There’s Nothing Wrong with Pursuing Wealth

Image of two crumpled dollar bills with the text overlay: The Pursuit of Wealth.

Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich, not because I wanted Ferrari’s — I wanted the independence.

Charlie Munger

The aim of this article is not to glorify money but to point out that the pursuit of wealth is not necessarily a bad thing. Mr Wow and I zealously pursued wealth in our 20s and 30s. The freedom we enjoy today is our reward.

  1. Aren’t We All Pursuing Wealth?
  2. Can the Pursuit of Wealth be a Positive Endeavour?
  3. Finding Your Happy Ending

1. Aren’t We All Pursuing Wealth?

“The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith is one of my favourite movies. I must have watched it at least 10 times and every time, I find myself thinking about the same thing — the movie, despite its title, is about money from start to finish. 

For those who haven’t watched it (highly recommended), it tells the true story of American businessman and motivational speaker, Chris Gardner. Here’s a quick summary for you:

  • Gardner invests his entire life savings in portable bone-density scanners, but poor sales leads to financial strain. 
  • His wife has to work extra shifts as a hotel maid to make ends meet and money problems put stress on their marriage.
  • He spends a night in jail due to unpaid parking tickets.
  • He lands a six-month unpaid internship at a prestigious brokerage firm and has to compete with 19 other interns for a paid position as a stockbroker.
  • His wife leaves him and their five-year-old son.
  • IRS garnishes his bank account for unpaid income taxes.
  • As money dwindles, father and son are evicted from their apartment.
  • They spend nights in homeless shelters and are forced at one point to sleep in a subway station restroom.
  • Despite the many hardships, Gardner continues to work hard, believing that he will be able to create a better life for himself and his son.
  • He eventually wins the coveted full-time position at the brokerage firm against all odds.
  • An epilogue reveals that the real Gardner went on to establish his own brokerage firm in 1987, and in 2006 sold a minority stake in his firm in a multi-million dollar deal.

Yes, it’s a story about grit. With hard work and steely determination, dreams do come true. But it’s also a story about money and how it impacts one’s happiness and overall well-being. When you’re homeless and penniless, happiness seems like a distant dream. It’s worse if you’re a parent. The inability to provide for your family can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy and a diminished sense of self-worth. It sucks.

Gardner’s end goal may be happiness*, but in order to achieve that, he needs money and the stability it brings. To be happy, basic needs must first be met. Otherwise, you will not even have peace of mind. 

* The film title is intentionally misspelt as it also appears as graffiti on the wall outside the daycare centre Gardner’s son goes to.

Image of a homeless person with the text overlay: When you're homeless and penniless, happiness seems like a distant dream.

I always wonder, what if the screenwriter had decided to name the movie “The Pursuit of Money”. It’s not exactly wrong since Gardner is literally chasing money throughout the movie. The thing is “money” doesn’t engender the same positive feeling as “happiness”, does it? One look at the title and you will most probably assume that it’s a story about greed and materialism, which obviously isn’t the case. 

What I’m trying to point out is that our opinions about money are extremely conflicting. On the one hand, immense wealth possessed by an individual arouses attention, awe and respect (e.g. Forbes’ annual list of richest people in the world). On the other hand, the pursuit of wealth is often viewed as a negative endeavour. Somehow, the saying “money is the root of all evil” immediately comes to mind. We think of avaricious individuals with no moral compass, whose unbridled desire for money has led them to behave in a selfish and unethical manner. 

So basically, we as a society look up to rich people but frown on those who fervently pursue riches, strange as it may seem.

The pursuit of wealth is often viewed as a negative endeavour.

The truth is, the pursuit of wealth is something most if not all of us do, one way or another. We just don’t like to admit it because we’re too concerned about the negative connotations and how it will make us look. It’s as though we will be instantly cast in a bad light if we say we want to be affluent.

But if perception is everything, how will this negative notion we have of money influence and shape our reality? If Gardner had felt that pursuing wealth was wrong, would he have broken the cycle of poverty and reached the level of success he has today? Do you think Mr Wow and I deserve our FIRE lifestyle if we keep saying that we’re not interested in money or personal finance?

Image of someone looking through a camera lens with the text overlay: Our perception often becomes our reality.

Check out: Admit It: Money CAN Buy Happiness

2. Can the Pursuit of Wealth be a Positive Endeavour?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pursuing wealth. We need money to survive, to improve our living standards, to gain access to healthcare and education, to fulfil our aspirations. Problems only arise when it morphs into an all-consuming obsession. To borrow Margaret Thatcher’s words, we begin to love money for its own sake.

I believe the pursuit of wealth can be a positive and purposeful endeavour if you understand two things:

1️⃣ Money is not a goal, but a powerful and necessary tool that helps to enhance your life and the lives of others. Charlie Munger said it best: “Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich, not because I wanted Ferrari’s — I wanted the independence.” 

Independence was his ultimate goal, but he had to develop a passion for making money in order to attain that goal. Was he a greedy and materialistic person then? Hardly. We’re talking about a billionaire who lived in the same modest home for seven decades because he, quote, decided not to live a life where he looked like the Duke of Westchester or something.1

Like it or not, the world we live in revolves around money. Whether it’s happiness or freedom you’re really after, you need to make sure that you’re in a good financial position first. It is therefore in your best interest to define the role money plays in your life and learn how to use it well. Money serves you, not the other way round. Don’t lose control of your tool. 

Check out: 7 Wealth Accumulation Strategies to Grow Your Fortune

Quote: Are you clear about the role money plays in your life?

2️⃣ It’s not about accumulating more and more money but understanding and embracing the concept of “enough”. Money as a tool doesn’t warp people. Greed does. At the end of the day, whether the pursuit of wealth is positive or negative depends largely on your values and intent. 

If your intention is solely to make as much money as you possibly can, you must be prepared to hustle till the day you die. It’s an endless cycle that does not lead to a sense of fulfillment. You will never be satisfied as there’s always more wealth to amass. And yes, you will be perceived as someone who lacks character and values beyond financial gains. If this doesn’t sound like a curse, I don’t know what does.

Money as a tool doesn’t warp people. Greed does.

Years ago, Mr Wow and I determined our “enough” to be 35 times our annual expenses in investable assets. We made sacrifices, saved and invested aggressively for seven years before hitting our target. Soon after, we retired from our business.

I always believe that to succeed at anything, you just need a freaking good reason. That reason is what motivates you to take action and stay consistent. From day one, Mr Wow and I were very clear about what we needed money to do for us. We weren’t after the high life. We wanted to make work optional. We wanted to have full control of our time.

As we no longer need to work to survive, we have total freedom to do whatever we want such as spending more time with our elderly parents and engaging in various meaningful activities that bring genuine happiness and personal growth.

From day one, Mr Wow and I were very clear about what we needed money to do for us.

In a world fixated with the accumulation of money and material possessions, the concept of “enough” encourages you to look introspectively at your life and reflect on what truly gives you joy and fulfilment. It’s about choosing contentment over the never-ending pursuit of wealth.

Quote: If your intention is solely to make as much money as you possibly can, you must be prepared to hustle till the day you die.

Check out: What Are Your Money Values and Why You Need to Know Them

3. Finding Your Happy Ending

If you haven’t thought much about the intended purpose of money in your life, I hope reading this will prompt you to ponder over it. Don’t just dream about leading a life of wealth and privilege. Think about what you want money to do for you and how much you require in order to fulfil your needs and life goals. 

I started this article by talking about “The Pursuit of Happyness”. I’ll end it by sharing what the movie really means to me. The first time I watched it, I cried buckets because Chris Gardner reminded me of my dad, the person I admire the most.

When I was young, I rarely saw my dad as he was always working. Whenever he came home early, my mum would tell us to lower our voices because “daddy is exhausted and needs to rest.” As I never knew when to shut up, I often got scolded for being inconsiderate.

Once my sister commented that my dad loved money more than us. My reply to her was: “What’s wrong with that? I love money more than you too.” Ahaha… I was very young then.

Truthfully, I never once resented my dad or doubted his love for us. He had to work really hard to escape the grinding poverty of his childhood and being a good provider was his way of showing love. He did not want his kids to suffer like he did.

There was, of course, a trade-off between making money for the family and spending time with the family. Thankfully, my mum taught us to be understanding and grateful.

Gardner also faced significant obstacles in balancing his responsibilities as a father with his intense pursuit of a brighter future. His demanding internship and financial struggles created situations where he was stretched extremely thin, making it challenging for him to spend quality time with his son. Fortunately, the bond between them remained strong and this is the most heartwarming element of the story.

I hope your story will have a happy ending too. 


  1. Charlie Munger lived in the same home for 70 years: Rich people who build ‘really fancy houses’ become ‘less happy’:

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Mrs Wow

Mrs Wow (aka Lynn) became debt-free in 2018, achieved financial independence in 2019, and retired in 2020 at the age of 42. She believes in staying invested even if there’s a level-5 shit storm. A homebody, she spends her free time reading, blogging and listening to music. Follow her on 𝕏 (@wowpursuits).

4 thoughts on “There’s Nothing Wrong with Pursuing Wealth

  1. Great post and The Pursuit of Happyness is on my favorite all time list of movies as well! Chris Gardener’s story of escaping poverty and finally catching a break is emotionally moving. It’s definitely a feel good story of earning money to better the quality of life for his family rather than greed.

    I also pursued wealth to escape debt and be financially independent (not to have fancy things) and have options for my future family. I think you hit on an important point which is knowing your WHY and doing it for the right reasons will help protect you from those that may judge you negatively for pursuing wealth. Only your own opinion matters!

    1. Right! Pursue wealth for the right reasons and don’t worry about the opinions of others.

      Many people fail to realise that their perception of money drives their financial decisions. I hope this article will prompt readers to think about the role money plays in their lives.

      Congrats on your financial success! 😊

  2. A captivating story indeed from start to finish.

    I loved the “Pursuit of Happyness” movie too. Still re-watch it.

    The quest for wealth should teach us lessons along the journey.

    I admire our dads for setting up our mindsets for financial empowerment – whether they did it deliberately or otherwise.

    God bless!

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