Money bread is made of air

A recent news article tells us that there is something the 1% and the 99% have in common: appetite for saving.

America’s top 1 percent saved their money at a rate of 37 percent last quarter, according to a recent survey from American Express Publishing and the Harrison Group highlighted by CNBC. That means that during that period, wealthy Americans put away about 37 cents for every dollar they earned, which is more than triple their savings rate in 2007. In addition, a Bank of America study cited in the CNBC report found that more than half of millionaires have a “substantial” amount of cash on hand and of that group, about 60 percent said they didn’t plan to invest it in the next two years.

So they save one third of their income? That’s what my mother, a typical lower-middle class housewife, used to do in order to provide enough food for three kids. I thought entering the 1% club meant that your axx is covered for lifetime. I understand if they merely aren’t actively investing, which is condemned at the end of the paragraph (Why don’t you give your money back to the society—us?), but why do they need to save?

We save something because we think it is limited in supply. But in case of money, the act of saving doesn’t make sense for the riches because (1) they already have wealth that lasts for lifetimes and (2) the current form of money is practically unlimited in supply—thanks to central banks worldwide turning into money-printing machines.

Millionaires should know more about how much money they own, and the intrinsic nature of money (= meaning there is no intrinsic value in money itself). What they are doing doesn’t make sense—logically.

Emotionally we know; the more money we have, the more trapped we become in the money-centric world by spending more time managing money and more energy worrying about money. It is not money’s problem. Whatever we obsess, it starts to dominate our lives as we gain it. It is a vicious circle.

What makes money special, I believe, is that it is intangible. First, money does not have value on its own. It creates value only when exchanged with other commodities. Second, in the modern form of money, which is numbers in our accounts, we do not see, hear, smell, or touch it. There is no such “thing” as money. There is only hope, possibility, and expectation. Money is, literally, our desire.

What if money is a commodity that is useful in itself, such as rice? I see a sack of rice and immediately know how long it can feed myself and my family. If I am rich and my storage is full of rice sacks, instead of thinking I have “a lot,” I can calculate on the spot that I have savings to feed my family for 7 and 3/4 life cycles. More importantly, I can “feel” the implications of having enough wealth. My stomach will tell me: Enough.

If I tangibly know from first-hand experience that I have more than enough wealth, won’t that stop me from trying to have more and more? To manage my wealth (rice) I need to buy a bigger storage and hire more people, plus I need to circulate my rice because it is good (edible) only for a decade. Physical properties of rice will tame both my desire to be incredibly rich and my fear of starving.

The money in purely digital form does not have the power to pull ourselves back into reality in terms of wealth. The more digits we gain in our bank accounts, the more desire we grow, because there is no punishment for having more. All we have to do is to flick that magic wand to churn more numbers. Why not?

But, as we become digitally rich we will also grow our desire’s twin brother, fear. If it was just a matter of flicking our wand to make money, then it would also mean that we could lose our fortune by letting someone flick their wand in a wrong way. Easy come, easy go. Thus, the more we become number-rich, the more we become number-coward. I think the disturbing trend—the riches hoarding cash—will continue even stronger now that even the paper form of number-money is going to be replaced by digits inside credit cards, debit cards, Paypal and other online accounts.

Nerd communities and some of my friends are excited these days because of Bitcoin, the supposedly neutral and de-centralized digital currently. But it won’t certainly solve this dilemma of intangible money that accompanies unstoppable desire. Will there be a solution?