How much money do you need?
How much is enough? How much do you need to live well?
I’ve had the opportunity to know people from billionaire to broke, and the answer to this question from both would most often be the same:
More than I have now.
Can money buy happiness? It’s an age old question.
It’s often asked and not so easy to answer. Religious leaders have mostly said money can’t buy happiness and that’s true to a great extent. It’s only a guess, but two of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, may not be happy in their personal lives, although both have done a lot of good. But the other side of the question of how much is enough is that fortunes like those the Rockefellers built decades ago are still key funding sources for charity today.
Some people are obsessed with money and others don’t care that much about money at all. If they have enough money for the moment, they are confident that more will turn up for them tomorrow. Many people who are disinterested in building wealth lead happy lives unburdened by huge, relentless responsibility. And then there are those trapped in poverty who have little chance to escape.
It’s a well known fact that money is the greatest source of conflict for long-term couple relationships after sex. It is the number one source of conflict in business. Do we build cash or invest in the business?
What I most often think about when I think of money is “struggle.”
Life’s energy is often about making money, keeping it, and maintaining what we believe is the right balance of inflow and outflow. If we’re spending, we’re thinking of when and how is the time to stop. When we have money, allocating it is often the struggle of knowing what to spend to be sane, safe, and happy.
Somewhere between the extremes of being an absolute miser and owning your own Caribbean Island is the place that many of us have lived.
We have a good education and a good job, but we struggle to cover what we need and the emergencies that always loom before us. Most people in that position believe that they could be happier with a little more money.
But how much? Can you have enough?
There is a “money happiness threshold” that comes to us with the income we earn. Researchers have found that the happiness threshold comes at a household income level of about $75,000 for a household, depending on where you live in the world. If you live where I live in Austin, Texas, I would double that amount because of the cost of housing and other expenses
But whatever the threshold is that takes you to that critical level, it will be when you now have enough money that you can focus more on living and less on the fear of scarcity. You can meet the obligations of household expenditures, educate your children, save, invest, and have money for recreation. You have enough money that you can manage an emergency or have money to live on when your income is disrupted.
Many people see getting over the “money happiness threshold” as insurmountable–a mountain too high to climb; but it is attainable for most people. Some have broken through the “money happiness threshold,” but want to climb to a much higher level because their vision for themselves drives that.
Here are some thoughts that might help:
- Write Down the Amount of Money You Need. You will never get to where you want to be financially if you don’t specifically know what you want to earn.
- Explain Why You Want What You Want. It shouldn’t stop with just stating how much money you want to earn. The next step is to write down why you want to earn the money you want. Create categories of family, savings, investments, and the dreams you’ll fund through the money you are given–and never forget to give back to someone else..
- Take Control of What You Earn. You’re making your way through a series of jobs that continue to pay better than the one you had, your career is on an upward track, and that’s great. But while that’s certainly a formula for a successful career, it still leaves you in the position where someone else will tell you what it is possible for you to earn…whether it’s a 3% adjustment, frozen wages, or a big bonus. In order to take charge of your life and career, take charge of what you earn. You can achieve this by becoming your own boss, learning to be a shrewd investor, or creating an innovative savings strategy.
- Explain What You’ll Do to Get What You Want. You have to explain to yourself how you plan to pay for your own success. It doesn’t come cheaply. A high-level degree from a great university will afford you huge advantages. Some of the top CEO’s and executives come from Ivy League business schools with great scholastic standing. At the same time, products and services that have changed all of our lives have also come from the intelligence and energy of people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others who never finished a degree. Success at what you have defined as your goals and dreams comes when you explain how you’ll pay for your success.
- Succeeding in Your Goal Will be Based on Your Own Self Concept–Who You Think You Are and What You Think You Deserve. I know many people who are smarter than most of us who spend their lives believing they’re under the thumb of who they see as The Man, that mysterious figure who keeps them from ever getting to where they want to be. The answer to the classic question, “Who do you think you are?” is: I’m the person I visualize attaining my greatest goals and fondest dreams.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in the 1700’s said that we should “earn all we can, save all we can, and give all we can.” That guiding principle is a light for people of any religious community or no religious community at all. It is a fundamental principle that not everyone can or should follow, but is a principle that will allow us to live a good life and give back to others.