How Much is Enough?

This is my fourth post on finances — which means this is an important topic in my mind.

I live in an affluent community, and so finances, deals, stocks, IPOs and such can easily turn up in a conversation.  Much of this musing is just that, so be assured that I don’t receive brilliant stock tips every week, nor every year for that matter.  Would be nice, but tisn’t the case.  And I most assuredly don’t receive insider information, so please don’t send the Feds my way!

What does come up from time to time is a discussion of “how much is enough?”  This is generally amongst folks in their 50s or 60s, at or near the peak earning power of their long career.  And the question is over how long their (usually pretty consuming) effort will be needed in order to have enough to enjoy life (and perhaps a Tapas Life) after their long career without money problems.  The layer under this is a desire to not run out of money during one’s life and, especially, not to become a burden to one’s adult offspring.  This is quite understandable, to be sure.

It’s hard to know the answer to “how much is enough?”  You’re free to have a peek at some of my earlier finance-related posts or any of a host of websites attempting to help you with this question.  I won’t try to tackle that here.

What I do see, is that often, the goal line keeps moving.  At first, X is enough.  Then as that is approaching, 1.5X, maybe 2X.  Maybe 10X!  To be sure, for some this might merely be the result of an underestimation that became clearer over time.  On the other hand, it seems that, for some, this is a necessary goal to keep alive, a raison d’être, a tool for continuing one’s work identity indefinitely.  If one were to declare the goal met, that would be admitting that work was now for pleasure and enjoyment, and no longer a needed source of funds;  or because that is the only identity one has.  Or one might simply decide to end their long career.  But this brings with it an armload of uncertainty compared with the predictability of going to work every day — especially after having done that for 30-40 years.  This entire blog routinely talks about the many aspects of this post-long-career life, and how new and different they can be, how much thought, experimentation, and effort they may take;  as well as the terrific opportunities that abound.  It might be easier, for some, just to raise the “how much is enough” target.

Money, it turns out, is only especially gratifying up to the point where one is comfortable and free of worry.  After that, it doesn’t improve one’s happiness.  What improves one’s happiness beyond this point, is social connection (friends and family) and doing something meaningful.  Plain and simple.

Something to consider as the “how much is enough” vortex swirls.