Psychology professor Tim Kasser notes that money is too often used as a proxy for happiness, security, and freedom. Rather than pursue those goals, we pursue money instead.
Excerpt from Yahoo! Finance online:
We tend to place a lot of symbolic meaning on money. We think money is security, power, freedom, happiness, or love. Money can certainly buy us a measure of freedom or security, but money itself is none of those things. If we think money is security, we’ll never amass enough to feel secure. If we think it’s freedom, we’ll never earn enough to be free. The problem is, instead of consciously setting and pursuing goals to create a life in which we feel free or secure, we shortcut to money as a proxy.
Tim Kasser, associate psychology professor at Knox College, and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester have found that people who make the pursuit of money a significant goal score lower for mental health. They suffer a greater risk of depression; have more anxiety and lower self-esteem; experience more physical, behavioral, and relationship problems; and score lower on indicators testing for self-actualization and vitality (or feeling alive and vigorous). The findings were similar across different countries, income levels, and age groups.
Once we remove the emotional baggage, we can acknowledge that money is just one component to achieve our goals instead of an all-encompassing solution.