t make any money out of it, they would not be considered successful. Being a successful singer goes hand in hand with having made a lot of money in that profession/field.

It’s a shame to me that this has become the definition of success. It’s hard to think of any field where being called a successful person isn’t linked to somehow being financially well off because of it. Perhaps Christianity could be one of the few examples where for instance, being a successful priest meant that priest might have converted a lot of people and not necessarily had any financial gain out of it, but even then, I don’t think people really refer to them as a successful priest.

This idea of success = money is highly problematic for a Christian, because the amount of money you have should most certainly not be the yardstick of how well you have lived your life, but almost everywhere you turn, that seems to be the message delivered. This is also one area I am particularly glad the Pope touches on a lot, about how consumerism, financial inequality and capitalism (of some types at least) are major issues.

Many, many famous artists, writers and musicians are very successful in their fields, as far as creating works that have value and influence, but are pretty broke. They frequently talk publicly about this.

Mother Angelica and similar Catholic evangelists have been highly successful but were hardly rolling in dough (nor did they want that).

Many academics and government workers (including judges, staff members etc) do not make large amounts of money. I am aware of one Federal judge who decided to leave the bench some years ago because he had remarried to a younger woman, now had two young children and his judicial salary was not enough to provide for his family in the manner he wanted. (Which, in that area and time, likely meant he could not afford private school for the kids unless he got a job paying significantly more.)

There are quite a few people who have a successful life but do not gauge it by the sheer amount of money they make. Things like quality of life, whether they enjoy their lifestyle, having time to spend with family etc are also important. The reason why money is considered important is because it’s expensive to look after yourself and a family, especially in countries where you don’t get free education and health care, but most successful people don’t define “success” as just “making the most money” because that definition often leads to an unhappy life.

I really think it’s your own thinking that’s fallen into some idea of money being the way everybody measures success. It’s not.

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Money is an indication of demand. If there is a high demand for what you have to offer you will make a lot of money. And it is too bad. Some celebrities make millions for a single performance while others are putting their lives on the line for only a fraction.

Yes and their being broke most certainly isn’t considered part of their success story. The success they had was in the past, when they were making a lot of money from their music, and the being broke part is their downfall. If they continue to make good music but only perform in clubs and make very little money from it, they won’t be considered successful anymore, no matter how good their music is.

I did mention Christian figures as a rare exception to the rule, because when you go into a vocation in Catholicism, or ChrIstianity more generally, it should never be with the intention of making lots of money (televangelists may disagree).

Anyway, I’m sure you’ll always be able to name some people who are also an exception to this rule, but the way life is set up generally, money is closely linked to success in your professional career. Even the fact that you get paid more for having a higher ranked position in most jobs. Why can’t the satisfaction of having climbed a particular ladder that gives you more responsibility and a more respectable role, be enough? Why does ‘advancing’ in most careers have to = being able to buy nicer stuff for yourself?

I agree with people need money to provide for their families, but people are good at different things, and some people just don’t have any talents. Why should somebody who is very good at singing have a more comfortable material life than somebody who is very good at plumbing? I know the literal answer, but it isn’t right.

Yep and I find this sad too. This is one of the big downsides of capitalism. If you have a product or a an idea you can capitalise on, you’ll get a lot more money (hence the term capitalism) than someone who, as you said, risks their life every day to protect you (like a soldier or cop).

No, this is nonsensical. If you look at a case of someone like Patti Smith, she never made a lot of money from her music or poetry. I have heard her say out loud there was never any money. But she was hugely influential and has a ton of fans. She’s hardly alone. There are all kinds of artists (musical, visual, authors, actors etc) who basically survived off grants and sometimes even off day jobs, or made enough off their art to pay for a modest living, but were never wealthy.

Again, I suggest you take a step back and see where your very own thinking is wrong on this point and is driving you to a wrong conclusion.

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What is financial success? What standard are you using to say that someone is “well off”?

Are you upset that some people are doing better than yourself?

No it’s not. I could be Rich Uncle Pennybags love my neighbor, use my resources for good, still live comfortably, and be considered successful.

Money and success are not evil.

I see where this is going…

Because people that are more capable and that assume more responsibilities should be appropriately compensated. You shouldn’t be paid the same as your supervisor as you’re not taking on additional responsibilities or liability for project failures.

Why is this necessarily bad? To be honest, this is starting to sound like envy…

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Money is easily quantifiable. That’s all.

If there were such a thing as an inner-peace meter or happiness gauge, then bloggers and magazine editors would write it up.

No it isn’t.

You named me one and I’ve never heard of her. Can you name any others? As I said, these are rare cases. More often than not, musicians who didn’t get rich and famous are not considered successful.

I have taken a step back and reached the same conclusion.

I understand being rich can mean different things to different people, but basically having a lot more than you need to live a comfortable life.

Nope, I feel I am doing just fine thanks. You don’t have to be poor to recognise when things are not fair.

I never said success was evil. As for money, it isn’t evil in itself, but read what the Bible has to say about money and rich people.

And where is that exactly?

Why should they be? Why should somebody who assumes more responsibilities have more material things? As a Catholic try explaining that to me.

Some people are fortunate enough to be born with more talent, or be more intelligent etc. Some are not. Why do those who are not have to live worse lives because of that? The people with skills and talents can make the most of that of excel in their fields, but why should they have a better standard living?

Yeah project failures. Tell that to bank managers who were ‘punished’ for their failures with bonus payouts.

Nope. I have no problems with people advancing and progressing in any area of life, but I don’t see why the carrot for this always has to be money, which equals, a better lifestyle. As I said in a previous reply, why should somebody who is a very good singer be rewarded so well, while somebody who is a very good plumber isn’t? They are both very good at something and put a lot of effort into it. Why does one get to have more financial reward from it?

Basically, you’re upset that people are doing better than yourself or are compensated higher than you deem appropriate. Furthermore, your posts seem to indicate a desire for stagnant wages and everyone being paid the same.

It’s called incentive. I’m obviously not working for you if you’re only paying $8.30/hour and I’ve got an offer for $19.20/hour. Good employers will retain their workers through competitive wages and benefit packages.

Ultimately, how anyone spends their private money really isn’t your business or concern. You’re just judging people. If I want to buy a new house, a car, and some stocks what concern is it to you?

Okay, well, let’s be realistic what’re you going to offer me then besides monetary compensation? I’m not staying somewhere when I can obviously get a better offer elsewhere. I work to earn a living, I don’t consider it a selfless religious vocation.

Is the plumber working on a 200 million dollar job with royalties attached? No, the studios can afford to give an actor 5 million for the movie because the profits are so much higher.

"Is not!’, “Is so!” comes pretty close though.

Donna Douglas comes to mind. After the Beverly Hillbillies, she could have sold her soul to Hollywood, but she dialed it back to Gospel singing and small-part acting.

Don’t you know people who stayed in a job, or changed jobs, for the intangibles?

Personally I reckon it’s related to the longing for material security. Many people live with financial insecurity, and that has an impact on their lives (re: housing, health, lifestyle options). So financial ‘success’ is something many people long for because of what it would indirectly mean for them: perceived security; reduced fear about the future; better health in the present day; more comfort and convenience. And beyond that: the ability to help loved ones be more secure and achieve more of their goals too.

Basically I agree that success in God’s eyes is key. At the same time I wouldn’t personally look down on those whose material circumstances lead to hardship in their lives, that they realize would change if they had one factor different: money, for better housing, medical procedures, transportation, providing for dependents, etc. And this great mass of people certainly do therefore look longingly at those who have achieved great financial ‘success’, and wish to achieve the same in some degree.

I already told you that wasn’t the case so why are you repeating it.

What you wrote hasn’t got anything to do with what you quoted from me.

Perhaps that’s just you?

Yes I know why some professions pay more than others. I know how the world works. I’m saying I don’t think it is fair on a human quality level.

Haven’t heard of her either but I get the impression she is famous for being in a popular show that made her rich. After that, she toned it down and did ‘less popular’ stuff, but her ‘success’ was the the thing that originally made her famous, right?

Sure but I think the primary reason most people want to progress or move up in a career is to make money, rather than say, prestige. Or at least, if more money wasn’t included as part of the prestige, I think they’d be a lot less interested in it.


I can understand people who have very little being desperate to have more. In those cases, I can see wanting a job that pays being a desire of theirs, as they need to survive. My questions isn’t really about why people want money though, but why success is so often perceived by society as being directly linked to making a lot of money.

I’m just saying, I think your final paragraph sort of answered your own question for you.

If you understand why people want money, then surely you understand why ‘success’ is popularly linked to getting money?

Yes, but society still judges people by the size of their bank accounts. That’s just reality.

The most truly successful people don’t care what society thinks. They don’t flaunt their wealth. They live modestly by choice, and appear to just be ordinary folks. Yet, when the need arises that requires a lot of money to meet it, they are able to do so, and that is a very fortunate position to be in.

But, because they live in a modest home, drive the same car year after year, don’t wear a lot of expensive clothes or flashy jewelry and don’t have a lot of expensive toys on display, society doesn’t recognize their success.

To that, I say, “So, what?”

Actually, those folks are smart. Those who flaunt their wealth need heavy security and are often resented by those who don’t have it. Folks who aren’t interested in using their wealth as a status symbol sleep better at night, knowing they’re secure and not paranoid.

Society is always going to judge people by shallow criteria. And, unfortunately, there will be some discrimination because of it.

Too bad, but who cares?

Yeah, I did even know what that means…

Anyways, we’re going in circle here. I concur with @Tis_Bearself you’ve definitely arrived at some strange conclusions.

Suffice it to say, I completely disagree with you and strongly suggest speaking about this issue with your Spiritual Director and/or Priest.

Why would I need to speak to a priest about my belief that most people’s measure of success is usually related to money, and how I think that’s sad? Anyway if I did speak to a priest about it, I’d like to think he’d agree with me.

If you have peace in your life you are more successful then those with tons of money.

If you raise children who love Jesus --the same.

In Christ

Most TV actors are easily forgotten. I don’t remember Donna Douglas for her role or her acting. I mean, I do remember her role and her acting, but the reason I remember, respect, and almost revere her is her choice to leave the morally-corrupt Hollywood scene and find work that was compatible with her principles. That’s integrity. That makes her famous in my book, and I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Glad to see you appreciate people for doing the right thing. Sadly I think much of the world cares a lot less about people who do the right thing, and is in awe on the rich and famous, who they see as being successful and want to emulate.

I’ll quote Solomon as to why people idolize money.

“Money meets every need.” -NRSV (Ecclesiastes 10:19)

“Money answers for everything” NABRE (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
Footnote of NABRE ECCLESIASTES 10:19: “Money conquers all”

Now since I said that I should probably make the case for why I hate money.

Matthew 6:24

New American Bible (Revised Edition)
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

Matthew 6:24
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

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