How much is enough?

Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner™ and creator of the Sketch Guy column, appearing weekly in The New York Times since 2010.  The following article is reproduced with permission from his weekly newsletter and his website can be found here.

Greetings, Carl here.

I have a secret for you. This secret will allow you to double your income in 18 months for only five more hours of work per week. Do you want to know the secret?

If you answered “yes,” I want to give you an opportunity to double down: Triple your income in 18 months for just 10 more hours per week! Interested?

What about quadruple for 15? Quintuple for 20?

At what point would you answer “No”?

All of this points to one bigger question: How much is enough?

To be clear, I understand that for most people, doubling your income would probably provide plenty of extra breathing room for you and your loved ones. There’s a lot of research out there that suggests that money can, in fact, buy you happiness. But only to a certain point. Beyond that point, it actually seems to make people sadder, more depressed, and more anxious.

The question is, what’s that precise point?

You can read all kinds of scholarly articles that try to answer that question. One study might peg it at $72,000/yr, another at $112,000, another at $94,685 and 32 cents.

Or you could also answer that question for yourself by getting clear about your values and goals.

How many hours do you want to work each week? How much do you spend on your monthly bills? When do you want to retire? Do you want to have kids? How many? Do you want to send them to college? What kind of college? Are you happy with the public schools where you live?

My wife and I often talk in specific detail about how much money we need to be happy. Most of the time, we realize that we are incredibly fortunate to be able to pay the bills, save for our children’s education, and do most of the things we really want to do. In other words, we have enough.

Of course, this is a process. And the more I explore it, the less sure I am about the ability to arrive at a destination. You can and should expect to need to recalibrate your definition of “enough” again and again.

Now, that doesn’t mean we never crave more. We’re human, after all.

The narrow point of this discussion is just to encourage you to take a step back when you find yourself wanting more and think about where that desire is based.

Is it an actual reflection of your values and your current reality? Or is it just the More, More, More monster knocking at the door again?


P.S. As always, if you want to use this sketch, you can buy it here.