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Money Talk with Nimi: Networth versus Self-worth



What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are
Edgar Z. Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent

Networth is an external measure of ones worth in financial terms, while self-worth is an internal measure of how much one’s value of oneself. In our society, there is a tendency to attach self-worth and other people’s approval to material things and ostentation.

The dangers of materialism
A society that celebrates a person’s worth based on his or her assets, connections, and influence is superficial, as it builds a social strata based on material things. When people are “encouraged” to amass and cling to possessions, when their sole pursuits are on making profit, seeking pleasure, and obtaining position, it leaves little energy, time, and ability to focus on their real purpose and the things that really matter.

A materialistic society rates individuals not on personal character and achievement, but rather on the fantastic shows of ostentation. In many nations, a societal value system has evolved where material fortune is more widely celebrated than diligence, honesty, honor and integrity; such virtues are seldom accorded the respect they deserve.

As materialism becomes endemic and a society equates self-worth with networth, placing with far too much emphasis on money, power, position, and possessions and acknowledging and celebrating wealth without questioning its source, there is a tendency for people to go to extremes in order to increase their networth at all costs and by any means possible, which ultimately leads to dishonesty and corruption.

As people compete to build and to put these trappings of wealth on display, the seeds of corruption are sown. Greed and the insatiable love for materialism are at the root of bribery and corruption, which have eaten deep into the marrow of society. The endless desire of all strata of society, both rich and poor, for possessions inevitably leads to moral decadence.

How do you measure yourself?
Have you ever thought of how you measure yourself? Reflect on whether you have measured yourself by your job, your money, your position, or your possessions. Does your sense of self-worth come from your job and all its perks, your salary, your position in government or in the private sector and their attendant rewards in society?

The Next Generation
Children often identify their self-worth by the approval of their peers, which could be linked to how many toys they have or how expensive their clothes are to how quickly they acquire the latest BlackBerry, iphone, iPad, or other gadgets.

Stories abound of children asking to be dropped off before reaching the school gate so that their peers won’t see the car they arrive in. If it is not an expensive car or jeep, it could be embarrassing as they face jeers. In an excerpt from The Vanishing Adolescent 1959, Edgar Z. Friedenberg writes, “What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are”.

To spare the next generation from the scourge of materialism, we must teach our children to be proud of who they are, to value themselves and not to confuse their self-worth with their networth. Parents and leaders must teach their children and our youth, by example, that their true value lies in their inner qualities – their kindness, sensitivity, creativity and compassion rather than their looks, performance, possessions, and the amount of money their parents may or may not have. They must be taught to embrace hard work and diligence as a means to success and not be under peer pressure to look for shortcuts to “get rich quick.”

Why is self-worth important?
Life is not about accumulating wealth and possessions, because in the end you cannot take them with you. We often feel a false sense of security by having a large networth or more wealth than our neighbor. As we have seen in the recent past, networth and fortunes can change dramatically; wealth can be transient, and everything can change in an instant. During periods of economic turmoil and stock market decline, investors have lost fortunes; properties worth billions will be worth only a tiny percentage of their “value” if there are no buyers. Wealth is nice to have and can and does bring pleasure, but it is important to keep it in perspective. A strong sense of self-worth is the key to true and lasting fulfillment.

Primary success, of which self-worth is a part, includes character, integrity, humility, service above self, and legacy are they are far more important than the secondary success of networth that is associated with title, position, bank accounts, and properties.

In their study Inner Security and Infinite Wealth: Merging Self Worth and Net Worth, 2003. Stuart Zimmerman and Jared Rosen contrast the idea of net worth, an external measure of how much money one may or may not have, and self-worth, an internal appraisal of one’s own worth. They suggest that in order to develop a sense of wellbeing beyond material success and its outward trappings, we should strive to become more aware of what is truly important in life and the legacy we will leave behind.

Photo Credit: Madame Noire

Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children.Find out more via


  1. Omo

    April 30, 2012 at 9:52 am

    This is a fantastic piece 🙂 thanks

  2. hmmm

    April 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Very True ……LOVES IT!!!

  3. Nike

    April 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Love this piece but as usual, when it comes to hearing the truth about ourselves, Nigerians are very silent. If its a wedding article or a fashion article this comment page would be full by now

  4. Pearl

    April 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Not surprised there are only 3 comments on this Nike rightly said, if it were some show or wedding, there wld be hundreds of comments. Nigerian youths seem to be averse to personal development. This is however a great article that should be read and meditated on by every one. Thanks Nimi.

  5. F

    April 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you for a well written and insightful article.

  6. Stella Micheal-Egor

    April 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    This just shows how we are valuable rather than how valuable we are”.

    Quiet board…..

  7. eesha

    April 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Nice article.

  8. Pynk

    April 30, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Please tell these to the numerous nigerians who continuously fall over themselves to display items they can ill afford. this has also led to the prevalence of many young women doing runs and selling their souls for ipads and things.

  9. QueenofEverything

    May 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

    This definitely calls for introspection and self-evaluation. Articles like this that make you stop and think is needed from time to time. Thanks Nimi for sharing…

  10. jaybee

    May 1, 2012 at 11:30 am

    just 8 comments,we live in a very vain society anyway

  11. FBN

    May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    This is what I’ve realized for quite sometime now and I’m glad that this topic is being talked about in a public forum. It needs to be spoken about more. With all our collective and individual riches, do we feel any safer or more secure in our society not just against the obvious dangers like kidnapping, robbery and bombing but against slanderous gossip, being judged and condemned and consequently shunned by people who barely even know you based upon the gossip they hear about you without even caring whether it’s true or not? Are we better protected by our fine goods from the effects of lack of compassion from others or failed healthcare that can lead anyone to die at any time even if they have all the money in the world but can’t access it quickly enough to pay the doctors and nurses that will refuse to treat you until they get their payment upfront in full? The way some people disdain you because you don’t appear as rich as they are or don’t hang out with the “right, moneyed” circles can just make you feel soooo bad, like you’re not a human being again and all for what? Because I don’t carry LV bags, which according to a book I read (‘Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre’) by a fashion insider are created for about $150 but are marked up by more than 200% based on clever marketing (not that sometimes some designer goods aren’t good quality but you have to wonder whether they are really worth the thousands of dollars price tag) or because I don’t travel first class (are we not all getting there at the same time?). Look at how armed robbers today don’t just steal your bag or your car (which is wicked enough in itself); they try and rape you, pour acid on you, strip you naked and dump you along the way and even kill you – they want to just completely finish you. Is that not wickedness? They too are chasing money and doing all these horrible things to get it. I have had all these fine things like traveling first class and rocking my own genuine designer bags but I can state categorically that they did not make me happier. I long for true, genuine, compassionate relationships with people I can depend on not fluffy, empty schmoozing at cocktail parties and charity dinners with people that will sweep you under the bus for a photo op with a more well-off person. I would feel more secure in a society where we could depend on our neighbours to take us to the hospital if we were unconscious and help with our bills like that good samaritan in the bible than each of us struggling and hustling in the rat race to earn all the money so we can run our own mini local govts (that is provide light, water etc). I’m trying to be the difference that I seek and I encourage all of us to do the same even though it’s not easy, but it is more rewarding, I think. I definitely feel good knowing I’ve offered something good and compassionate to another person and truly helped them. A stronger, more tight-knit compassionate community is worth more than all the money and fine goods in the world.

  12. Chi

    May 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I think a lot of people read the piece but just failed to leave a comment. maybe they have nothing to say. As for me, this article is very true. I do believe also that social networks such as twitter and Facebook haven’t helped in building the self worth of individuals. When you see people constantly changing their pictures, clothes, partners and looking happier than yourself, you are forced to ignore them or react. In most cases people do the later. I think it can be quite destructive as you may end up constantly trying to keep up with peers, when we all have a different race to run. I know people who wouldn’t repeat an outfit that they have been tagged wearing on Facebook. That sort of materialistic self important attitude gets people nowhere in life. To me, competition is the main problem as it leads to the need to acquire and acquire so as to be on top, whilst failing to address one’s real calling. They are many empty hearts/heads walking around in all the latest designers, ruled by self obsession brought about by our vain generation. (Sorry when I started I didn’t mean for it to be an essay.)

    • The comforter

      May 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Don’t apologise dear, you have done well.

  13. prett

    May 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Hmm, beautiful piece

  14. Ajoke

    May 2, 2012 at 3:39 am

    This is a great piece, well done. I agree completely with everything that’s been said (including most of the comments). Materialism is fueling greed and is definitely a cause of this disease of corruption infiltrating every level of our society.

  15. sassy diva

    May 2, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Very true … above all like she rigtly said…it is the imapct we leave behind in the life/lives of people at the end of the day that makes all the diffeence. It could be just sponsoring one girl child or providing a bag of rice to one family every month that can make all the difference. I hope my life leaves a legacy behind

  16. Oluseyi

    May 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Well said and an eye opener!

  17. Anon..

    May 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I love this woman. She never ceases to make sense to me. Well done Nimi…I hope to meet you one-on-one sometime when I am in Nigeria. It is rare to find women of your age who sound this way! Keep up the good work.

  18. kem

    May 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    omg, i love this woman, wish she can be my friend, her word fills me deep, you are a jewel of inestimable value, women like you are the type i admire……..God bless u and fill you with much more..

  19. Cutey55

    July 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Mrs. Nimi is really an inspiration to me. God bless her

  20. Neduzi

    April 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Each time I read a piece from you madame I feel overwhelmed with satisfaction and knowledge and the desire to act on what I have learnt. Thank you.

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