Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Rich is Rich Enough?

Dear Readers,

A friend of mine here in Nigeria got me thinking about whether or not I want to be wealthy, and what that means.

My initial response was--I want to pay off my debt (thanks Ivy League!), and have enough to pay my bills, eat good food (I love food) and travel.

His response that 'It's good to start humble, but what are your ten and twenty year goals?'

Well, I don't really know. I have to admit that sometimes I'm jealous of my brother's financial stability (he didn't go to two private schools and has a steady career path, where as I went to 2 expensive schools AND usually work for non-profits, so..I don't profit :).

How rich is rich enough? I don't want to be as rich as the Nigerian elite. I don't need BMWs, rivers of champagne, etc. I want to live in a place where the kitchen lights work, and there aren't giant holes in the wall. So, I'd happily trade the champagne for a few more functional items.

I'd like to have enough money that I can travel when and where I want. I'd like to be able to afford to give people gifts without worrying about breaking the bank. I want enough money to have a very nice kitchen (yes, Alena does have a domestic side), hardwood floors and a place to store all my books.

As I may have mentioned, I really love food. I love to eat out, I love to cook and so I want to be able to afford those things. I made the best swordfish steak I've ever had, for less than $20. So, I can do fancy food for less :).

As a third culture kid, and the child of a pair of white hippie Buddhists, I collect experiences and memories, friends and adventures...and I was raised to want to create value and improve the world we're in. Great relationships, some card games, good conversation, more stamps in my passport.

I'd like to have jobs that I'm good at, where I feel like I'm making a positive impact, and get to push myself to grow and improve, jobs that promote kosen-rufu.

How much money does that cost? I don't know.

I don't really want to own a TV or a car. I do sort of want a motorcycle :).
I don't know if I want property--maybe one day an apartment in New York, Beijing, London, Paris or Tokyo...or Baghdad? :)

So I guess I don't really have a long term financial plan. Any thoughts? What should I aim for?



  1. i pretty much agree entirely, i agree to a creepy extent. even about the kitchen. all i think about is having a well-equipped kitchen, with a few specialized, high quality knives.

    the rest of the place can have some floor pillows and a lamp or something.

    i think it's so terribly pathetic to have a lot of stuff.

  2. Money buys antibiotics. Money buys potable water. Money buys food for the hungry. Hospitals for the sick. Clean air and clear skies, if you have enough of it.

    If you're ok with trying to influence people with money using your words, then you don't need a lot of money. If you want to control and direct human effort in a capitalist society, you're going to need as much as you can get your hands on.

  3. There are numerous studies showing that once one's basic needs are comfortably met that additional money has no impact on happiness. While this is a universal idea, in the US the amount of money needed to do that is around $60,000. See article and TED presentation here:
    Yes, it begs many questions that the median income in the US is below $60,000. But for your more personal question, the research would say that you should strive to find a job that you like that will pay you at least something in the area of $60,000. Maybe you can make do with less but if you make much below that your economic struggles are likely to limit your happiness. But also don't feel the need to make much more than that because the additional money won't add to your happiness.

  4. The profit train might be there... You might want to get onboard: