[note: I've been having some technical difficulties switching this blog over to www.myopenwallet.net. Stay tuned and hopefully I'll get it working soon!]
To follow up on yesterday's post, I've been trying to think about the question "How Much Is Enough?"
I am only human, and of course I can dream of untold riches and the many luxuries they could provide. But in other ways, I think my desires could be quite finite. I do believe it's possible to have too much money, or at least more money than you or your immediate heirs could possibly use. Money can never really buy happiness. But money can solve problems, and ease stress, and make life more pleasant. How much money would be enough for me?
My overall financial goal is to feel comfortable and secure and independent. To some degree, i already feel that way. I make a decent salary, I own a home, and, depending on what variables I plug into my retirement income calculator, it appears that I won't starve in my old age. But there is more to life than that. The reason people want to be rich is because it's FUN! What about the fun I'd like to have?
First of all, I'll start with something that is pretty basic, that other people take for granted.
- A car: It's a pain in the ass to own a car in New York, which is why relatively few people do. The best way to do it is to have a private parking space, which is rare. The next best thing is to keep your car in a garage. You have to call and tell them when you'll want the car, so they can get it out from behind all the other cars that are crammed in like some kind of puzzle. And parking costs more than what many people in the mid-west probably pay in rent. So I'm figuring I'd like to lease a decent car and keep it in a garage or rent a parking space, and then there's insurance, all of which I'm guessing would set me back about $2,000 a month. As an alternative, I could probably just rent a car every single weekend and end up paying a similar amount.
- A weekend house: I want a house on the beach. It doesn't have to be a big house. But all houses on the water anywhere near NYC are going to be expensive. For the house itself, I'm going to allow myself a very modest shack that might cost $500,000 and figure my monthly costs for the mortgage, etc. might be about $3,000. I also want to be able to get to that house without wasting many hours of my life stuck in traffic. So I want to be able to take a helicopter to my weekend house. I'm not sure how much that would cost, but I found a company that will take you from Manhattan to JFK airport in 8 minutes for as little as $159 one-way, so let's just figure my round trip to the Hamptons might be, oh, $1,000, every weekend of the year.
- Clothes: I'd like some nicer ones, please. Let's take my monthly budget of $150 up to $1,000. Whoohoo!
- Services: Since I'll be away on the weekends, someone will need to clean my apartment. And during the week, someone will have to sweep up all the sand I'll be tracking into my beach house. Let's budget that at $500 a month. I'd also like to have a personal trainer and frequent massages. Trainers run about $80 an hour at my gym, I think... times 4 days a week, so that's about $1400 a month, plus a few massages... let's say $2,000 a month.
What I've thought of so far gets me up to about $13,000 a month in extra expenses that I don't have now. If I figure what I'd have to earn to net that after taxes, I'd need to earn an extra $200,000 a year to pay for it, on top of the approximately $100,000 I'll earn this year. I am not really sure how many jobs there are in publishing that pay $300,000 a year, but I know there are some. I knew of at least one VP at a very small company who made about $150,000, and then went to another job at a bigger company where the pay was "MUCH better."
Of course some of the things I'm talking about here are a little pie-in-the-sky, almost literally, i.e. the helicopter. And I haven't factored in other things I would probably like to do, such as having cable TV for the rare times I would like to watch it, going to some plays and concerts, and travelling more. And sailing! But at least some of these things can be realistically within my reach in a few years if I make good career moves-- it's not like I'd need to become a hedge fund manager.
The trouble is that once you have that weekend home and that regular helicopter trip, you start rubbing elbows with those lawyers and bankers and hedge fund managers, and they start telling you about all the other things they're spending their crazy millions on... Writing this post right now is a stretch for me: I'm grasping at fantasy things to want, and I don't know their true costs. But I'm sure I'd find it much easier to want and need such things, and the money to pay for them, if I started to live in that world.