Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

Scott Galloway once said, “It’s never been easier to become a billionaire, or harder to become a millionaire.”

I’m not sure I agree but it does seem like more people want to become a billionaire these days. I honestly don’t think it’s worth it.

More money in your life is obviously better than less money but only up to a certain point.

Once you’re comfortable enough, more money these days seems to be more of a burden than a blessing.

Just look at the list of the 10 richest people in the world right now:

Elon Musk has been divorced three times. Jeff Bezos is divorced. So in Bernard Arnault. And Bill Gates. And Sergey Brin. Warren Buffett split from his wife in an unusual arrangement where she left him and he took on a new partner. Larry Ellison has been divorced four times.

The 10 richest men in the world have a combined 12 divorces between them.

Even billions of dollars can’t buy you more stable relationships.

In fact, the opposite is probably true. More money and success likely make it harder to have healthy relationships because there is always more work to do and wealth to build.

The richest man in the world has admitted as much on a number of different occasions.

This week Elon Musk talked about the fact that he works from morning until night 7 days a week.1 He shared that being the richest person on the planet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

I’d be careful what you wish for. I’m not sure how many people would actually like to be me. They would like to be what they imagine being me, which is not the same thing as actually being me. The amount that I torture myself is next level, frankly.

Sure, the money sounds great, but would you actually want the richest man on the planet’s life?

I wouldn’t.

In a profile from the New York Times a few years ago, Musk shared that his work nearly made him miss his own brother’s wedding (where he was the best man). Running multiple companies makes it difficult to spend time with his children or take any days off:

Two days later, he was scheduled to be the best man at the wedding of his brother, Kimbal, in Catalonia. Mr. Musk said he flew directly there from the factory, arriving just two hours before the ceremony. Immediately afterward, he got back on the plane and returned straight to Tesla headquarters, where work on the mass-market Model 3 has been all consuming.

He said he had been working up to 120 hours a week recently — echoing the reason he cited in a recent public apology to an analyst whom he had berated. In the interview, Mr. Musk said he had not taken more than a week off since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria.

“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

The billions he’s made from those companies sound great until you realize all of the baggage that comes with it.

Listen, I am glad people like Elon Musk exist — people who create potentially life-altering companies like Tesla and SpaceX.

I just can’t imagine wrecking my personal life in the process.

Money, power and fame can amplify who you are but they can also change you as a person.

Steve Jobs shared some thoughts with Walter Isaacson about the changes he saw in his co-workers at Apple once they became rich:

I watched people at Apple who made a lot of money and felt they had to live differently. Some of them bought a Rolls-Royce and various houses, each with a house manager and then someone to manage the house managers. Their wives got plastic surgery and turned into these bizarre people. This was not how I wanted to live. It’s crazy. I made a promise to myself that I’m not going to let this money ruin my life.

Jobs was no saint but at least he recognized the trappings of wealth and how it can impact people’s actions.

I understand why we focus so much time and attention on billionaires. These people have created more money than any of us will see in 100 lifetimes. But maybe it’s time we stop putting these people on a pedestal.

Money is important but the money in and of itself doesn’t equate to true wealth.

True wealth is about having healthy relationships.

True wealth means not chasing status just to impress other people.

True wealth is about finding some balance in your life between work and family.

True wealth means not obsessing over money all the time.

True wealth is about having more time to do what you want with your life, not doing stuff you feel like you have to do.

True wealth means knowing how much is enough for you.

Michael and I talked about the pros and cons of being fabulously wealthy and much more on this week’s Animal Spirits video:

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Further Reading:
Why Aren’t Rich People Happier?

Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

1To be fair he also manages to get in a lot of tweeting as well but I guess that’s part of his job now that he owns Twitter.