When Pablo Picasso said, “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money,” many people probably wrote the statement off as a bit of verbal cubism and forgot it. Author Laura Vanderkam (168 Hours) found wisdom there, and in All the Money in the World she explores how much is enough, and how to derive more joy from what we have by using it wisely. Underlying her look at family size, wedding expenses, backyard chicken ranching and other costly endeavors is the knowledge that while none of us will ever have all the money in the world, many of us have more than we need and don’t realize it.
On some level, All the Money in the World is less about money than about using it as a way to clarify one’s priorities. Vanderkam points out that the $5,000 most couples spend on engagement and wedding rings is great if you’re all about the bling, but spend $300 on something less flashy and you can fund a lot of nights out, day trips, bouquets, et cetera, to enrich your relationship over time. One isn’t a better choice than the other; the point is that it is a choice, not a lock-step march to the altar with specific accessories.
Vanderkam also plays with the notion of family size, exploring data that suggest once you have one child (and a home and a minivan), the cost per child to add to your family drops considerably, and continues to do so with each additional child. Again, that’s not an inducement to rush out and produce a litter, but the freedom to consider a larger family (which will nevertheless demand sacrifices) if it’s what you want.
All of these ideas are held to the light at multiple angles, and while money is often a source of stress and concern, it becomes something fun to toy with here. That’s helpful, because one of the twists one encounters as income increases is a reduction in pleasure when material goods are easier to come by: the so-called hedonic treadmill effect. Getting back to the ability to enjoy them with a sense of abundance and appreciation is at the heart of what Picasso was talking about, and there are numerous tips and a final section dedicated to helping readers explore how to do just that. If you want to earn more, or simply enjoy what you already have, All the Money in the World is a great launch pad.