Enough is Enough
The other day my good friend Suresh asked me a simple question, “ How much money is enough?” He himself being a very wise man knew the answer perfectly well that money is probably never enough. He just wanted to read my thoughts on the subject, that’s all.
I guess, the question itself is kind of incomplete. Are we talking about ‘enough’ for sustenance and survival? Or are we talking about keeping up with the Joneses? Or are we thinking of having money for doing good? Is it for acquiring more power? And more power to acquire further more money?
Notwithstanding, almost no one would refuse more money. After all, it tends to our basic needs, ever-changing quality of life, children’s education, security, growth, philanthropic desires and much more. However, whichever way we perceive, the power of money lies in making things happen by giving it away. Unlike the animal kingdom, leaving the squirrel apart, we continue to hoard and accumulate more and more wealth. A definite sign of an insecure race.
Not many people know Sr Rockefeller’s real life-story who at one time was acclaimed to be the richest man in the world. Not only was he rich and greedy, he was also a great miser. Trying to save some money, he once did not take any insurance for one of his ships sailing out. As luck would have it, the ship ran into stormy weather. To cover the emerging risk, he bought insurance for the ship on an emergency basis at extra premium. Fortunately, the ship reached its destination safely. Rockefeller who was already repenting the extra premium costs was now further depressed that the insurance actually got wasted. Such was his lure of money.
Finally there came a stage when Rockefeller fell extremely ill and just could not eat any food for months together. Look at the immensity of the irony, the richest man in the world who could order anything to eat but incapable of eating it. The best of doctors tried to treat him but no medication was effective. Finally a healer came forward and suggested a novel solution. He impressed upon Rockefeller that his problem lay in his fascination for money and his redemption was in giving it away.
Legend says that Rockefeller finally recovered after heeding the healer’s advice. In fact, the Rockefeller foundation, one of the world’s biggest charities and other associated institutions came into existence after this event. Similar spirit has been seen in recent times wherein some of the richest people in the world have committed a fair share of their wealth to philanthropic purposes.
Lifetime members of the 99 Club, all our life we strive to have ‘more’ than what we have. This is the continuum that engulfs us. In the midst of this pursuit, somewhere down the line the means go into the grey zone. Our health starts suffering, the enjoyment that the money promised to provide us is no more evident. Happiness emerging from the small things in life eludes us. Relationships go for a toss. We feel guilty about taking out time for leisure. Material compensation takes over for all the simple and ‘most often free’ pleasures we neglect. Summatively, a lot many of us disconnect from life.
So is money the villain? If money came your way, would you refuse it?
“Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”, it’s the title of a 1997 B.I.G. song. People think that they pay for things with money. In fact, reversing the paradigm, we often pay for money in many myriad ways. Apart from time and effort, the cost could also be in terms of a troubled conscience, credibility, relationships, leisure and health. Of course, one of the best measures of this cost is the quality of sleep you get.
An appropriate response to my good friend’s original question, “ How much is enough?” continued to stump me till the time I came across this wonderful thought, “Money at times can become costlier than itself.”
Having finally discovered when and where to draw the line, I switched off the bedside table light.
Epilogue: Even after reading the above piece, if you are still looking for a number, then perhaps the best way to get a feeling for your goal number isn’t math but a simple thought experiment from writer Brad Stollery:
Suppose you’re one of five people who have been selected by a mysterious philanthropist to participate in a contest. The five of you all have comparable debt-levels and costs-of-living, as well as similar, middle-class financial situations.
You’re all roughly the same age, equally healthy, have the same number of children, and you all live moderately low-risk lifestyles. Privately, and one by one, a representative of the donor approaches each of you with a blank cheque and a pen, and poses the following question:
How much money would you have to be paid, right here and now, to retire today and never receive another dollar of income (from any source) for the rest of your life?
The catch this time is that whoever among the five players writes the lowest amount on the cheque will be paid that sum. The other four players will get nothing.
This thought experiment forces you to cut away the natural impulse to aim ever upward (if you do that you’ll bid too high and get nothing). That result is that however much you ask for is your number, the amount you’d need to live comfortably and pursue your goals if status and lifestyle inflation weren’t a factor.
Your answer might be a little bit higher or lower than mine or your neighbor’s. That’s fine. It’s not important that everyone agrees on a number. The important thing is that each one of us reflects enough to have one.
Epilogue kind courtesy: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-much-money-is-enough-this-simple-thought-experiment-gives-you-an-exact-number-to-aim-for.html
First published at seekmediation.com on 08/08/21
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