The Most Fundamental Thing You Can Understand About Money

“Money is like love; it kills slowly and painfully the one who withholds it, and enlivens the other who turns it on his fellow man.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

We’ve all heard it said that money makes the world go round, and while that is undoubtedly true, there are a number of hugely successful entrepreneurs and investors who have discovered another fundamental truth about the thing we all seem to need more of — money is a tool, and a powerful one at that!

While most of us spend our days viewing money as an end in itself, and trying to get as much of it as we can, these visionaries view money entirely differently — as a tool they can leverage to change the world. In other words, as a means to an end.

Could it be that this is the reason they’ve come to acquire so much of it in the first place? Could it be that they see it as a form of energy, and themselves as a conduit through which it flows — in the name of bringing their visions of a better world to life — as opposed to a holding-cell designed to simply keep their fear at bay, accumulating as much of it as possible before they die?

Is it reasonable to believe that when money is viewed in this way, your relationship to it changes, making it easier to take the risks needed to come by huge amounts of it? Or is this all just the talk of fortunate billionaires who are privileged enough to view money in this manner, peering down on the rest of us from their ivory towers?

While that question ultimately belongs to the philosophers of this world, there is no denying that, at this point in history, money talks. And if you want to make an impact, you need to do just that — act. here are a number of influential entrepreneurs and investors who both hold, and act on this view. 

Elon Musk

Elon Musk may actually become the first visionary to successfully send a human being to Mars some day through his company SpaceX.

Whether or not humanity ever reaches the red planet, Elon Musk has made no secret of his view of money as a means to an end, and his plans to do great things with it.

While the eccentric billionaire would never say money doesn’t matter, nor deny the importance of profit, he is on record stating that he views it as something he can use to change the world in positive ways, rather than something he can gather up and store safely away in a vault somewhere for power and security’s sake.

I don't create companies for the sake of creating companies, but to get things done. ~ Elon Musk Click To Tweet

As well as believing that humanity can, should, and will travel to and live on other planets, Musk plans to create battery-powered cars and homes for all, do his part to fix climate change, and at the very least, open space up to tourists.

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is as old school as they come, and his entire lifestyle embodies the principle of viewing money as a tool, rather than something he covets for its own sake.

Buffett has actually held the spot as the richest man in the world at various points of his life, but currently finds himself in the #2 positions, behind Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Yet despite this, Buffett lives a remarkably humble lifestyle, residing in the same home he bought when he first married, and allowing himself only $15 per day for expenses.

Buffett is your quintessential eccentric billionaire, but what he has chosen to do with his vast wealth is just as interesting as the man himself. As part of the Giving Pledge he took along with Mr. Gates, and many other wealthy philanthropists, the money mogul will ultimately see 85% of his vast wealth donated to causes devoted to making the world a better place for all.

Why? Buffett believes strongly that all money comes from society and should be returned to society.

Yet he remains, of course, far from naive. Indeed, his stone cold realism when it comes to money and profits is legendary, extending even to his direct family. As he famously told Fortune Magazine in 1986:

{Leave your kids} enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing. ~ W.Buffet Click To Tweet

The key to his success? Clarity. Particularly when it comes to a little thing called compound interest. Buffet is a man who understands, perhaps better than anyone on earth, the power of money as a tool for simply making more money.

And while many cite compound interest as being the most malevolent aspect of banking, their opinions would be sure to change if they indeed learned how to employ it themselves, and to their own particular ends. Remember, all of these methods are simply that — methods — and hence possess no intrinsic ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. As soon as you label something ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, you’re not going to want to engage in it yourself, obviously. But who does this leave, then? People who don’t have the same scruples as you.

So here we have this incredible tool for wealth creation being completely ignored by so many of the benevolent people in the world, simply because of the stigma attached to it. Yet think of what could be done if they managed to get on board. Just as Buffet had no issue capitalizing on compound interest to make so much of his fortune, he also has no issue giving most of that fortune away. Might it be time to ‘think again’ on this matter?

Bill Gates

As mentioned above, Bill Gates is the world’s richest man. He makes and loses more money during a bathroom break than most of us would make in ten lifetimes. Yet his name has also become synonymous with philanthropy in recent years, and the worl has watched with growing admiration as he continues to put his money squarely where his mouth is.

Through his work in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he’s invested in ways to lift the world’s poorest out of gut-wrenching poverty, along with taking on malaria in developing nations and helping to wipe out polio in India. And these are only some of the things he’s up to — a simple Google search will reveal the reams of positive work his foundation is engaged in.

Sure, things weren’t always this way, with Gates and Steve Jobs duping, conniving and climbing the ladder relentlessly in the early days of home-computing (as was brilliantly portrayed in the classic made-for-tv film Pirates of Silicon Valley), but that’s the funny thing about wealth — and about attaining one’s life goals in particular — it appears that it can cause a certain amount of humility once you ‘get there’:

“I can understand wanting to have a million… but once you get beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger.” ~ Bill Gates

So while Gates has always understood the power of money as a tool to change outcomes, it appears that the combination of maturity, the desire to do good, and the knowledge that money for money’s sake does not bring ultimate satisfaction is what has, in the end, driven Gates to use his wealth as a tool for positive change.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is often described as “the accidental billionaire”. After starting a social network from his college dorm room to impress a girl, Zuckerberg became a multi-billionaire and shot into the world’s rich list, becoming a global sensation and tech icon in the process.

Yet Zuckerberg is another member of the world’s super-wealthy that has decided to give his money away — or, at least the vast majority of it. What is unique about Zuckerberg’s pledge is the fact that he is still so young and has decided to relinquish the majority of his fortune while he’ll be around to actually see the results.

Zuckerberg’s attitude toward money is perhaps best summed up by his most famous quote:

We don't build services to make money, we make money to build better services. ~ Mark Zuckerberg Click To Tweet

Zuckerberg announced his plan to give away 99% of his shares in Facebook to causes he believes in on the day his daughter Max was born, citing his desire to leave the world a better place for her and future generations.


While there are, of course, any number of variables at play in any given scenario, this understanding of ‘money as a tool’ has undoubtedly played a part in the mass of wealth that flows through these entrepreneurs, and, as we’ve just seen, the creation of a better world — the world our children are going to inherit.

Obviously, there is no need to go nuts and invest irrationally, or pull your life savings out after reading this, but now that you know money is a tool which can be used to leave a legacy, and impact the world in positive ways, the only question that remains is… what are you going to do with yours?

~ This is a guest article written by Andrew Altman.

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