Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

“Shouldn’t money free us to be better?” Lucy Mangan on why longing to be rich is a difficult dream


In the wake of the Panama Papers, Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan explains why she is baffled by how much money is really enough.

A question that permanently intrigues me is: how much money is enough? How much would be enough to enable you to stop work? To stop worrying? Is it different for all of us or is there an amount that would unite us all in idle luxury? My friend reckons she would kick back and relax if the lottery furnished her with £10m. She’s high maintenance. I would be happy with enough to provide a lifetime’s supply of Pret chocolate croissants, a Liberty sofa and the annual liposuction to remove the combined effects of enjoying same. Bigger dreams make me anxious.

This is not the case for everyone, clearly. I doubt, for example, that anywhere in the thousands of documents involved in the offshore accounting and tax evasion uncovered via the Panama Papers investigation, will there be a single memo saying, “Mr X feels he has accumulated enough to be secure for the rest of his life and is now happy to work within the traditional limits of the law.”

Lucy Mangan

And £180m evidently isn’t enough for Sting. Despite this being his estimated personal fortune after a lifetime of musical success (even the lute-based years were lucrative), he recently played at the lavish wedding of the son of Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev, who made his money drilling for oil in the kind of regions whose destruction eco-warrior Sting professes to abhor. Still, it wasn’t as controversial a gig as the one he played for the daughter of the dictatorial president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, a man repeatedly denounced by human rights organisations for his persistent habit of conscripting child slaves, slaughtering protestors and literally boiling his enemies to death. Sting claimed he thought the party was sponsored by Unicef. They replied that they were “quite surprised” by this claim.

You would have to conclude that no amount of money is enough. Even I, with my tiny, crabbed and frightened dreams would find that once my croissant needs were met I would start hankering for something else. Brownies, possibly. Or daily dim sum. Yes! Daily dim sum! Delivered! You see how it goes?

But you still must ask – what is the point of having loads of money (£180millionish-type loads of money) if it doesn’t free you to be… better? To compromise your ethics less, to move closer to your best self now that you are effectively independent of the kind of pressures that habitually bring ordinary humanity down?

I used to think that this would be the best thing – after the Liberty sofa spree – about winning the lottery. Because you haven’t gained that through systemic corruption (oligarchs and tyrants), you hadn’t earned it by the sweat of your brow (lute-playing makes you sweat, right?) – money is visited, suddenly, gloriously, upon you. You are still you when it arrives.

But then I read about the winner of £148m on Euromillions who recently closed down the cafe she bought with some of her winnings, telling the casual workers she laid off that they ‘may be entitled’ to a £100 payoff each. So maybe money just frees you to be as good or as horrible as you actually are. Maybe none of us should long to be rich after all. Maybe we’re better off not being free to be ourselves. What am I going to dream about – on my lumpy couch with my sub-standard chocolate croissants – now?

Photography: Ellis Parrinder



This week's Style List

aday 4.jpg

How to launch a lucrative fashion brand

BWPFF 2016 Shortlisted Books.jpg

Shortlist announced for 2016 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction

acciaroli 2.jpg

Anchovies, rosemary and relaxation: living to 100, Italian-style


Is crowdfunding a recipe for success?

Jazz Ohara Calais Camp.jpg

“I quit my career in fashion to volunteer in the Calais refugee camp”


Brits work the equivalent of nine weeks' unpaid overtime every year

shared parental leave.png

Breaking down the budget: what does it mean for women?


Should we stay in the European Union?



Lucy Mangan on why feeling beautiful starts with your thoughts

“Erase the ugly voices in your head”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

“A step-by-step guide to sexism”: Lucy Mangan responds to ‘Legs-it’

You are a lady and you have legs. Use them to kick ass.

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

“If you need me, I’ll be in the woods”

Lucy Mangan on the joy of being alone

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

Lucy Mangan explains how a tragic event can actually unite us all

“Amidst polarising opinion, we are still united”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“Brace yourself – it’s time we had the baby chat”

Lucy Mangan on why it’s fine to not want children

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“You can take your heels and...”

Lucy Mangan on the high heels debate

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“All hail the big cosmetic surgery U-turn”

Lucy Mangan on a welcome change in the fashion and beauty industry

by Lucy Mangan
03 Feb 2017

“Without divorce, marriage is doomed”

Lucy Mangan on why the world needs divorce

by Lucy Mangan
01 Feb 2017

“In these uncertain times we all need to steady each other”

Lucy Mangan is exasperated by the election

by Lucy Mangan
01 Feb 2017

Lucy Mangan on the art of saving money

“In debt? Allow me to confiscate your cards”

by Lucy Mangan
15 Jan 2017