Why Being Rich Is Not Necessary for a Good Life


Being Rich Isn't Necessary

What’s the one obstacle holding you back from living the life you want?

Without hearing your responses, I can already tell that money is probably mentioned far more than anything else.

How do I know this?  I hear it all the time.

“If I only had enough money, I could…”

“I could live the life I want, if I had the money…”

“If only I were rich…”

Many people seem to assume that living an amazing life is dependent on how much money you have.  It’s as if being rich is an instant one-way ticket to the good life.

But perhaps by focusing too hard on money as a solution to your problems, you’re missing another possibility:

You don’t need a lot of money to live a great life.

Money and the Good Life

It’s hard to downplay the importance of money completely.  After all, you need it to buy basic needs like food and housing – things you can’t live without.

If you can’t afford basic needs, more money can significantly improve your life.

But if you have enough money to comfortably buy your basic needs, being rich won’t make as big a difference.

Look at it this way:

Imagine someone so poor they can’t afford decent clothes and struggles to buy food every week.  More money for that person would mean being able to afford these basic human needs.

Money would drastically improve this person’s life.

Now imagine someone who has a good decent income and can buy nice things like a decent car and clothes.

If this person suddenly became rich, what more could they buy?  They could probably get an even nicer car and fancier clothes, perhaps some other luxurious items too.

But the change isn’t as drastic.  The overall quality of life hasn’t improved as much in the second example.

Once you’ve reached the point where your basic needs are filled, the value of money starts to diminish.  What you get for your money doesn’t have as big an impact.

The Things Money Can’t Buy

I think many people focus on being rich because of all the attention we give to celebrities and rich people in the media.  We see them at exotic locations or living what we think is the “dream life”.

When we see this, we think “that’s the good life.  It’s all about money.”  So that’s where we focus our minds.

But that means losing sight of something that’s just as important – who you are.

There are a lot of things you simply can’t buy with money.  These are things that can positively affect your life and make it awesome.  Things like:

  • Self-confidence
  • A support network
  • Your brain and intelligence
  • A great attitude
  • Social skills
  • A risk-taking mindset
  • Happiness

You can’t buy these things in a store.  You can’t order them online and have them shipped to you.  Yet they’re all important elements to living a great life.

Money isn’t the way you get these things.  These are things that are built and developed at any income level – not just when you’re rich.

Being rich isn’t going to change you into the kind of person who has these things.  If you won a million dollars tomorrow, you’ll still be the same person you are today.

Instead of focusing on the need to be rich, you should focus on who you are as a person.  Strive to become the person you want to be.  That’s the surest way to live the life you want to live.

Do You Really Need to Be Rich?

Remember this: you can have a ton of money and still be miserable.

I would rather be someone with a modest income who has imagination, creativity and passion for living than a rich person who has none of these qualities.

I understand the importance of money.  If you’re truly not getting enough, you have every right to go out into the world and look for more.

But if you do have enough – if you can meet all your basic needs as a human being, you should be spending more time looking inward at who you are as a person.  That’s where you’re greatest growth will come.

There’s nothing wrong with being rich.  In fact, it would be crazy to turn down the prospect of having more.  I certainly would like to have more.  But I won’t let the pursuit of money distract me from other equally important things going on inside me.

Whenever I reflect on this issue, I think to the lesson I learned from watching Citizen Kane.  Charles Foster Kane had everything he could ever want – money, fame, power, a personal zoo, a giant mansion.

Yet with his dying word, he reflected on his childhood.  It was a time before he became rich – before he lost himself and who he was.

Kane also utters a great line from that movie that goes, “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.”

Let’s get over the thinking that money is the best path.  Being rich isn’t the perfect solution to living a great life.  There are so many other things you could be focusing on instead.
photo credit: Tax Credits

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  1. Money doesn’t buy you happiness – but it definitely gives you one less thing to worry about!

    I’ve read in a few places that money will make you happy up to a point – about $120k – and after this, your material needs are taken care of. So happiness then becomes more about emotional needs, than financial needs.

    I believe this to be true. This doesn’t mean people earning less than this won’t be happy, it just means that there’s a limit to how much money can help.

    And finally – I believe the link between money and happiness depends on the individual. Some people like having material possessions and others are fine without them.

    What do you think, Steve?

    • I’ve read that there’s a limit too. Although I’ve read the limit varies depending on the study. In one, I read it was $70,000 and in others they go as low as $40-50,000. It probably depends on where you live and the cost of living.

      I read about a guy once who worked on Wall Street. He lived in an upscale neighborhood with extremely wealthy people. To keep up, he worked endlessly at a high stress job. He felt miserable and hated all the time he was spending away from his family. It was so he could keep up with the people around him. Eventually he moved away to a less expensive area. He could work and earn less money, but his general happiness and life satisfaction increased tremendously.

      I know there are people who become happy with material possessions. I’ve met them. But I don’t think most people are like that. So it can depend on the individual.

  2. I think the trick is knowing when you have enough. So many people think they need more money only because they waste it on stuff they don’t need. Knowing what enough stuff and enough money is will grant us a earlier opportunity to do something creative as we’ll have spent less of our lives striving for money.

    • More isn’t always better, is it? I’ve met so many people while traveling who have so little, but still satisfied with their lives. Instead of finding happiness with money, they find it with other things like friends and family.

  3. Steve, I completely agree wit this post. Money is not everything. In fact, every time I’ve had opportunities to make significantly more money in jobs, I’ve left to do what I was passionate about. Was it easy to step away? No, cause there was more money involved but what I got out of each career move was priceless! The luxury of doing your passion, doing it on your own time, doing things outside of your typical office and outside of 9-5 jobs has no value!

    Probably much more important than money is living a life where we are in tune with our values. Figuring out what’s important to us and doing that! Money is helpful to live a comfortable life which most people are fine with. But comfort also dims the vibrancy of your life.

    I think the ideal would be to live the life you want and do things you’re passionate about. I get the feeling the money will follow!

    • I follow my values and things I’m passionate about too. That’s what I consider important to living a full life.

      I’ve met people who are solely interested in making money. That’s their only goal is to make a lot of it. Admittedly, it works for some of them. They don’t care what they do as long as it earns them a ton of cash. But for most, it won’t work because we want more out of life. Money shouldn’t be thought of as an end goal – it’s a means to an end.

  4. Hey Steve!

    I love the reference to Citizen Kane.

    I agree that money doesn’t buy happiness beyond a certain point. At that point it becomes about having a healthy brain and knowing how to focus your attention well.

    With that said,

    Here’s a very interesting quote from the REAL Rick Ross (drug dealer, not the rapper) I have stored in my commonplace for use sometime soon. I think it’s appropriate here:

    “How did it feel going from being poor to a multi-millionaire so quickly?”
    –Lovely. There are just so many things that money buys. Money buys knowledge. That’s why poor people are at such a disadvantage in the world, because when you don’t have money, you become ignorant.

    • That’s a good quote; it’s so true. If you’re poor, more money would mean better access to things like education and health. At a certain point though, you start hitting marginal returns. I guess the trick would be to figure out where that point is so you can start focusing on other equally important things.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with this article Steve.

    I personally see money as a tool. It’s a tool that I need to eat, have a place to sleep, survive, and in many cases experience new things, but at the end of the day it’s just a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Just as a carpenter shouldn’t become obsessed with collecting as many hammers and screwdrivers as possible, there comes a point at which more money really doesn’t make a huge difference in your life, and the returns of every extra dollar you make really start to diminish. Something I’ve been reflecting on recently is how it’s very fun to spend money, but after that wears off, nothing in my life has changed much.

    Great article :)

    • Yeah, money is a tool. We use it to get other things – that’s it’s purpose. The only value we get from it is on the things we can exchange it for.

      I’ve read many studies about the diminishing happiness we get from spending money. For the most part, spending money on experiences makes gives us longer term happiness than money spent on possessions.

  6. Some people who are rich don’t appreciate what they have and absolutely waste it. I met a couple of rich kids who had 10 of everything. They never heard the word “no” from their parents, yet never smiled, always complained and whined about everything.

    • I wonder if appreciation decreases with the more things you have. If you have more things than each individual item becomes less important simply because you already have so much.

  7. Rich is relative. I don’t think it matters how much money you have because we all have the same problems, just on different scales.

    The man who has 10 million envies the man with 100 million.

    • Definitely. Rich is relative. It’s all about how you compare to the people around you. I’ve been called rich before when I travel to poorer countries. Yet, I’ve met many who are way richer than me.

      When I was in Morocco, I hung out with some of the poorest and richest people. I made a friend who lived with someone in the slums. He thought I was rich.

      The next weekend, I went to a party held by a rich Moroccan at a million dollar home with an indoor pool. They were way more wealthy than I was.

      It’s all relative.

  8. Happiness is contentment! If money is what you are content with, then it’ll make you happy! If not, then it won’t! Individaulityyyy 😀

    • Yeah, I admit that there are people who find contentment with making more money. I don’t think most people are like that though. But if it is, then keep going for it.

  9. Great points here! It’s not about being rich, it’s about making enough to live comfortably. If I’m able to work in areas of passion and make money to pay my bills, I’m satisfied. However, if I ever become “rich” I won’t complain:)

  10. Thanks for this. I think I needed the risk-taking mindset one. Working on taking a big one and I feel really good about it…but there are days when I get the terrors about it and find myself taking backward steps. Going to go read that other post and re-adjust my thinking. Again. :)

  11. I agree with you on that, No matter how much money you have, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be happy. We can see this from many famous people and celbs with money but isn’t happy. The grass is always greener on the other side, sometimes when we work toward something, our lives have meaning and for most people it is to make money. Now suddenly if you became rich money is not a motivator any more and you have everything you want, your life will become boring and without purpose.

    • Yeah, money can be a big motivator. We think it will solve everything, but it might not. We need a little more to give our lives meaning and purpose.

  12. I want to become rich to get more freedeom. I have more than enough right now, but I’m slaved to my job. The only solution I see is my own business and my wife won’t allow me to switch to it before it won’t be really successful.
    And I intend to grow myself to bigger income so actuallly getting rich will bring me more happiness.

    • I can see your point – having your own business does provide a little more freedom than working for someone else. When you own your own business, you can take off whatever time you want. I know many business owners who take three day weekends every week.

  13. Totally agree. If you haven’t got your basic needs met, of course money will make a big difference. But you can be a millionaire, or even a billionaire, and still be very miserable.

    The thing is, being too rich can isolate you, simply because, riches eliminate much of the need for other people in your life. You may attract friends in the short term, for what they can gain from you, but riches can vanish from you anytime, and if they go, so will a lot of your friends.

    I believe in the long term, great social skills, that win many friends, is what will allow each of us to have a good and happy life. Whether rich or poor, developing your own social skills and communication skills is something well worth investing in. If you are poor and have good friendships, you will never be short of someone to help in times of need. If you are very wealthy, you’re unlikely to have much need for any friends, except for a bit of company. The way communities integrate in poorer countries just proves this point.

    I’m pretty confident that if all our technology were to suddenly disappear, and we lost access to electricity and running water etc, while are quality of life would certainly suffer generally, our communities would become closer, and we would develop far stronger friendships with our neighbours – because we would all need each other.

    • I’ve read that poorer communities come together a lot more too. I read that they use it as a social safety net. When someone is doing bad, others will come and help out. It’s a quid pro quo. If I do something for you one day, you’ll probably do something for me the next day.

  14. This is an age old question which have been well answered in Hindu scriptures as well in Zen philosophical thoughts as well in Bodhidharma and in so many other medium/ literature

    The problem is that everyone wants to ape the other person with money and the consumer society mechanism drowns their own inner voice.
    So at the end of it all those who ruthlessly pursue of money as a solution for all their ills [perceived ] feel like citizen Kane whom you have correctly referred to in your write up.
    Kasturi G

    • Keeping up with others can take a lot of time and effort. I guess the big question to ask is if it’s worth it. It might not be. Giving up the need or desire for things has been addressed before in a lot of literature, but it’s good to keep taking a look at it.

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