Money and Materialism

How we secretly desire the things we profess not to need.

Aaron Mayer
4 min readJul 5, 2020


It’s not fashionable these days to be outwardly materialistic.

Over the last decade, we’ve been inundated with anti-materialist messages of inner worth. We’ve been told that living simply is living richly.

Marie Kondo swept the world with minimalism, CEOs wear jeans and tee shirts, and our eco-conscious generation is much more mindful of excess.

The practice of conspicuous consumption, which is when people spend lavishly on material goods to flaunt their wealth, is now backfiring.

“You bought a Lamborghini? Hmm, I guess you couldn’t find anything better to do with your money?”

Not sending the intended message…

But even if we’re satisfied by our humble apartments with their minimalist decor, and even if we lambaste the rich for their extravagances, and even if we profess to believe in the maxim that money can’t buy happiness…

We all wish our bank accounts would magically double.

Why is that? Why, in a world where money and material wealth are ostensibly meaning less do we still yearn to be rich?

I asked people how wealthy they would want to be in an ideal world, and I heard creative answers.

A lot of folks use the word “comfortable,” but then they describe a lifestyle that puts them firmly in the 1%. Multiple people I know have said “I want to be able to walk into a restaurant and order whatever I want without having to look at the price.” That may not sound like too much to ask, but when you consider when the last time you ever disregarded the price at a restaurant and how much money you would actually need to achieve that level of “comfort,” the amount of money becomes staggeringly high.

Money, as many people my age see it, is a ticket to freedom.

Money would free us from the tyranny of slaving away at jobs we dislike. It would enable us to escape the clutches of rentier capitalism and actually buy a home instead of lining our landlords’ pockets every month. It would allow us to travel to the exotic destinations we see on our Instagram feeds.

In essence, we have the trappings of a materialist culture in which most of the…