As I meet older and richer people I am seeing that money is not really acting as an incentive for too many people. In fact now I know many people who do work where MONEY is just seen as a necessity to keep the ‘business’ going, but profit is NOT THE INCENTIVE. Difficult to believe? Well, I am finding it easy to believe.

The normal view of work is that it’s something we wouldn’t otherwise do, without the financial reward of getting paid. Normally it is something that we would do ONLY because we are paid, and would not do it other wise!  The whole thing is that we need to “work” and “earn” money and grow it so that one day we can “retire” and do not have to do that unpleasant “work” at some stage.

“Money” is an inferior motivator (both to incentivise and reward desired behavior), compared to the motivation that is derived from interpersonal relationships. I am finding people who are more happy to the point that turning social connections into financial arrangements can reduce our motivation to engage in the desired behaviors. We are actually unable to say ‘why’ we need or want more money. How a banker gets more happiness by giving bad loans or doing poor deals beats me. Most banks in India have so much of shit in their balance sheets that they have to be merged with other entities to hide that shit. Yet due to our inability to judge our own motivations (presumably), and what will make us happy in the future, we continue to pursue financial rewards… even as a growing base of research reveals that it doesn’t actually improve our long-run happiness.

The reason why all of this matters is that it implies the whole concept of “retirement” may be predicated on a mistaken understanding of our own motivators. A realization that most people don’t have until they actually retire (or at least, are on the cusp of it), and suddenly discover that “not working” isn’t nearly as enjoyable as expected, despite all the sacrifices of potentially undesirable work that was done to earn the money to retire along the way.

So what’s the alternative? To recognize that work – at least, some work – can be intrinsically motivating and socially rewarding, where money doesn’t have to be the driving factor. Yet at the same time, often such work does at least have some financial rewards… which is important, because if “retirement” is simply about shifting the rewards of work from “mostly financial” to “only partially financial”, then the reality is that most people may not need nearly as much to “retire” in the first place. And that the very nature of “retirement” itself isn’t really about an end to working, but simply reaching the point of financial independence where “work” can be chosen based primarily (though not exclusively) for its non-monetary rewards!

I just heard about professors at a leading engineering college who are doing far more socially important programs than spend time teaching. One prof of IT spends a lot of time with agri projects. One Chem Tech professor spends a lot of time in spreading children’s education. Both of these professors are amazingly good in their fields – but the field in which they are NOW working (not exclusively, but primarily) creates a greater impact on society. Money? what’s that?


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  1. True. I always used to feel what motivates Mukesh Ambani to continue running his diversified empire. Of course, it can’t only be money as he has enough to retire without affecting his lifestyle. Neither is he pursuing his passion which has clicked big way like Bill Gates or other industrialists who stick to only one core industry. Practically, himself and his family are living in a 24*7 luxury prison with round the clock security and earn the collective jealousy of 130 Crore Indians. Will I be motivated enough to continue running the Reliance Conglomerate if I were in his position? I doubt.

  2. New Age work place mantra Subra : People are coming to office to take rest.

    I see many of them spending time on chatting with colleagues, cafeteria, personal paper work that includes seeking loans and lion share goes to social media on phone. Never once ‘waiting’ became so pleasure.

  3. @Kalyan Why do you think he is not following his passion? He is providing (or enabling) livelihood for lakhs of people who work directly and indirectly with the Reliance conglomerate. Every person has his/her own view of passion.

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