Richard Cory implies that money cannot buy happiness. But Willy, unlike Richard Cory, has real financial problems. How important are they?
Is money at the heart of Willy's trouble or does it merely distract him from other, more vital issues?
Willy and Linda face serious financial difficulties. Willy has been removed from his salaried position working for Howard to be placed on commission. Willy will make no money unless he makes sales; there will be no salary safety net for him. This places a great deal of pressure on Willy who has been showing signs of great stress recently. Linda tells the boys their father has been trying to kill himself. Linda asks Willy to talk to Howard, to get a job for which he won't have to travel.
In his meeting with Howard, Willy loses his temper, then loses his job entirely when Howard fires him. When his brother Charley offers Willy a job (Charley has continued to give Willy money from time to time), Willy has another emotional outburst and turns it down. Later he has dinner with Biff and Happy to learn that the $15,000 Biff was to get from Bill Oliver won't be coming. By this point in the play, Willy has no job at all and no prospects. All he and Linda really have is debt, specifically on their house that they could lose.
Willy's financial troubles are not mere distractions. After a lifetime of work, he has very little to show for it. Willy has become the worst kind of man he can imagine: unsuccessful. His emphasis on success and his warped values, for years, have distracted him from something important, however: that his sons have grown up to be failures also, in almost every way. Willy's financial failures parallel his failures as a father.