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How much money is a lot of money?

And how much would you give me without blinking, asks Shane Cubis.

There are some moments in life you never forget, some lessons you learn that stick with you, even though they sound incredibly banal when you try to explain them. But here we go anyway. I was a teenager, and my slightly older friend Paul scored a summer job at David Jones. I met up with him on the loading dock for a chat, and that’s where he changed my life forever told me something that made me think about things in a slightly different way:

“I just got paid!” he said, then got all arrogant. “For you, $100 is a lot of money. But for me, that’s not much. Now $1000 is a lot of money for me.”

It was true – at that moment having $100 would’ve been amazing, and $1000 was unimaginable. Today I think about it in the same way. If someone gave me $10,000 right now, I’d be happy but it wouldn’t change anything about my life. But if someone gave me, say, $500,000… or if I went back in time and handed Teenage Me $10,000…

Which leads me to World of Warcraft, which I played for a while around 2007.

Like all successful games of its type, this massively multiplayer online game had an economy that had been designed to scale up as your character grew in power. So when you’re starting out, you’re scraping together copper pieces to afford a dagger that’s slightly less rusty than the one you’re wielding, and a silver piece is like winning the lottery.

For some reason, a higher level character was hanging around the cradle area with us baby heroes, bragging about how much gold he had. (Actually, that’s probably the reason.) Because he was blowing hard, I replied that since he had so much, he should give me a gold piece.

“I think I will,” he replied, then did. Suddenly, all that time spent collecting rat tails for coppers and reselling kobold candles was unnecessary – I blinged out my character with shiny armour, weapons and other equipment, and was able to focus on heroic quests instead of grinding through side missions for peanuts. Not to exaggerate things too much, but that braggart stranger changed my virtual avatar’s life (at least for a level or so), and wouldn’t have even noticed that gold piece was missing from his coin purse.

So I’m wondering: what’s the amount of money that would change your life? And what’s the amount of money you could hand over to someone without feeling its loss? And do you need my bank details, or…

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