I recently started rereading the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book stems around the idea of how to find happiness in life. In the first section of the book, you can find this amazing quote that really resonates with the world today. (sorry it’s long)
But as soon as these basic problems of survival are solved, merely having enough food and a comfortable shelter is no longer sufficient to make people content. New needs are felt, new desires arise. With affluence and power come escalating expectations, and as our level of wealth and comforts keep increasing, the sense of well-being we hoped to achieve keep receding into the distance. When Cyrus the Great had ten thousand cooks prepare new dishes for his table, the rest of Persia had barely enough to eat. These days every household in the “first world” has access to the recipes of the most diverse lands and can duplicate the feasts of past emperors. But does this make us more satisfied?MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI – FLOW
With personal finances, we talk about a concept called “lifestyle creep”. Simply put, people tend to hop on a rollercoaster of overspending as their earnings rise over time. Most investors facing “lifestyle creep” tend to follow a simple pattern of 4 steps that dig them deeper and deeper into overspending.
- Work hard
- Get a raise
- Get more money
- Spend more money
If you rinse and repeat this process long enough and you are eventually broke. But lifestyle creep is easy to avoid as long as you can automate some savings ahead of those raises. Having some fixed way to put money aside for savings and retirement eliminates being broke.
But I’d like to look at the other side of the coin. The saving part…
How much is really enough?
How much do we need?
How much do we want?
If you remember that 2018 survey from TD Ameritrade, almost every millennial expects to be a millionaire. But what are we going to do with all of that money?
Today, more than ever, fame and riches are flaunted in our face all day long. From Instagram to Tiktok, the allure of fast cars, expensive dinners, and lavish trips is all we see. People flock by the millions to track famous celebrities and hopefully impersonate them with success.
Take Fyre Festival for example; the modern day con. Almost 5000 people spent thousands of dollars for the chance to eat cheese sandwiches on the beach with celebrities. Everyone attending looking to show their status and success. The hype of the lavish lifestyle pushed common sense right out of everyone’s mind.
From investing advice on Tiktok, to financial planning on Reddit, the world is now hyper focused on getting rich quick and living the good life. Nobody wants to focus on the long-game anymore and instead wants quick results. Building wealth slowly is the best way for most individuals to become rich but like I said…it’s boring.
Where I’m going with all this is that the mindset that being rich will make you happy is a load of crap. Research study after research study continues to show the same themes. Money doesn’t provide happiness.
Obviously, some families may need to be millionaires to afford their lifetime of retirement. Any retirement plan will show the amount people need to live with. Maybe it’s $500k or $5M, but what do we do with all of the excess?
When it comes to wealth, I think everyone should take a page from Chuck Feeney. This story was amazing, and someone I had never heard of. Feeney made billions during his lifetime launching duty-free shops in airports across the globe. And with his billions, he made a goal to die broke. Giving all of his money away before he died.
I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.Chuck feeney
So, how much is enough? Really, there is no answer unless you know what you want out of life. For some, its enough to make the world a better place. For others, it might be to live a comfortable retirement. But the key is, wealth doesn’t equal happiness. So figure out what you want out of life and let that drive your wealth.
For Feeney, the goal was to spend all of his amassed fortune before he died. His story is aspiring and gives a clear understanding of how wealth should be managed.