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Your Take: Is Being Rich Really The Point?

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Mrs. Micah, a great personal finance blog with a wonderfully personal touch to it and one of the blogs in my “Must Read” list, recently referred to a conversation on The Simple Dollar about the middle class. In her response, titled What’s Wrong With Being in the Middle Class?, she says:

Ideally, yes, I’d like to never have to work another day in my life. It’d be nice not to have to worry about money (though I’d still be careful how I spent it). But I know that I would still work because there are certain types of work I find challenging and meaningful.

I think many people aspire to be independently wealthy, able to do whatever they want, but fail to recognize that having a job and financial responsibilities puts structure in their lives. They fail to realize that, in the absence of that structure, very few of us become Tim Ferriss’s and more of us would share the fate of this unfortunate lottery winner.

Having to wake up to go to work, having 8+ hours of your day occupied, and having little time to get yourself into trouble is a comforting thing. You may not like it, but the reality is that you probably would be hard pressed to fill up a day if you didn’t have a job or a business to run. There’s a reason why so many movie stars turn to drugs… they have a lot of hours to fill and not a lot to fill it with.

It’s nice to do “whatever you want,” until you realize you have no idea what you’re going to do!

What’s your take on this? Am I off my rocker? Is money the ultimate goal? Or is it merely the oil that lubricates life?

{ 20 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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20 Responses to “Your Take: Is Being Rich Really The Point?”

  1. mitchell says:

    for me, i’m not saving and investing to be independently wealthy so i can retire and not do anything. i’m saving and investing so that i can work whatever, whenever i want to; so that i can quit my moderately soul-crushing job for something that is personally rewarding, fun, fewer hours, etc.,

    not only does this lower the threshold of success, but its a much better defined and sustainable goal, in my book. you mention tim ferris — its pretty much lifestyle design.

  2. Tyler says:

    I think that there is a certain amount of merit to this point.
    However, I would venture to guess that most people don’t want to “do nothing”. I think that they just want to be able to what they want when they want; which for many would be chasing those dreams that they had to give up or put on hold because they had to put food on the table.
    For instance; if I did not have to go to work each day, I would start my own business – especially if money were not an object.
    Those who say they would do “nothing” are just not putting any thought into their answer. Besides, it is physically impossible to do “nothing”.

  3. Sheila says:

    I think many people define their self worth on their job and career. If you didn’t work, I think you’d feel a bit lost and unhappy. This is why I think you hear about so many “rich kids” and people who are “famous for being famous” develop drug and alcohol addictions. (It’s just a theory.)

    All that being said, I’d like to have enough time and money to go to Hawaii as many times as my heart desires. :-)

  4. As others have often said, one of the reasons for accumulating financial wealth is freedom – the freedom to do something other than work to pay the bills. I don’t know anyone who wishes to the the mythical “idle rich” and do nothing but clip coupons.

    The other reason is security. To a certain extent healthy finances can serve to protect against some of life’s uncertainties and misfortunes. Insecurity is one reason many people are driven to accumulate wealth and carry on working well beyond the point where it ceases to be necessary.

    In and of itself, accumulation of wealth is a very poor goal to base your life on.

  5. Curtis says:

    I agree with most of the commentors so far as well. I’m not trying to get out of debt and become rich. A lack of debt would allow me to do work that I find personally rewarding.

  6. savvy says:

    Well my goal IS to be financially independent. While I have no desire to be the ‘idle rich’, I have a number of interests that I can’t fully indulge due to working full-time. My ‘perfect life’ would be one that entails traveling for weeks at a time, interspersed with volunteer and/or freelance work when at home and having the greatest luxury, which is to me, time. If I want to spend all day planting a garden or reading or whatever, I can without worrying about chores/tasks going undone.

  7. Money is not the ultimate goal, it’s just the tool that will allow us to do what we want, when we want to do it. If I didn’t have to spend 8+ (more like 10+) hours per day working, AND if I had the funds to support myself, I could: Travel; Volunteer; Read; Take “fun” classes; Visit with my family; Make new friends. Any any number of other things.

    That doesn’t mean I need to be a multi-millionaire. I don’t need a private jet, I don’t need to eat caviar and drink champagne, and I don’t need a Hummer. Just enough to provide security, independence, and freedom.

  8. Mrs. Micah says:

    Thanks for responding, Jim. I’d probably take a part-time library job to make sure I got people interaction. But just shelving, which I find more relaxing than the front desk. And I’d spend the rest of my time writing, sewing, and such. That seems like a fairly meaningful life to me.

  9. saladdin says:

    I just breezed through the article but I lived in West Virginia when he won. If I remember right, he was in construction (I think) and already “well off” before he won. But his business had begain to slow down and he had laid off some of his workers to get by. As soon as he won, he called them all back to work.

    What is missing is that fact that his granddaughter od’ed on drugs, she was very young (16ish). He had flooded her with money, cars and all other excess. She was found wrapped in a tarp, dumped outside behind an old vehicle. Very sad stuff.

    saladdin

  10. Eden says:

    Not everyone is cut out for working on their own, but I have no problem staying productive and getting work done outside of the traditional 40 hour a week job. I just have too much debt right now to give up my ‘easy money’ day job for good.

    For me, the point is not to be ‘rich’ but to have enough money to comfortably live and not be required to work for someone else for certain hours each week. I would consider that ‘wealthy’ and it may mean I am rich too, but I think that is a more relative term and much less important.

  11. Money is always (or should be) only a means to an end.

  12. Jesse says:

    I actually would love to win the lottery and not so I could have “nothing to do” but focus on all of the things I would like to improve if I had the time and money. I would love to improve myself (I would spend hours in the gym every day if I had the time), work more on my blog, run a fitness blog, restore an old Z, oh man, the list is endless. I saw a show the other day on people that had won the lottery and self destructed…interestingly a lot of them seemed the type that might self destruct anyway.

  13. No, money is not the ultimate goal. Freedom is the ultimate goal. Having to go to a job every day may be comforting, but to me, “comfort” is not a good reason for sticking with something. I don’t think celebrities turn to drugs because they have too much time on their hands–rather, it’s a combination of the pressures of fame, fear of fading success, and putting too much emphasis on shallow goals like getting attention and being “famous for the sake of being famous.”

    “It’s nice to do “whatever you want,” until you realize you have no idea what you’re going to do!”

    But I have tons of ideas of what I would do! I honestly think I could come up with plenty to fill my life for the next sixty years without having a job. This seems like sort of a poor reason for rejecting the idea of financial independence when a good brainstorming session would probably uncover many things you’d like to do.

    Financial independence is undoubtedly difficult, and not the right goal for everybody, but, with all respect, I don’t think any of the points you’ve made against it are good reasons for rejecting it altogether.

  14. This is so true. The example of celebrities is spot-on. Celebrities who seem to recognize this, and get involved with charities and other philanthropic activities to occupy their time seem to do a lot better than those who do nothing and ultimately end up arrested / in rehab / making damn fools of themselves in front of the world!

  15. Miranda says:

    To me, it depends on your definition of wealth. Mine is to have enough to cover my needs and most of my wants — while allowing me time to do things that I enjoy. I don’t need a ton of “extra” money that sits there.

  16. 2million says:

    Jim,
    If you had kids, you might be singing a different tune. All my friends with (esp young) children don’t seem to have enough hours in the day. Between raising a family, being involved in your community, keeping a healthy relationship with your partner (I am learning it take alot of time), and all your other commitments they can easy soak up much of your time. Then throw in those projects you have always wanted to do and forget lack of structure, you can just do things are your own pace.

    I agree – could be a disaster if you don’t really have an objective in mind other than to accumulate and spend your wealth and all the structure in your lives disappears. However, if you are driven enough to achieve a goal of financial independance (excluding lottery, gambling, etc) then I don’t think this will be a big issue.

  17. James says:

    Is being rich really the point. Yes. But where you want to go financially is really up each individual.

    For me, I’d like to be worth four million dollars by the time I retire.

    Best,

    James

  18. … unless to DO what you want, you have to FIRST be rich.

    For example, let’s say that your passion is to teach others about wealth; you would need:

    1. To first be wealthy yourself (unless, you want to be a typical PF author and become rich BECAUSE you teach about wealth … to me, that’s just plain unethical).

    2. To have time to teach, write, promote, research … this IS a full-time occupation to do properly.

    I think your question is: who wants to be retired … as in No Work and All Play makes Jack a Dull Boy :)

  19. Lord says:

    I don’t think most people are up to the freedom of defining what they want to do each day. They would get bored.

    I love challenging and meaningful work. Determining what to do each day is just that.

  20. Dave (ChiefExecutiveRockStar) says:

    Dominique Bouhours quote – Money is a good servant, but a poor master. Most won’t make that shift, and won’t see the rewards (but anyone who wants to can).

    You asked for reader’s “take.” I can’t write on what it’s like to be 67 years old and female, because I haven’t been either. I find most of us write about being rich, what it would be like, what it should be like, how they would act and how others would act/should act. The fact is, without the experience, we’re only speculating without authority for fact. (that’s my take).

    I’ve been broke, I’ve been rich, I’ve been broke again (rich is better). I just started a blog noting my experiences in the journey and along my current path back to economic independence, then financial freedom. It’s been a great journey. A rough one. One most wouldn’t be willing to trade me for. Still, more won’t want to take the time to learn the principles that govern prosperity. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for a million dollars (oh, I guess I did).

    –Dave Charbonneau


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