Have you ever fantasized about being super-rich? Most of us have. Most of us have bought a Powerball or lotto ticket and wondered what we would do if we won all that money.

Unless you are already fabulously wealthy, you have probably speculated what it would be like to have an unlimited amount of money. That raises the question – how much money is enough? How much money does one person really need?

That question comes to mind whenever I hear about people being paid exorbitant salaries. USA Today recently published a chart outlining the compensation packages of CEOs of major corporations. Only two people on the list make less than $1 million a year. Most make much more. Wikipedia has a page listing the largest salaries of 55 of our sports stars. 18 out of 20 are baseball players – fitting I suppose given the season starts this week. No one on the list makes less than $6 million per year. A little Internet research will net you information on outrageous salaries of entertainment figures and other individuals.

To be clear here, I don’t fault people making a lot of money – I want everyone to be prosperous. I also believe that people should be rewarded commensurate with their effort and talent. Some people will always make more than others. I do have concerns over the growing inequity of wealth in the United States. A recent Huffington Post article reported that between 2009 in 2011, the top 1% of households by income came 11.2% richer while the 99% got .4% poorer.

What is it about us humans that creates a social structure with such inequity leaving the vast majority of us buying Powerball tickets and fantasizing about money? The ironic thing is that social scientists studying human motivation have shown that money is only a motivator up to a certain level. Above that point, salaries don’t motivate us to do better jobs. As long as our work pays us a basic standard of living to meet most needs, true motivation comes from within. Think of it like this – money helps us meet the lower needs in Maslow’s hierarchy, but as we move to higher needs such as self-actualization or self transcendence, money becomes less “material”.

Much of this research was summarized in Daniel Pink’s book Drive. There he categorized our “post-money” motivations into three categories: autonomy (working with others with a degree of choice and independence), mastery (being in the flow of doing something really well) and purpose (working towards something that is greater than us as an individual).  We are all called to something higher after our basic needs are met.

So what’s going on here? Money only motivates us to a certain degree yet we have some strange fantasy to have amounts that are greater than what we need. And people who get in a position to earn vast amounts – such as our CEOs and sports stars and other very highly paid individuals – have no qualms about taking the money and running with it!

It’s almost like we have a fetish about money! In anthropological and psychological terms, a fetish is when we believe a manmade object has been imbued with the supernatural ability to have power over others. Think of amulets and voodoo dolls. In such cases, we transfer power from ourselves (or God) and place it into material objects. We now believe these objects to hold all the power!

Most of us are familiar with the concept of a sexual fetish. In like manner, a person attaches their sexual gratification on a material object (body parts, fantasy scenarios, etc.) rather than on what most of us know to be truly most important –the relationship and mutual gratification with the other person.

That aspect of us that is motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose – that level of need within us which seeks self-actualization and self transcendence – is our real truth.

Yet it’s easy to be sidetracked from our truth. When we give our power over to material objects such as giving into the desire for extreme wealth.  Then, we are exhibiting a degree of fetishism.

Has every extremely rich  person given into this transfer of their power to material wealth, to this “fetishism”?  Of course not.  We cannot simply look at income levels and judge the intentions of people.  These individuals must look into their own hearts and know their own intentions.  Many wealthy people are using their money to raise the standard of living for others.  They have realized that their needs are met and they are moving into using their wealth in a manner that honors their desire to be all they can be (self-actualize) and recognizes their connection to something greater (self transcendence).

Yet, if these super wealthy miss their true mark, they can get seduced into seeing the money and wealth as being the source of their power and take protective actions to cling to their riches and grow them.

We all must always remember that our true power comes from within.

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!