24 October 2010

how much is enough?

I listened to this very interesting story on NPR today about the proposed tax increase for those who make over 250,000/year (that I would link to if I could find the link). The story was about what it actually means to be a person making $250,000 a year, and how much is "enough" in terms of wealth. This was interesting to me because I've been thinking about this a lot lately- what do I actually need to make in order to be "happy" or "comfortable" or to have enough.

Well, I don't know. As they pointed out in the story, as your income rises, so do your expectations for the things you should have. So while you might get by on a $60,000 salary, if you were to get a giant raise, you might upgrade your car, send your child to a private school, or move to a bigger house, therefore keeping your level of spending/saving money about the same. That explains why no matter how much you make, you never seem to have enough.

So how much IS enough? I don't know. I know I would consider sending my children to private school if money weren't a factor. I know I'd like a newer house that would have a better layout and newer appliances that don't break, or at least the extra money to get them fixed (and maybe I'd like a pool, truth be told... ;). I know I'd like to travel more than I do. I know I'd like to afford haircuts more than yearly. So... yeah. Clearly I have more than enough- things to spend $250,000 a year on. Sigh.


LauraC said...

I will look for this story!
My husband's career skyrocketed the last five years and we tipped over to the $250K club. I've made this comment before but we were unemployed at the same time and I feel like that was a life changing experience for us. We are still frugal (ie drive a 10 year old Corolla) and I think most people would be shocked to know we make that much because we still use the library, still buy stuff used, still get as much use out of things as we can.

As a result, we have tons of excess cash every month... even after 15% in retirement, a year's salary in emergency savings, 529s, etc. It all goes into an investment account with a plan to retire early.

I don't feel like the extra money has changed much. Looking at our budget, we spend the same amount as we did 5 years ago. But I definitely feel like we are in the minority.

Jaime said...


That's so interesting, because they said in the story that that's how people USED to define wealthy- enough money so you could live frugally without having to work. Now, they said, people use any increase in income as an excuse to spend more.

When things changed, did you find yourself wanting to buy those things you wanted when you couldn't? That's what I wonder- if I could, would I spend my new money on Frye boots, or a great vacation, or would I just keep on living the way I have these few years? After all the hard work I've put into paying off debt and increasing my income, I'd like to think there would be a "reward" of sorts, but maybe the key is to not think of money as an excuse to spend, but instead a way to alleviate those old money worries and woes...