How Much Money is Enough?

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Last weekend, I was talking to my brother-in-law who is a jet mechanic and pilot.  He told me many of the private jets are up for sale right now, because the super wealthy are concerned about the economy.  This got me thinking, if I had hundreds of millions of dollars, would I care about losing a couple million on a jet?  More important, would I even want a private jet or hundreds of millions of dollars?

Who Wants to be a Billionaire?

Fine Dining on a Private Jet
Image by Shine 2010

With all of the Facebook IPO fever, it seems like everyone wants to become the next billionaire.  For me, that is probably my worst nightmare.  I can’t think of anything more stressful than managing a huge financial empire.  Sure, I could do a lot of good in the world with that kind of money, but it would come with a lot of personal sacrifices.  I can’t imagine needing private security or consulting with lawyers regularly.  I can’t imagine everyone wanting something from me.  I would much rather fly coach, live in a modest house and own my life.

I bought lottery tickets with a group of people from work and I found myself hoping we didn’t win.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but that’s how I felt.  Instead of envisioning all of the things I could buy, I started thinking about the media attention and people hounding me.  It seemed like more of a problem than a solution.  I was glad when someone else finally won.

Truths about Money

Money doesn’t always buy happiness and it can bring misery.

As I was writing this post, I heard the tragic news of the apparent suicide of Junior Seau.  It’s too early to speculate whether money problems contributed to his death, but money problems and divorce seem to plague most professional athletes.  I remember an interview with Junior many years ago when he spoke about how simple life was when he had little money and drove a Pinto.  After becoming successful, he had to worry about his Mercedes getting scratched or stolen.  Money can be a blessing and a curse.

No matter how much money some people have, it’s never enough.

One thing I can’t understand about athletes, entertainers, bankers and executives is why they never seem satisfied with their incredibly high incomes.  There always seems to be a squabble over the number.  Players hold out for an extra million, when they are already making ten.  CEOs make more getting fired than ten workers make in their lifetimes.  Is it all about ego at some point?  Or, do they really feel they need the money?  True happiness doesn’t come from a massive paycheck.

Money doesn’t always bring the security people think it will.

One of the things that drive people to accumulate wealth is to provide financial security.  In the awesome book The Millionaire Next Door, one of the things discovered that drives successful people is the search for security.  The odd thing is that security never becomes assured when someone reaches a certain level of wealth or income.  In fact, the leveraged nature of some investments and the uncertainty of business can increase the risk.  Peace of mind comes from enjoying our lives.  That doesn’t come with a dollar figure.

The Stealth Millionaire

My dream is to become a stealth millionaire.  I want to walk around in flip-flops like many of the other millionaires in my town and concern myself with health, happiness, experiences and relationships.  The less I have to think and worry about money the happier I will be.  I would like to have enough money to fund my life, without controlling it.  What’s the sense of rising above the drudgery of employment only to be consumed by managing wealth?  True happiness comes from being content with what we have.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that everyone has their own dreams and goals when it comes to money.  Those dreams may or may not conflict with reality.  Be careful what you wish for and consider yourself fortunate.

“Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.”

Warren Buffett – American Billionaire

Recommended Reading

Out of your Rut – Is Striking it Rich the Main Reason to Start a Business?
Squirrelers – The Tricky Math Behind Losing Money
Money Cone – Unconventional Wisdom in Personal Finance

This post was featured on the Carnival of Personal Finance over at One Cent at a Time.  If you aren’t familiar with the Carnival of Personal Finance, you need to check it out.  It’s the best place on the web to get your financial advice.

25 thoughts on “How Much Money is Enough?

  1. I’m with you Bret, stealth wealth is best. Being rich and everyone knowing it would change each and every relationship one has and will have in the future I think. You’d never know whether people like you or like your money. Be a lonely existence I’d guess.
    Kurt @ Money Counselor recently posted..6-Month AnniversaryMy Profile

    1. Hi Kurt,

      When it comes to relationships, I don’t want money to be an issue. I have more money than some of my friends and way less than others. It’s not a factor for who my friends are and I don’t want it to be a factor for who chooses me as a friend.
      Bret recently posted..3 Reasons to Control your own AssetsMy Profile

  2. Hi Bret–Thanks for the link! I’m with you on the stealth millionaire (well put BTW). If I’m a millionaire no one will know about it. It will be enough satisfaction for me to know that I’m well off, I don’t need others to know as well. What people miss about money is that there’s tremendous freedom in keeping quiet about it.

    Also, I think being rich is about much more than money. You can be rich without having a lot of money if what it is you have is serving your needs rather than being used to chase a higher living standard. I wrote a post about it, “10 Ways to Be Rich without being Wealthy”.
    Kevin@OutOfYourRut recently posted..How Prepared are You for a Career Crisis?My Profile

  3. Bret,

    Does your answer change if your riches came with anonymity? I know mine does – if people just thought “oh, he’s well off” instead of “HE’S A BILLIONAIRE!” I’d be much happier.

    Of course, I won’t know until it happens, haha!
    PK recently posted..Is It Possible to Beat The Stock Market?My Profile

    1. Hi Paul,

      I have noticed that a lot of the recent lottery winners chose to remain anonymous and I think it’s great they can do that. But, if you are part of a winning group, people will figure out who the winners are.

      As for being a billionaire, I don’t think there is any way to hide that. I suspect most billionaires are proud of it as their life accomplishment.
      Bret recently posted..What I Learned from my First JobMy Profile

    1. My wife and I also drive 13 and 12 year old cars respectively. I can’t see spending a lot of money on depreciating assets. I may buy new when they finally come out with the electric vehicle I want, because they won’t be available used.
      Bret recently posted..3 Reasons to Control your own AssetsMy Profile

  4. Thoughtful post indeed. You have got a brilliant point Bret. Money makes human life simpler but on the contrary many a times it takes us away from our dear ones. An ample amount of money stabilizes a financial endurance and desired lavishness. But at the same time it has its negative aspects as well. Its bound to bring in an over the top feelings inside you and compose a detachment towards your surrounding. Hence, I feel the amount that is important to have a prosperous life is more than sufficient in a lifetime. Otherwise we end up losing a lot at the cost of being affluent.

    1. One of the things I believe is important is to have struggled at some point in your life to earn money.

      Most of the really arrogant people I have met never labored for low pay and they treat laborers like low-lifes. Most of the truly thoughful people I have met (especially the wealthy ones) started out with humble beginnings.
      Bret recently posted..How to Save a Million Dollars on a Modest IncomeMy Profile

  5. I have seen people getting detached from each other just because of this nerdy money. Be it parents with their children, lovers, relatives, friends etc. Everywhere money has been the worst ever reason for destroying a beautiful interpersonal relationship. No doubt solvency is important, but not more than requirement, for which we have to lose our loved ones. Nice article.

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