Readers Sound Off: How Much Money Is Enough?

Alexander Green
by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist, The Oxford Club
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My recent columns on “How Much Is Enough?” generated more reader responses than any others over the past year.

Commentary - inevitably - was quite diverse since there is no single “right answer” to the question.

In fact, only one respondent offered a hard number. Reader Tom B. said that after many conversations on the subject, he and his wife decided that $1.2 million was the minimum needed for their retirement.

Other readers emphasized that “the amount” depends on an individual’s chosen lifestyle. Some got political, especially about the subject of economic inequality. Others took a decidedly philosophical tone.

I’m always spouting my opinions here. Today readers have the floor, uninterrupted - at least for now - by my commentary.

Here is a sampling of responses, lightly edited for length or clarity...

How much is enough? Part 1: You have enough financial security that you do not have to shortcut your values to live a reasonable life. Part 2: You have enough financial security that you can be truly authentic and bold in your profession. Part 3: You have enough financial security that you can radically change your decision making. - David P.

Money is the lubrication of life. Not having enough money for basic needs is like throwing sand into the gears of life. Contentment requires not complaining about who has more - and certainly not looking down on those who have less. Jealousy and envy are destructive and drain a person's initiative, determination and stamina... all necessary components for the long haul. - Jim T.

Life is about choosing where you live and what you do. You can be the author of such a life. And if you choose wisely, you will have more wealth than any portfolio can amass. - Rich F.

If you have the freedom to follow your passions, you have enough. If money is your passion, you’ll never have enough. - Albert B.

People who envy another person’s success might find it convenient to apply “greed” to the other person’s motivation, especially when they view the situation from a distance and have no knowledge of specifics. I believe successful people are driven more by determination to succeed, a strong competitive spirit, and the desire to build productive and respected organizations. - Ken D.

The more you make, the more you want. The more you want, the more you spend. Inequality has been around forever. I don't believe that will ever change. - Melissa B.

I do not believe in some "expert" or "bureaucrat" having the power to decide or tell me what I should be or do with my life. Why should someone else tell me what is enough? - Robert S.

Seeking financial independence is neither greedy nor selfish. As I move more toward that goal, it allows me to help family and friends. It also allows more giving of time to church and charity. I can’t see how that is a bad thing on any level. - Jim O.

“Enough” is when you reach contentment. Contentment comes from not comparing yourself to others or what they have. A car is a car; a house is a house... unless you allow jealousy to prevail. - Tom S.

Money is not evil, but the love of it is. It’s just a medium of exchange for goods and services. There is nothing wrong with needing more and wanting more, so long as your objectives are honest and noble. - Frederik H.

My goal now is to grow my wealth so that my grandchildren will be able to complete college without having to borrow tuition money and to make sure my heirs get something when my time is up. To uninformed observers from a distance, I might appear to be otherwise motivated or greedy. I don’t really care what envy inspires people to think. - Ken D.

Most people have plenty. What others have does not matter. -Bob W.

“Enough” is when I can spend without worrying about whether I can afford it... or do whatever I want without thinking about the cost! - Dr. Tong

I've always been "frugal" but watched the neighbors get bigger and better houses, new cars in the driveway, boats, motor homes, and all sorts of luxuries. At 61, I have now pulled the plug on my slavery and they can't believe it. Due to delayed gratification, my home and toys are paid for and I have been debt free for 20-plus years. The difference? I own everything, and they own basically nothing. - Ronald R.

Your lifestyle will dictate how much is enough. Some will want a simple life, without many superficial belongings. Others may want a life of luxury. As I get older, I find myself wishing to just have enough money to enjoy my fishing hobby while living a modest lifestyle. - Eric R.

As my wife often points out, “We are rich!” But it has nothing to do with how much money we have. With two wonderful, successful children, three beautiful granddaughters, great friends and neighbors, and a happy personal relationship, we have what money can’t buy. - Stuart M.

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. I’ll have more to say on this important topic in my next column.

Good investing,

Alex

Thoughts on this article? Leave a comment below.

Invest in a Company That Keeps Some of Our Best Friends Healthy

As reader Stuart M. pointed out, happy relationships are a form of wealth that money can't buy.

Stuart talked about human relationships - but for many Americans, a happy and healthy pet is also an important part of a fulfilling life.

And as Alex recently pointed out to Oxford Communiqué subscribers, our desire to keep our furry friends in good condition has spawned a fast-growing multibillion-dollar pet healthcare industry.

That's why Alex recommends an investment in PetMed Express (Nasdaq: PETS). Here he is checking on the pick back in December...

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the average dog visits the vet 2.6 times a year and runs up an average bill of $227. The average cat visits 1.6 times and averages $90.

To put this in perspective, the 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats we own generate more than $57 billion of annual revenue.

Even in an economic slowdown, pet owners spend on required healthcare services. That makes this a recession-resistant industry.

Pet care spending has been growing by nearly 7% annually since 1994 and is estimated to top $70 billion next year.

The bulk of this is food and other basic supplies. But an enormous amount goes to vet bills and medications.

That provides a windfall for PetMed Express, better known as 1-800-PetMeds.

Founded in 1996 and based in Delray Beach, Florida, PetMed is America's largest pet pharmacy, licensed in all 50 states.

The company sells prescription and nonprescription pet medications for dogs and cats, as well as food, supplements, vitamins, treats, hygiene products, crates, beds and other pet supplies.

The company is a real, licensed pharmacy with online veterinary pharmacy accreditation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

It is also an A+ accredited member of the Better Business Bureau.

As a licensed pharmacy, PetMed dispenses only FDA-approved medications (the same ones sold at the vet's office). And it honors all manufacturers' guarantees.

PetMed has the largest number of veterinary pharmacists in the world. These men and women ensure the accuracy of pets' prescriptions, monitor for possible drug interactions, double-check all expiration dates and suggest generics to help save customers money.

The firm already has more than 9 million satisfied customers and earns high marks for its service, offering a 24-hour toll-free line and live chat on its website.

Products are typically sold at a 15% discount and come with best-in-class quality control, storage and distribution. Shipping is free on orders over $49. And everything it sells comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

In the most recent quarter, earnings soared 79% on a 10% increase in sales, topping Wall Street estimates for both.

Management is earning a healthy 31% return on equity. And the company enjoys double-digit margins and zero debt.

- Samuel Taube with Alexander Green

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