Let’s find out. Here’s a story of a hypothetical family, living lives similar to families throughout the industrialized world, lives very likely in part like yours.
“I’m so tired of struggling to make ends meet,” said Tom, a 45 year-old employee of a large firm. “Each month my wife Julie carefully budgets my paycheck to pay our rent, our car payments and for all of our other basic needs, like groceries, gas bills and car insurance.
“Next year our son Jimmy will be 16, and he’s going to want a car,” Tom said with a sigh. “And our daughter Sophia in three years will turn 16 and want a car too. We’re still making payments on her braces and I have no idea how we’re going to pay for college for our kids.
“Julie and I save almost nothing each month,” Tom added. “And my firm says healthcare costs are rising sharply and wants to charge us more for our medical coverage.
“This isn’t how I thought it would be when I was growing up,” said Tom in frustration. “I pictured myself being a big success, not a middle-aged guy living paycheck to paycheck, afraid of being laid off.”
Just then Tom glanced at his newspaper and saw a business tycoon had just paid himself $100-million. Grabbing the newspaper so hard it crinkled the pages; Tom intensely read the story.
“Look at this,” he yelled. “This guy in the last five-years has paid himself over a half-billion dollars! A half a billion dollars! And if that’s not enough he’s got a free corporate jet, a big staff that helps him, huge perks, and what’s more, he claims he’s underpaid!”
Tom’s face turned red as his heart beat so hard, he could feel it thumping in his chest. He had to calm himself as he sat quietly for a several minutes. Then he broke the silence. “I wish,” he said in a low voice, “I could have his life.”
“You wouldn’t want it,” echoed a voice from across the room. Tom was startled and turned around and saw an elderly, distinguished looking lady, with shoulder length gray hair. She was dressed in a white flowing robe and she had piercing blue eyes.
“Who are you,” Tom stammered. “I’m your guardian angel,” she replied. “I look after you Tom.”
“Well if so,” Tom remarked. “How come his life is so much better than mine?” “It’s not,” she said. “Let’s look at his life and then look at yours and you decide.
“He’s rich in dollars,” she continued, “but poor in spirit and he’s a very sad man.” “How can that be,” Tom asked. “First of all,” Tom’s guardian angel replied, “to be paid that much money means he faces huge taxes.
“To try to avoid those taxes, he pays an army of lawyers and accountants and they have set up such a complicated maze of fictitious companies and off-shore accounts, he can’t figure it all out and he doesn’t have easy access to the money,” the angel said as she shook her head.
“But it gets worse,” she continued. “People know he’s rich and often ask him for money. And he employs a militia of body guards, because he’s a kidnap target. It is common knowledge that he can afford to pay a big ransom, assuming his family will pay it.”
“What do you mean,” asked Tom. “Of course his family would pay it.”
“Not necessarily,” the angel replied. “He’s been married and divorced three times. And because of his crazy work schedule, his five adult children don’t even really know him. All his ex-wives and all his kids have lawyers to protect their rights to his money. He is worth more dead to them than alive.”
Tom had never thought about it like that. Most people don’t. “Yeah, but he gets to stay at all the finest hotels and eat the best food,” Tom said. “And he’s got job security.”
“It’s not worth what you think it is,” replied the angel. “His schedule doesn’t allow him to exercise enough. And with his stress level, he’s already had two heart attacks. The next one might kill him, so his doctors have restricted his diet. And as for job security, there is none in death, nor can he take his money with him. It all gets left behind.
“And as for those fancy hotels, he sits in them working. He’s on the computer, on the phone, and he barks orders to his staff which travels with him. It is a very lonely … I won’t even call it a life, it is a lonely existence. The closest he will come to smelling the roses is when they plant them over him.
“Now Tom, let’s look at your life,” the angel continued. “You’ve been happily married to Julie for 20-years and she loves and respects you. Jimmy and Sophia are very close to you and share all the important aspects of their lives with you. Jimmy hopes to grow into the caliber of man you are and Sophia will use you as a role model when she selects a husband.
“As a family,” stated the angel, “you have many wonderful times together and in the future you will remain happily together. These are things money can’t buy. And Tom, you have your health.”
“What you’re telling me,” Tom said with a sheepish grin, “is not to compare my life with others. I have no way to know what their lives are really about.” “Yes Tom,” the angel replied. “But also to appreciate all that you have.”
“Everyone’s lives come with problems,” she said emphatically. “If they didn’t, how could people grow? Life offers each person challenges to overcome. As those challenges are successfully met, the person grows wiser and learns to appreciate as well, the joy of achievement.
“There is also the pleasure of being loved and giving love in return. Life is about love, not money. And by that measure,” said the angel with a smile, “You are a very rich man indeed.”