Personal Finance 

The Knowledge That I’ve Got Enough

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How much is enough?

Check out this poem, written by the late famed author Kurt Vonnegut, about Joseph Heller, another famed author. If you don’t recognize either name, Vonnegut was most well known for Slaughterhouse-Five and Heller for Catch-22.

Joe Heller

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

Which would you prefer, a billion dollars but the thirst to acquire more, or a mere million and the knowledge you’ve got enough?

(Photo: buriednextotoyou)

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “The Knowledge That I’ve Got Enough”

  1. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Jim,

    A very thoughtful blog post. Posts like this one keep me reading your blog; you are continually evolving your readers!

    When is enough? I think determining when you have enough is something you have to think about all through your life and I find that I’m constantly downgrading my “enough set point “as I get older. It’s an individual thing.

    I’ve found it useful, when I’m contemplating this question, to think about people I’ve met when I was a laboratory technologist. If you can’t work in a hospital, you can always volunteer at one (try a cancer ward or a psychiatric unit) and volunteer there. I think if you meet people at the high point of a medical crisis or even participating in a prolonged, agonizing marathon of a final race for life, it is sometimes the things we haven’t done in our lives (such as write a book, birth a few more annoying boys, love more folks) that bothers them and that they say the real determinant of a quality life is having done what they wanted to do with the time of their lives. How much they have in the bank and whether these assets are enough is rarely a big thing (at least this is true, in Canada where we do still have medicare and in general, don’t have to hash about cash when we are dying).

    For myself, good health is far more important than that million dollars that I used to want (since I’ll probably be working until I’m ninety).

    And by the way, congratulations on being a top PFBlog. Your success is well deserved!

  2. Yana says:

    I’d prefer the knowledge that I have enough. However, “enough” is more than a million dollars because health care costs for this household could easily exceed that amount. That’s why attractive health insurance policies offer coverage of typically $2 million, even though I’d guess they have never paid such benefits to any particular policyholder.

  3. saladdin says:

    If you have not read Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5 then you are truly missing something.


  4. Celia says:

    Definitely the knowledge that I have enough. Very wise man that Mr. Heller.

  5. Diane says:

    Is this a trick question? Definitely would settle for 1 million $ and the knowledge that I have enough.

    If I couldn’t be satisfied with 1 million, I can’t imagine what it would take to satisfy me.

    I agree with Julie Alli about the “enough set point” going down as you get older. I could certainly use more money (retirement savings) and there are a few items I’d still like to acquire, but for the basic things I have more than enough in my life and I’m constantly paring down.

  6. I don’t have a dollar figure as my goal. I want to be happy and not be a burden on anyone and that’s about it!

  7. Diane says:

    Trust me, if I had 1 million I’d be content, and even consider myself rich, although that might not be so by everyone’s standards.

    I’ve never met the mythical joneses, so I don’t really care about keeping up with them! If I lived worrying about what people around me have I’d be a very unhappy person. And I’m not.

    I know a lot of people who have bigger houses & nicer cars and also have bigger problems. They have bigger mortgages, higher car notes, work harder, spend less time with their kids.

    They buy their 16yo sons new cars & trucks, which they wreck – then they buy another one. That is not the lifestyle I aspire to. My 17yo is saving for his car and I think that’s a better plan.

    Better check out the truth about the joneses and their family life before worrying about keeping up with them!

    • Rap Music says:

      Diane, so true!! I can’t tell you how many times I have customers come in to my store (I am paying for grad school and supporting my wife by working for a wireless company selling cellphones), and they buy their 12-17 year old child a $500 cell phone only to be back in the store 1-2 months later buying another because their child either carelessly broke the phone, or they got bored of it because its no longer the latest phone out. The idea of keeping up with the Jones’s sickens me, as its developed a mentality of not appreciating anything that one own’s, and there’s this sentiment among these very kids that they are entitled!

      It’s sad, because by keeping up with the Jones’s, people are working so hard to make more money to drive themselves deeper into debt and teaching their children an incredibly harmful lesson, and all the while, they aren’t taking the opportunity to truly what they have, be it possessions or their family and friends!

    • Rap Music says:

      Diane, I couldn’t agree more!! I work as a cellphone salesman to put myself through grad school and to support my wife and myself for the time being, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents buy their 12-17 year olds $500 blackberries (which also include additional service fees!), only to have that child come back in a month or two to buy ANOTHER one because they broke it, or because they needed the latest device out to keep up with the Jones’s.

      It’s really sad because in order to “keep up with the Jones’s”, we’ve developed this unappreciative mentality that really feeds the idea of not having the knowledge that we’ve got enough. And so it goes that in order to keep up, we work longer hours to try to make more money that will be spent so much in excess that we have even more debt, and thus have to work even harder to pay off the debt. Sadly, keeping up with the Jones’s then deprives those of spending quality time with their family and of ever enjoying the money that they made to begin with.. Not having the knowledge to have enough simply creates and maintains a vicious cycle!

  8. Rap Music says:

    I truly believe that the knowledge that you have enough is FAR FAR better than having billions and not knowing when to rest and enjoy life and those around you who share it with you.

    I think there are times when we get so focused on money and the drive to make more and more and more that we forget to enjoy the money that we’ve made with those we love and care about.

    It is tough, they say money doesn’t make you happy, and when you really think about it, it doesn’t. However, it does help in situations, not as a status symbol, but rather when you’re faced with the unexpected, a la a child getting sick.

    Billions would be great, but its not necessary. I would much rather brag about my wife and soon to be born child, or my brothers, than about how much money I have in the bank.

  9. John E says:

    Knowing when you have enough is a good feeling – as I creep towards retirement, the planning I’m doing in more detail showed that I would indeed probably make it through my senior years in relative comfort. You begin to realize that your needs are for you, not for showing off to others, and with some adjustments you get rid of your Keeping up with the Jones attitude, or always trying to one-up the neighbors or friends.
    I’m printing this poem to post on my cubicle bulletin board.

  10. thomas says:

    i’d take 250k and ask no questions

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