Many of us grow up with negative views of money.
We believe it is dirty, corrupt, or linked to selfishness and oppression.
Let’s be honest: sometimes it is.
But money is not inherently good or bad: it’s just a tool and it’s all about what you use it for.
Money can do a lot of good for yourself and the world around you.
Still: there’s a lot that money can’t do. I’m putting together this list of 22 things money can’t buy no matter how rich you are because I think it’s a great reminder of the limits of material possessions in bringing us fulfillment.
22 things money can’t buy no matter how rich you are
Money can’t buy you love.
There’s a funny 1980s rom-com about this called Can’t Buy Me Love.
The truth of the matter is that money may be able to buy you sex, power or influence, but it can’t force someone to truly feel a certain way about you.
Love is one of the most valuable things in the world, in fact, it’s literally priceless.
Money can get you an awesome boat, fine wine and all sorts of new fancy accessories.
But it can’t buy you fulfillment.
There are so many rich people who would give their last dollar to feel the satisfaction of a hardworking farmer at the end of the day when he sits down to dinner and a cold beer.
I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.
Money doesn’t buy fulfillment on a deep level.
3) Inner peace
Money can’t buy inner peace.
You know the feeling when there’s nothing special going on or particularly good, but you feel satisfied, engaged with the world and alive?
That’s what I would call inner peace.
This is one of the top things money can’t buy no matter how rich you are.
Yes, you can go to endless therapy, all sorts of spiritual retreats, or even pay a guru to “reprogram” your energy and vibrations.
But inner peace really has no price tag, and finding inner peace is not about money.
Money can buy you all sorts of “official” friends.
I’ve read plenty of stories of someone winning the lottery and suddenly having people they never heard from in 20 years call them up.
But true friends who stick by you through thick and thin?
Real friends, who you can share a deep connection with?
Money’s never going to buy that. Never has, never will.
And that’s just a fact.
Money can’t buy you breath. It can buy you actual oxygen, but if you can’t breathe (or breathe well) oxygen becomes useless to you.
Learning to breathe is deeply empowering.
As the bridge between our autonomic and somatic systems, breath is the link we have between the subconscious and conscious.
Learning to bring our attention and energy to it can transform our sense of wellbeing and our life.
I highly recommend this free breathwork masterclass from the shaman Rudá Iandê.
Breathing doesn’t take money, it just takes your lungs and the intention to breathe as well as you can.
Money can buy fertility treatments, diapers, baby formula and even help in the adoption or conception process.
But money can’t buy life itself.
Life is the most valuable thing any of us have (at least so far), but no amount of money, assets or minerals can buy you life itself.
Life just is.
Sometimes we curse life, sometimes we bless it.
But no matter how many gold coins we flash at life it’s never going to give us any more or less existence than it already is.
Money can buy you all sorts of top-grade college educations, online courses and e-books.
And, to be fair, these can help lead you in the pursuit of truth.
But money can’t actually buy you truth.
In fact, wealth can’t even put the desire for truth in your heart. That hunger just has to be there.
Truth is a controversial subject and many people claim to have the one truth or various versions of it.
But no matter how much money you pay to any group or guru, truth is always going to be something far beyond any financial value.
Money can get you new clothes, new cars, new looks and new opportunities.
But it can’t actually buy you self-esteem.
That inner core of self-worth and self-confidence comes from action and self-development, not from being rich.
In fact, some of the most socially awkward people I can think of are extremely wealthy.
Does Jeff Bezos seem like a super-confident guy to you?
I mean, he did go to space, but he certainly doesn’t come across as having supremely high self-esteem, and his ex-wife MacKenzie left him for his kid’s high school science teacher.
Trust me, self-esteem can’t be bought.
On the surface, money can get you respect. It can get you bodyguards, positions in companies and governments and deferential behavior.
But under the surface respect is never purchased.
No respected leader in history or business ever got thereby buying it.
And those who did were eventually undermined and toppled.
Money doesn’t buy you real respect, just temporary and fake deference.
If you want real respect you have to earn it with your actions and consistency in how you treat yourself and those around you.
10) Athletic ability
Money can purchase you time with the best coaches, trainers and athletes in the world.
But it can’t actually give you athletic ability or progress.
That has to come from inside. It takes hard work and it takes mental and physical toughness.
For those who say that athletic ability is genetic or something you’re born with, I’d have to respectfully disagree.
Yes, some of us are born with better genes for athletics.
But with hard work and determination, you can improve enormously and become better at sports than you ever thought possible.
No matter how rich you are, you can never buy family love.
Even the poorest families can be found who are happy and supportive of each other.
Then you can see countless examples of individuals who are very wealthy but have no family (or have a family they can’t stand).
The truth of family is that its value is beyond money.
And family connections – good or bad – are one of the most important things we will ever be part of in this life.
With a hefty bank account, you can go purchase a splendid ancestral castle in Scotland or a mystical and old hacienda deep in the jungle of Peru.
You can also learn from the wisest elders of the world about traditions and customs from every culture.
But you can’t actually buy tradition.
What I mean is that you can’t buy the community, customs, and way of life that tradition brings.
You can visit it, learn about it, copy it, and even ask to be included in it, but tradition itself is not sustained by money.
It’s sustained by the people and in the hearts of the people.
13) Your five senses
These days technology is advancing rapidly.
It’s true you can buy synthetic technologies that replicate the senses or can be installed through surgery in some cases.
But your five senses themselves and that natural process of perception can never be replaced or paid for.
If you lose your sense of smell, no amount of audio descriptions of smells will ever truly replace the wonder of smelling a fragrant pumpkin spice latte.
If you lose feeling in your legs, no amount of walking or exercise can ever help you really feel what it was like to have sensation in your legs before.
Your five senses are valuable beyond any monetary value.
Money can get you all sorts of official titles and fame.
But it will never make you “legit.”
Being authentic is something inside yourself that no amount of wealth can create.
If you’re a liar and you become a rich liar…you’ll still be a liar.
If you’re a person who loves to pretend to be a certain way that’s not true to yourself…money’s not going to change that for you.
Authenticity comes from the inside. That’s a fact, Jack.
Money can get you the finest clothes on the planet.
It can have you in silk underwear and designer shirts that make you feel like your skin is having an orgasm.
But it can never actually buy you style.
You could hire the best style consultants in the world with names so Italian they twist your tongue into a pretzel.
But will their style recommendations truly fit you or bring out the image and energy you want to bring to the world?
A sense of style can’t be bought.
16) Craftiness and handiness
Being good with your hands and skilled at crafting can’t be bought.
It’s similar to having a green thumb and being a talented gardener, or having a knack for sewing, art, music, or languages.
No matter how much you pay, this inchoate talent is inside you and can’t be faked.
With hard work, you can make a lot of progress.
But the first spark of inspiration and talent can’t be bought with money.
I’m not saying it’s all in your genes – or in your soul – but the starting seed doesn’t come from cash, it comes from enthusiasm and passion.
17) Situational awareness
Situational awareness is your ability to notice details of your environment and situation, particularly details that could have a bearing on your survival or wellbeing.
For example, if you walk into a bar full of angry bikers who are looking for a fight and don’t notice it then you have low situational awareness.
If you have low situational awareness you may have a lot of trouble figuring out who you can trust, what situations are dangerous, how to survive in subpar conditions and how to read social cues.
You can pay for the best survival training courses on the planet or courses on interpersonal communication and “reading a room,” but you can never really buy situational awareness itself.
18) Cultural compatibility and knowledge
No amount of money can turn an American into a South Korean, or a Cambodian into a Nigerian.
People from many cultures may move to a new place permanently and settle there, but learning the subtleties of culture and truly fitting in it can’t ever be bought.
I do believe some people truly “join” a new culture and become part of it, particularly through marriage.
However, it’s not money that leads to this: it’s the will and desire to become part of something you feel drawn to.
19) Political stability and peace
As recent events in Afghanistan have shown us, no amount of money can buy peace.
The US and its allies poured thousands of bombs and dollars into a new Afghan government and military, and it still dissolved in the face of chaos and instability.
Money doesn’t buy peace or political stability.
Empires throughout history have had to learn that lesson the hard way.
20) Spiritual growth
When you’re rich you can sit down with the Dalai Lama or meet Eckhart Tolle for a nice chat.
But your actual spiritual growth is something invisible that happens beyond the realm of riches.
You can’t buy salvation or enlightenment.
In fact, many world religions and spiritual paths teach that wealth can actually be a hindrance to finding spiritual peace and divine answers.
Money can get you special security, friends in high places, high-powered weapons and martial arts training.
But it can’t actually make you safe.
You could have the largest, most fortified mansion on God’s green earth that’s located halfway up a mountain behind three locked gates and surrounded by electrified fences 15-feet tall…
But a massive hurricane could still come and wash your home down into the sea.
Money just can’t guarantee your physical safety, even if it can often increase it.
Money can’t buy you time.
No matter if you get the best healthcare on the planet, one day your time in this mortal realm will end.
What happens next is up for debate.
What’s not up for debate is that at some point your linear, physical time will run out.
Money vs. value
One of the things I find most fascinating in the world is money versus value.
What I mean is the connection – or contrast – between why and how we value something and the price we assign to it.
In my view, many of the most beautiful and sacred things in life are valuable beyond money.
And yet I also see how so many of the best opportunities we find and connections we make are – at least partly – made possible with money.
After all, nobody would be even reading this article without the enormous sums of money which were spent on developing the internet and mobile technology.
At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition.
Yes, money matters and can do great things.
But all those special things money can’t buy are also what we’re going to remember when we come to the end of the road.