How Much Money Do You Need to be “Rich” and Is It Worth It?

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What exactly is “rich?”

I am reading a very interesting book right now: How to Get Rich, by Felix Dennis, who created the magazine “Maxim” and many other successful publications.

He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and decided to write a book about it.  I randomly found this book on Amazon and I was intrigued by the title.  I have been pleasantly surprised by many interesting tidbits in the book that you don’t find in the average “get rich” book.

How Much Money Do You Need to be “Rich’?

The first thing that popped out at me was Mr. Dennis’ definition of rich.  He defines “lesser rich” as having a net worth of 30 million to 80 million dollars. Yeah, the “lesser rich” have a little more money than I thought of what “rich” was as well.  He based his calculation on someone being able to do whatever they wanted for the rest of their lives without having to work.  That is assuming you don’t have grand aspirations of taking over the world or anything line that.

My Idea of What Rich Is

My definition of rich keeps changing every year. 

It seems as though the higher up the totem pole you make it, the farther up you need to go to “make it “.  I used to think $100,000 was rich, then $300,000 then 1 million, now I and starting to think 30 million may be closer to the mark if you really want to be able to do whatever you want without having to worry about money.

Things are expensive, taxes are expensive, families are expensive, running a business is expensive.  It seems as though the more money you make, the more expenses you have.  Am I complaining?   No!  I love where I am and the things I have accomplished, but my definition of rich has definitely increased the more I do and experience.

With Money Comes Responsibility

This book touches on many sensitive subjects. 

One of those subjects is… “can you handle being rich?”

Most of us think it will be easy to have all the money you need, but the more money your have, the more complicated things get.  More bills, more employees, responsibility for other’s lives, more taxes, more liability and more pressure from others.

The book explains that you will have conflict with more money.  People will be jealous, good friends will be jealous, family will be jealous.  I love a quote from the book:

“Most people will tell you it is impossible and foolish to want be rich, while a small part of them are secretly hoping you fail.   The truth is most people don’t have the drive or guts to try to strike it rich.  They would rather be “comfortable”.

 

Many people won’t take the risks necessary to be rich and they don’t want to see others accomplish what they were afraid to try.  If you want to be rich, you have to take the heat from those that don’t want you to be rich.

Related: How to Get Rich: 7 Awesome Ways to Build Big Wealth Today

You Can’t Have a Balanced Life

I keep hearing this over and over from the “rich books.” 

If you really want to make it big, you can’t have a balanced life. 

You have to be obsessed with money, your plans and drive at all costs.  Felix says he lost many a girlfriend, friend and much of his life being obsessed with making it.  He even admits he pushed it too far and should have quit well before he did so he could enjoy life.

I personally could not abandon everything in search of being ultra rich.  Maybe I will never be “rich’ because I refuse to give up my family to make it big.  I have a wonderful wife and twin two year olds.  There is no way I would sacrifice them in order to make more money.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t try to be rich.  My plan is to prove all those people wrong that say you can’t have a balanced life and make it.

I talk about delegation in this article and I think that is the key to making it and having a life.  I have a lot on my plate, but I also have a lot of time for my family as well.  I could not imagine not having time for my kids or my wife or golf! 

I will keep building, keep hiring, keep investing, keep being positive, keep planning, keep thinking and see where it gets me.

What about you?

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About Author

Mark is Real Estate Broker and investor in Greeley, Colorado. Mark invests in long-term SFR rental homes and also does 8-15 fix and flips a year. Mark started a blog this year that focuses on investing in long term single family rentals.

57 Comments

  1. I have been into this blog called mrmoneymustache lately, it’s a family of 3 living in Colorado and they live off their investments, early retired, happily at a cost of about $25,000/year.

    Fascinating stuff. I have been inspired to work on living more simply and efficiently. It’s unlikely that we can feel secure on $25k/year, it’s too lean, but we could absolutely enjoy life on $50k, no problem.

    • Hi Karen, I frequent the mmm blog. I think he has some great ideas for saving money, by I also think he takes it way to far. I think people need to spend money on things that make them happy and save money on things they don’t care as much about. I don’t think we should be penny pinchers on everything.

      • Karen, I read the Mister Money Moustache blog. I 100% agree with his overall message that you cannot let consumerism drive you, there are plenty of interesting things to do without spending money, and other things like that, and you should take it slow and enjoy life. Some of his suggestions are ridiculous though, like welding a metal box on the back of an econocar. He seems like the type of guy who would not do things he was interested in because it would cost money and his goal of spending less overrides his desire to do something. His overall message is very important though . Basically it can be summed up as “What you spend is more important than what you save.” If I only spend 40k a year I can retire 10 times quicker than someone who spends 400k. Most retirement strategies and advice focus on asset accumulation and saving, not creating passive income to overcome expenses.

        VV Jason, the guy who wrote that book lived like that for a few years and went back to work. I read some posts of his overall theory and basically it was too extreme to be sustainable. He pretty much ate rice and beans and lived in an RV on the side of the road to “retire early.” You can do that when you are 28, but at 48 you just cannot live like that.

        • Eric, great points. I happen to disagree that saving and accumulating wealth is the best way to retire. That is too dependent on outside factors like the stock market, how long you live and penny pinching. I think cash flow is a much more sustainable retirement plan. If I want to retire when 45 from the stock market I have to save up like 10 million, because my retirement is so long. If I have rental properties then the same amount if rentals could provide me an increasing cash flow until I die without running out of principal.

      • I think the heart of his point is that we should really, deeply scrutinize what we think will make us happy. We live in a world that has told us all sorts of things will make us happy, but it leads to a lot of things that leave us profoundly unhappy. We have to consider the long-term effects of what we’re doing in addition to the short-term ones. For example, yes, in the short-term, it makes me happier to sit in a warm car and drive to work than it does to bundle up and ride a bicycle. But in the long run, the increased health and decreased dependence on money are HUGE benefits that we often overlook.

        Like it or not, we live in a “Maximize comfort now, consequences be damned” world. And it’s killing us!

  2. Interestingly written article. I like it. There are costs indeed. Overall I am striving for wealth, and perhaps this is deluded, but one day I’m going to wake up and say “I have worked pretty hard and fretted quite a bit in the last decade, and now I am on my way to a retirement that I can accept, so I’m going to stop trying to get ahead and now just stay ahead.” I think it will be more pleasant. On the other hand, people (at least people with my mindset) like the thrill of the chase, and when we catch the prey, if we do, we gorge ourselves and though it is satisying for a time, we then ask “So what now, just sit here and look up at this tree?” It’s like, “Live by the sword, die by the sword” to some degree – and to mix metaphors.

    The book you suggested looked fairly pathetic, so I bought this one instead:
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/145360121X/ref=pe_385040_30332200_pe_309540_26725410_item
    I’m not a Rich Dad/Poor Dad kind of guy and I hate Donald Trump. So this book is the closest I could come. Typically I read books that are more down to earth, or likely to succeed, such as how to flip a property – which is hard enough! I certainly don’t want to learn how to try to come up with an idea for the newest mousetrap. I think this book is a good one to try.

    • Hi Jason. I agree that it is hard to turn off the money making aggressive mindset and just relax. I have changed my attitude from wanting to someday relax to embracing challenges. I think overcoming challenges and obstacles is part of what makes life fun. I work hard to set up my business to work hard for me, but I love coming up with new ideas and techniques. While I am doing this I also work hard to relax and not stress about things. My philosophy is to work hard, delegate the little stuff, thing about the big picture and not worry about the past or future too much. I plan for the future but I don’t worry about it.

      As for the book, I think it is awesome(how to get rich). It isn’t about retiring early or saving money it is about making money and a lot of it. The author firmly beloved coming up with a brilliant idea won’t get you rich. Usually the inventors aren’t the rich ones, but the people who make their idea a reality. He is a strong believer that hard work, determination and never giving up will make you rich. That coupled with starting your own business and not working for someone else.

  3. There are two ways to reach the point where you are “able to do anything you want” and, therefore, “be rich.” One, like you mentioned, is to change how much you earn and invest. It has the unfortunate disadvantage of always being dependent on forces that are never quite completely within your control, which means they are always accompanied by some level of anxiety because they could be taken from you. The more you have, the more keenly aware you are of its vulnerabilities.

    The other way is to change what you want to do. Your will is ALWAYS within your control. That way, you become invulnerable.

    • Lindsay, I see what you are saying, but the one thing I believe you are not examining is that most rich people have a “system” or principles that they have used in order to gain riches. The “system” or principles will work in any environment.

        • That’s only mostly true. Some things, no matter what you do, are beyond your control. If you’re in a car accident tomorrow that leaves you completely mentally competent but slurs your speech and motor skills so badly it takes you ten minutes to speak a sentence, your system is destroyed. Sure, it’s a remote chance, but it happens to real people just like you every single day.

          If you master your desires, you master your joy. When what you want is an act of your will, you can find satisfaction and freedom no matter what you have…or what you lose.

        • That’s not really true Lindsay. I could have my team do all the work I did before. In fact I could easily switch my responsibilities to my team if i could not talk at all. I know that s not your point as there are some things that could happen that would kill a person and that’s no good.

          If you want something, why not try to get it? If you don’t get it you are no worse off then if you had told yourself you didn’t want it in the first place.

  4. Hi Lindsay, thanks for the comment. I personally think we have a lot more control over our circumstance then people think. Many very rich people lost everything, but got it back and then some. Their philosophy was the money and material things could be taken away, but they are the ones who made that in the first place and their attitude and knowledge could not be taken away. If you think about being the catalyst that creates everything in your life, then it’s not that scary to think about losing it all, because you created it once. You can do it again.

    If you change what you want to do are you being true to yourself? I have big goals and wants and I learned not to mask those because I didn’t think I could achieve them. I think having big wants helps us reach our goals and get to where we want to be.

    • I’m not suggesting suppressing what you want. I’m suggesting being in control of it, and especially second-guessing the crap out of it to figure out if it really, truly, when all is said and done, will make you happy. Even the fact that you’re writing about a struggle to find contentment tells me the things you’ve already achieved, the ones you were so sure would make you happy in the past, haven’t done that. What makes you think doing more of the same thing is going to lead to a different result? Do you really believe you just underestimated the number of dollars you needed? Or is it more likely that the underlying assumptions are wrong, namely that money and happiness have anything to do with each other after a certain point of covering necessities?

      Just look at Hollywood, the lives of professional athletes, or the most absurdly rich people on Wall Street–the people who have more resources than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. They’re constantly striving, constantly grasping, constantly dulling the pain with more drugs and more purchases and more insignificant relationships. Do you really look at them and see happiness? They have what you think you want, but they don’t have the result you’re seeking. Maybe that’s because the road to happiness and freedom isn’t accessible by increasing riches.

      • I think you may have misunderstood the article. It is not about my struggle to find contentment at all, but more about what is considered “rich”. I was surprised by how much the author said you needed to have to be rich.

        When I said my idea of rich went up, that is because you don’t realize or think much about the money when younger. I never figured actual costs when I was in college and thought 100k was a lot. I just knew it was a lot more than I made now and figured that was enough. My other ideas of money went up due to a believe that I could actually do it and a release of the constraints I had previously put on myself. I used to never thing I would be “rich”, I didn’t let myself believe in it. I naturally curbed all my desires to things I could afford. Then I realized the future is a complete unknown and anything could happen. Why curb my desires when instead I could nurture them? By using my desires to push me and remind me of what I want, it has made me very successful and much happier.

        I am not sure where you are coming up with the assumption that I am not content or things I have have not made me happy. I am much, much happier now then I was a year ago or two years ago due to a number of things. More money, more time, less stress, less worry. It has come from a mix of more belief in what I can do, more focus, a different attitude and more money.

        There are a lot of unhappy people in the world. I have no idea if the percentage is higher or lower in Hollywood. I see many happy people in Hollywood and some not so happy. The news will of course give all the bad things that happen and ignore most of the good. I don’t watch the news because of that.

  5. Mark, thanks for touching on this topic. We all need the reminder that a rich life has less to do with money and more to do with relationshiips.

    • Al nailed it. Studies have demonstrated that once you have enough money to cover the basic needs in life (food, shelter, clothes), no further happiness is gained from money. Happiness is gained through meaningful relationships and healthy amount of self confidence/self worth. And when you use money in attempt to gain those things they do not come to you in a meaningful way.

  6. I am 100% with you on this post, my friend. The term that I will use is “consumed”. I have some very big dreams, one being financially liberated by the end of 2014 and no longer working a 9-5. Why? Because I want to spend a lot more time with my wife and kids without having to save up leave hours or ask for someone’s permission to take time off. As with being balanced, it also takes self-discipline and time management to determine where you get the greatest return on investment. For me, Friday is date night and Sunday is church. Nothing trumps that. Saturday is kids day. Nothing trumps that. Now during the week, it is a free for all and I am chopping as much wood as possible and my wife supports this. We are a team as she handles everything in the home which is also a top priority of mine. Whatever rich might be by definition, I believe that is up to the individual person. For me, I hate owing people/government money, so I will start with taking care of that. I firmly believe that the more money someone has, that it gives them more options. To me, richness rests in the options I have.

    • That’s a great strategy! I like how have days planned for your family. I rarely if ever work in the weekends (unless you count writing, but I feel it’s more of a hobby). I also rarely work past five thanks to having great people work for me.

  7. Jeff Brown

    Retiring with 5-6 figures of monthly income, especially when much of it is either sheltered or tax free makes things ‘comfortable’, right? But real wealth, at least from my viewpoint has and always will be founded in family.

  8. Mark, being rich is like the phrase ” beauty is in the eye of the beholder” everyone has a different opinion. Having more then enough money to live on, good friends and family will do for most at least me. With my rental/passive income, I’m set for life because they keep up with inflation. I did retire at the ripe old age of 42 many years ago.

    Yes, I did loose a lot of friends because I had more then them, but met newer ones over the years who work hard for their money. Birds of a feather do flock together.

    Just a side note- I read the other day that in 2006 5 Wall Street companies handed out 36 billion dollars in bonuses. Wonder who paid for that?

  9. Very interesting article. Obviously, the very first question is WHAT is RICH? Nobody can define it for YOU! I retired three years ago at age 50. Without giving actual numbers, most folks would consider me rich and a few would not. Personally, I think I am the richest guy on the planet, I have a fantastic wife, good health and buy whatever I want. When I look at the definition of “the top 1%”, i do not qualify, ( but I am close, LOL ). Others have mentioned Balance, which is a good decription and needs to be part of your definition of RICH. HERE IS SOMEONE WHO WAS NOT RICH: Steve Jobs. All the money in the world, and yet the main thing on his mind when he died was REVENGE. that had to be miserable.

      • Steve Jobs felt that several other companies had stolen parts of the iOS in their operating systems. Android was one of his main targets. He was dying and his main thoughts were revenge. Do a little search on it, it is fascinating.

        • This book actually talks about Steve Jobs. It doesn’t not mention him in a good light. Basically he was obsessed with Apple, would not give up aNy control and was a very unhappy man. I dot think that attitude helps with longevity.

    • There will never be one absolute answer for what is rich and what is balance. We all have differing definitions which apply to us alone and are valid. What struck me when I read the original blog was that balance is a natural phenom. All of nature, the function of our human bodies, the environment etc… works to achieve a balance for most efficient function of that particular system. If you strike out with the idea that to achieve you goals you will have to forgo your own “balance”, I feel that in the end, it just will not work and there will be unintended losses. Why fight a system of balance? But what balances one system may not balance another. It’s all relative. It seems to be human nature to want to quantify and measure everything with one ruler. We oversimplify and demonize because our little brains can’t handle what is different. I personally just have to remain true to what works for me and I let others worry about what works for them as long as it doesn’t harm me or mine. I enjoy the diversity of thought. Sorry for the soapbox but I tend to get philosophical.

  10. Robert Leonard on

    I’ve been enough places in the world to know that if you were born in America, you ARE rich!

    That being said, I’ve sacrificed and invested in the stock market and real estate following a disciplined long term strategy with the eventual goal of financial independence for over 20 years. I recently completed the Kiyosaki based exercise to see if you have enough income/assets to live off the rest of your life and I’m there. But I want a higher standard of living, so that’s what I’m building toward.

    As far as the merits of a balanced life, what is any of this worth, if it’s not to allow you (and the people you serve) to enjoy your family and to create possibilities for the next generation that gives them every advantage to achieve anything in life they can imagine?

      • It is sad to our perspective because we look at what they have materially. I lived with a family in Guatemala while in Spanish school and they had a house with 1 outside bathroom, a tiny TV, and a dirty courtyard. To our eyes, they seem sad, but they were a more happy family than most of the ones in our country. There was a study which found Guatemala to be the happiest country in the world. When your neighbors don’t have 60″ televisions and a brand new Lexus either you do not even know you should desire those possessions. I spent 4 months down there and it completely changed my perspective on possessions. You totally forget about desiring material possessions. Then I came back to America and there is 24/7 advertisements for 0 down luxury cars and other stuff. It was a culture shock.

        Of course, the areas where kids are starving to death is a different story altogether, no one would debate that is sad.

  11. Hello,
    If you have liked this book by Felix Dennis, You may also want to read “4 hr work week” if you have not already. At the least, just reading the book itself is fun.

    What still stumps me out from Felix Dennis is he does not say( or want to say), how much is he exactly worth. He just say it could be anywhere from 300mil to 800mil or so. I do understand, he wont take a look at his bank account every morning, but that range is a huge range and if someone does not really know where money is going or how it is coming, I wonder how did he get to where he got. I am not trying to question his stature, but just thinking he may have not given everything that took him where he is.
    So there are hidden agenda, skills, plans that take a person from x to Y. (can just say how much of it is legal). Is everyone(or whoever wants to be ultra-rich) ready for that?

    • Hi Naveen. I have read the four hour work week. Felix has some big differences in philosophy; he thinks you have to be directly involved in your business until you make it and work crazy hours to become “rich”. I think David ferris wasn’t even close to the wealth that Felix has, but he is probably much happier.

      As for the net worth, I think he was insinuating that no one knows the true value of business, real estate, and other investments until they are sold. When someone sells a huge portion of a large company it will kill the stock price and send out warning signals. I think he could count his bank accounts up, but accurately valuing everything else would be very tricky.

      He also mentioned you don’t have to know all the values in your business, but you have to know cash flow and that was always his main focus.

  12. This is a fascinating and complex subject, Mark. I’d like to mention couple of other books that folks might find interesting: ‘Affluence Intelligence’ by Stephen Goldbart (a great guide to figuring out what you personally need as far as “wealth”) and ‘Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich’ by Robert Frank (a look into the realities of the lives of folks like the guy you mention above).

    One of the things I find cool about Biggerpockets is that it is one of the few places (in my life, at least) that we talk freely about money with people in all sorts of different economic situations. I suppose it’s due to the relative anonymity. In one discussion you can have both people with really high net worth, and also someone working a low-paid hourly job. That kind of exposure to other peoples’ realities and that insight into “how the other half lives” is priceless.

    • Thanks for he suggestions! I will look into those. I agree about bigger pockets. I think most people are there because of a mutual interest in real estate which is a vehicle to get rich. That common bond may break through the other financial barriers.

  13. I am a get rich slow person. My motto in life is that “Money does not buy happiness!!” I am a hard core capitalist having been a buy and hold investor for 39 years now. I have often told my Wife if the choice is between money and you I choose you. I would rather be poor and happy with my Wife than to be rich and miserable like some wealthy people are. I have some good friends that do very well in business that have good families, strong religious faith, and a balanced life style. That is the team I am always seeking to be part of in my life with my Wife and our Son. Very thoughtful blog. Thanks very much to the author.

  14. Money is important, but time is more important than money, so I define being rich as being free to do whatever you want and have enough money to do it.

  15. Michael Gammage on

    We do this for MONEY!!! To be Wealthy, Gain Riches, Financial Freedom, Financial Security whatever you feel most comfortable calling it. But the bottom line is it leads to one single road, MONEY. Why apologizes? The beautiful thing about the journey is you get the opportunity to do something you love (if you love it) and establish some very meaningful relationships along the way (if you choose to). I personally will not sacrifice relationships with my family and friends just to squeeze every little drop of blood and to grab every single dollar and cent out of life, but let’s be honest there will have to be some sacrifices made. A little less time with family? Maybe. A little less time hanging out with friends? Sure. Small sacrifice yes, but still sacrifices.

    How intense and or extreme one allows their paper chase to be depends solely on that individual. Rich (Money) Vs. Happiness.. I choose both. Great article Mark.

  16. Mark –

    You really hit home with your point that our definition of rich changes for us over time. I think the number gets bigger as you stated. But like most other people, I really believe that all the money in the world is useless without family, friends and good health. Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice family or the pursuit of wealth.

    Nice article.

    Sharon

  17. Money may not buy you happiness but at least you will enjoy a high standard of misery.

    Some say that being rich is being to do whatever you want when you want. I want to sit around the house all day and do nothing, like the protagonist in the movie Office Space >)

    I could retire right now off my rental income but like someone said, I want a higher standard of living, so I am going to slog it out 9 to 5 for 6 more years and retire at 48 on $100K+/yr. Normally that wouldn’t cut it but being that the income will be tax sheltered it’ll do.

  18. To feel rich I would need a lot of money. But only a lot when compared to my current situation. Feeling rich is a relative thing. In college I thought I would feel rich once I had a full time job. Now I think I’ll feel rich once I have $1M saved. Probably when I reach that milestone I’ll already be setting my sights higher.

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