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I Have No Need Or Desire To Be Wealthy.

I have absolutely no need or want to be wealthy. There, I said it. Was that so bad? Many people would take issue with that statement, but not me. I honestly have no need to be wealthy in my life. Comfortable? Yes, absolutely. Do I want to go without? Nope. But do I need more than my fair share? Not at all. After all, you cannot take it with you when you go, and the less I take the more there might be for someone else less fortunate than I. All I want is to be happy, stable, and fed. Is that too much to ask?

I was born into a very normal, middle-class family. My mom stayed home and my dad went to work every day as a finance guy for a giant company. I never wanted for much of anything, we took family vacations, we always had food on the table and a roof over our head. My parents bought regular family sedans every 6 years or so, with cash, and my first job was not because I needed money but rather because they wanted me to learn responsibility. So I became a paperboy, which I did for 5 years. Up every morning at 4am, lugging 45 papers around the neighborhood come rain or snow, and collecting payments every Wednesday evening from my customers. I learned quite a lot about both hard work and financial responsibility from that job, things that I have carried with me to this day. My parents paid for most of my college education, and they would have paid for all of it had my father not died when I was a freshman away at school. All in all, I had a pretty easy and stable upbringing – one that I want to emulate for my adult life, especially if I ever have children. But my parents showed me one very important thing through my childhood, and that is that you do not need to be rich in order to have a full and happy life. And I fully agree.

My grandparents, one of which is still alive and living on her own today at 97, lived and worked through the Great Depression. My grandfather was about 18 years old when it started, and he went to work supporting his mother and 4 sisters. He continued to work hard as an electrician his entire life, until he retired with his pension to a comfortable life with my grandmother. He worked in the yard, took care of the house, and spent a ton of time with my brother and I. They had a regular house, in a regular neighborhood, and drove late-model American cars. Average, middle-class folks they were. And they were incredibly happy about being middle-class, as they had no desire to be rich. They just wanted to be comfortable and to be able to live a stable life, as wealth had no meaning to them after living through the Depression. To be able to eat and have a roof over their head was of the upmost importance.

Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised, or the way my grandparents were, or because of my own internal workings, but I have no need to be financially wealthy. In a lot of ways I already have wealth, albeit a different kind – I have my health, I have my family, I do work that I love, and I don’t want for much of anything. I can afford a nice place to live, to put food on the table, to drive a car that doesn’t break down every day. A lot of people around the world don’t even have one of those three things, so I should consider myself lucky. I have everything I need in life. What could wealth buy me that I don’t already have (or even want)? A bigger house? Don’t need a bigger house. A private jet? Why can’t I fly coach like everyone else? I can already afford the stuff I need and want – I don’t need more than that. There have been studies that show that higher income and net worth does not mean more happiness, and I could not agree more. Besides, if I spend my entire life chasing more money and more stuff, what could I be missing out on? Personally, I don’t want to find out. I am happy with what I have and where I am. It’s much easier to be satisfied and content when you are not perpetually chasing more…Trust me on that one.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you think being wealthy can make you happy? If so, why? Or do you think that you don’t need wealth to have a content life? What are your thoughts on this? Let me know, I am looking forward to hearing them!

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Comments (25)

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  1. Rick says:

    I had the same philosophy for a long time until I woke up. The fundamental problem with your view is that “being comfortable” is a moving target.

    If you decide that you only need 50k per year in annual salary to make you happy but only get 3% raises each year but inflation is rising at 6% then it’ll be a decade when you’ve realized that you’ve gone from “comfortable” to “struggling.”

    This is the theme that has been repeated in American life. There used to be a time when a family could get by with one income but now most struggle with two incomes. Inflation, taxation, technology advancements all contribute to “eroding” you level of “comfort” to non-comfort.

    I don’t want to be wealthy but I shoot for the goal every day so I can keep ahead.

  2. I love this piece and I love that you wrote it. I am 100% on the same page – but my life experiences are very different. For me, wealth is faith & service. Nobody can take that away….not even Bernard Madoff!

  3. I agree with your outlook on this. My wife and I have no huge desire to be ultra-wealthy. For us, financial independence is the key. We have tons of things we’d rather do than stock pile money for the next 50 years.

    However, I also don’t believe there is anything wrong with being super-wealthy. I like the quote that says money just makes you more of what you already are.

    It won’t cause you to be happy if you aren’t a happy person. A jerk is simply a bigger jerk. However, the ability to make a real difference in the lives of people and causes is a desirable goal. Money can go a long way in touching the lives of a lot of people.

    Good read!

  4. SaveBuyLive says:

    You brought up some great points. I suspect that the reason you don’t need financial wealth is that you have wealth in so many other areas of your life. If I pulled one of those out from under you, would you still write off having loads of cash?

    If you hated your job or if you had nothing resembling a family I suspect you’d be much more interested in wealth. For example having a ton of money could let you exit your otherwise mediocre and uninspiring 9-5 job. You might retort that you should just find a job you love, but my response would be that this is usually a lot harder than it sounds and could border on impossible for many people.

    Your post also makes me wonder what would be easier to build from scratch: A great life and a modest income, or a giant pile of money that you could laternuse to make your life better?

    PS: Coach is awful. Especially the middle seat. Having just enough money never to have to fly coach again would rock.

  5. david says:

    Yes, I would still write off having loads of cash. Money doesn’t mean that much to me; everything else does. So having the money would not come close to replacing those other things. And I do disagree about work – I think most anyone can find a job they love, it’s just that they are not willing to give up anything to take it. They still want the big house, expensive cars, to live in the nicest neighborhood, etc – I would give all those up to make sure I can do what I want to do for a living. As for flying, well, I don’t fly anymore – I just take Amtrak and buy myself a whole bedroom with a shower. :-)

  6. david says:

    You don’t need to be wealthy to keep up with inflation – you just need to keep up with inflation.

  7. Annie Jones says:

    This is a great post. I agree whole-heartedly!

  8. Glen says:

    I believe everyone should desire to be wealthy. Wealth is not about money but a state of mind and a life experience.

    I also believe everyone should strive for excellence and should do their best in their chosen career. Some careers reward excellence with money, I have chosen such a career.

    My family was content and happy when our income was $50k a year. Now that it exceeds $300k a year we are even more content and happy. I work less than when we only made $50k and my wife no longer works. The increased income has allowed us to own a very nice home, have 3 kids in private school, live in a nice safe neighborhood and enjoy many life experiences that would not be available without money.

    We also are able to give 10% of our income to charity, I have taken my kids to third-world countries on mission trips and we are able to volunteer for worthy causes.

    All of this while saving for retirement and living below our means.

    From Chariots of Fire:
    Eric Liddell: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

    I believe we should have this same attitude when we participate in the purpose for which God created us. Contentment and satisfaction come when we are able to live out that purpose. There is also nothing wrong with making money while we are living out that purpose.

  9. Enrique S says:

    I know people on the low end of the income spectrum who are always happy, and people with boatloads of money who are perpetually miserable. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy some security and peace of mind. Given the choice, I’d opt for comfortable and happy versus filthy rich and miserable.

  10. LinearChaos says:

    I tend to be on the same page as well. As long as I have enough to pay the bills and save for retirement and a rainy day I’m good to go.

    In order to be successful I need to be intellectually stimulated, I need to do things that engage my brain and interest me. Too many things that lead to extreme wealth are just not interesting.

    Great post!

  11. This is fun to think about… I’m not sure I’d give up the dream of being wealthy but I know that by paying attention and being intentional with my money that I can achieve “confort” more easily and therefore “wealth” is easier to reach as well.

    Money is not the objective but if you treat it well it tends to stick around.

    Thanks for the discussion!
    Dave

  12. Jessie says:

    You definately have the right idea about being happy without being wealthy. Too many people make purchases thinking it will bring them happiness. The problem with that is you constantly need buy new things to keep that happy feeling.

    A modest lifestyle would be much more satisfying than constantly striving to acquire more money and more possessions- not to mention more financially wise.

  13. I think there’s a fine line between being contented yet driven and driven to be content. Contentment is a decision, not a destination you reach when you hit a certain level.

    Sounds like you’re there!

  14. vilkri says:

    I really liked this post. You really don’t need to be wealthy to have a good life. Being comfortable is good enough.

  15. Bret says:

    It sounds like you are already contented with your life, so there’s no reason not to be wealthy as well.

    It’s not like your life is goint to suddenly change for the worst because you have a little money.

    Most of the wealthy people in The Millionaire Next Door think and live just as you describe. But, they are also wealthy.

    The important reasons to have wealth are for security and freedom. Wouldn’t it make you happy to have a cushion, reduce stress and maybe help others?

  16. David says:

    Bret – what you said could be true, if I was willing to work harder and more often. I don’t want to, I want to enjoy the time I can have to myself and to my family. Money is not important enough to me to give up my time for, so I make enough to be comfortable – and that’s all. It would actually increase stress if I were to have to work more, which is what I am trying to avoid. So many people spend their entire lives working just to make more money, and I decided a while ago that was not going to be me.

  17. Bret says:

    David,

    I wasn’t advocating working harder to become wealthy. I’ve never been a big fan of the work and stress treadmill. Life is too precious for that.

    I recommend saving some part of everything you earn. Just pay yourself first so you have something left over for your family from all of your effort.

    Time becomes more precious than money and it’s a sucker’s game to trade one for the other. But, if you think it’s less stressful to just get by, I have to respectfully disagree. Trust me on this, what is less stresful is having some ready cash to fall back on in an emergency.

    I just watched a really good friend of mine lose his house after an ATV accident. He was doing fine just getting by for 20 years, until the accident. If he had saved a couple months worth of cash, he and his family would have been fine. Instead, they lost everything.

    I support a family of four on a single income. I have been laid off twice, once for almost six months. I never had to stress over it, because I had money put away. I don’t drive an Escalade, but I do protect my family. It’s kind of like having insurance. It makes good sense.

    I strongly recommend that you read The Millionaire Next Door or The Wealthy Barber. That’s just a tip from an old dude who has seen some good and bad times.

  18. David says:

    I have actually read both books, and I definitely don’t go without anything I need. I make much more than we spend, so we save each and every month. I guess my point was that I am comfortable where I am, in terms of money earned and things owned, and I have no need for more of either one of those things.

  19. Good post. I was just working on a post about something sort of similar that I realized on my birthday this week.

  20. Anthony says:

    Interesting post. I agree with the being content in simple things and not devoting your life to getting more. If your life is satisfying the way it is, why chase more money like most other people? After a certain point wealth is frivalous.

  21. I completely agree – I don’t have any desire to be wealthy, though I would like to be financially comfortable (meaning enough for our needs and fun extras). But I’ve often thought how nice it would be wealthy because of all the good I could do with that money. Sometimes I daydream about the charities and non-profits I would start if I were wealthy…

  22. g says:

    Dave:

    Had many similar life experiences but also was taught to get ahead. Squandered a lot of dough living for today to compensate for lots of rough times and rejected that protestant work ethic. Picked myself up again, and believe me discipline don’t come easy, but yes I want/need to “get ahead” because time is passing and as another poster put it things can get rough really fast. I’ve gone from 0 net worth to more than $250K in ten years on a middle class existence,and it should be a lot more. You have to decide: it’s OK to be poor when your young but it ain’t so much fun when your staring down retirement early or late right up ahead. Yes, get wealthy and get wealthy fast!

  23. Cat DeBonville says:

    I agree with you, wealth is like propaganda, don’t buy into it. My family was wealthy, however we were so unhappy in a very disfunctional family, where money could not buy love…so I learned at a very young age, that money can buy you what you want, but is that what we really need?

  24. MimiR says:

    For us to have 80% of our income in retirement, we need $3 million. And NO, we aren’t even in the top 5%, much less the 1%.

    Most people would call that “wealthy.” My parents, one of whom has a pension, the other of whom has retirement savings, are worth well over $1 mil in their retirement account, though they are at least 4 years from retirement. Again, most people would call that “wealthy,” but they will be able to retire on about 70% of their current income (adjusting for inflation, of course), which is solidly middle class.

    If you want to have a decent retirement, then YES, you want to be wealthy.

  25. MimiR says:

    Oh, and your grandparents benefited enormously from Social Security, getting out WAY more than they paid in. Of course they were comfortable in their old age–other people paid for their retirement!

    Not going to happen for you. Wake up and save your money–”wealth” means net worth, not income, in case you don’t know the difference. There are plenty of people making well over $100k a year with no wealth.

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