One of my favorite scenes from Succession is when Cousin Greg turns on his grandfather and gets cut out of the will:
This is a Connor Roy classic: “You can’t do anything with five Greg. Five’s a nightmare. Can’t retire, not worth it to work.”
I’m sure plenty of people would sign up for $5 million to be the poorest rich person in America. And although Succession was just poking fun at the ultra-wealthy, this mindset is more prevalent than many realize.
Once you become wealthy you start to spend more money. And you hang out with people who are even wealthier than you are, so you begin to feel inadequate.
I know I have a lot of money but I still don’t feel rich.
Sure, I have a million bucks but what if I had two million instead?
I’m worth five million but I’d be a lot happier with ten million.
I’ve heard this kind of stuff from wealthy clients over the years again and again. Everyone always thinks if they just had double the amount of money they would be happy.
Money can make you comfortable. It can buy convenience and luxury. But money cannot make you content.
CNBC recently shared some survey data that backs up this idea:
Even among millionaires, only 8% would characterize themselves as wealthy these days.
Roughly 60% of investors with $1 million or more of investable assets said they are more likely upper middle class, according to a recent Ameriprise Financial survey of more than 3,000 adults.
To that point, 31% consider themselves decidedly middle class.
There are roughly 16 million American households that are worth $1 million or more. But that number includes primary residence so the number with $1 million in investable assets is much smaller. We’re probably talking something like 5% of the population.
If you have $1 million in investable assets you are not certainly not middle class or upper middle class — you’re rich!
But wait…there’s more:
Of those making more than $175,000 a year, or roughly the top 10% of tax filers, one-quarter said they were either “very poor,” “poor” or “getting by but things are tight.”
Even a share of those making more than $500,000 and $1,000,000 said the same.
Despite their high net worth, just 44% of all millionaires felt “very comfortable,” another report by Edelman Financial Engines found.
Are these people all delusional or are they just human?
CHARLIE MUNGER: Knowing your circle of competency. Right. And that kept me away from those businesses totally. but I’m not all that pleased. I could of done a lot better if I had been a little smarter, a little quicker.
BECKY QUICK: What are you talking about? Like, you’ve had success in everything you’ve done in life. What would you like to do differently?
CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, no, but I might have had multiple trillions instead of multiple billions.
BECKY QUICK: Do you sit around thinking about this? What would you have done differently?
CHARLIE MUNGER: Yes, I do think about it. I think about it. Yes, I think about it, about what I nearly missed by being just not quite smart enough or hardworking enough.
One of my favorite quotes from Munger was, “It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.”
It’s possible that quote came from personal experience.
Munger was worth something like $2-3 billion. He was as good as anyone at understanding human psychology, incentives and behavior. And he still couldn’t help but wonder if he could’ve been richer!
If one of the wisest minds fell prey to the trap of more what chance do we mere mortals have?
If the question is: How much money do you need to be happy?
The answer is always going to be: More.
I’ve come around to the idea that this answer is fine as long as you recognize it’s the human condition. It’s just how we’re wired. There’s nothing wrong with you if this is how you feel.
That’s why contentment will always come from the parts of your life that go beyond finances.
You need family, friends, pursuits, hobbies and experiences to fill the void money never will.
Money can get you pretty far in life but it can’t get you over the finish line of fulfillment.
Michael and I talked about rich people’s relationship with money, finding enough and much more on this week’s Animal Spirits video:
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Careful What You Wish For
Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
- It’s more than just vibes (Kyla’s Newsletter)
- Why do we have to keep re-reading the same 3 articles? (Sapient Capital)
- The “what I don’t want” list (Mr. Stingy)
- 7 deadly stocks (Irrelevant Investor)
- What’s your why? (Morningstar)
- The cocktail revolution (Work in Progress)