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

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