Ask the Readers: $1,500,000 Per Year?

Less is more. -Robert Browning

Discipline equals freedom. -Jocko Willink


Until now, I’ve never considered what it would be like to be a 1 Percenter because I’ll never be one. But, a recent Happy Philosopher post got me thinking about it:

I like to think that if I earned a huge amount of money or inherited millions, I wouldn’t change. But who am I to judge? I’ll never have this kind of money and I’ve never been around it either.


I take it back, I will judge. One of my favorite sayings ever is from retired Navy Seal Jocko Willink:

Discipline equals freedom

So simple, but so powerful. A disciplined life is a good life:

  • Surround yourself with a minimal amount of possessions.
  • Eliminate the number of decisions you make in a day. Do this by being consistent and setting up systems.
  • Learn how to say No.
  • Choose the people that you surround yourself with carefully. Shitty people will bring you down. Good people will kick your ass into gear. Cull the herd.

A simple life is a good life.

This brings me back to Happy Philosopher’s $1,500,000 friends. Just because you have insane amounts of money doesn’t mean you need to live an insane life. Just because you can doesn’t mean have to buy a yacht, vacation homes and eight cars. Rent the boat and home. Have a couple good cars. I like bicycles, so I give you a pass there. You may own as many bikes as you’d like.

I’d like to know your thoughts:

  • What would you do if you made $1,500,000 per year?
  • Do you know anyone who is really wealthy? Does their lifestyle look like a rap video?
  • How do you keep your life simple?

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56 Responses to Ask the Readers: $1,500,000 Per Year?

  1. We made 5-10x the salary of our teacher friends at the end of our working careers. Other than our overly fancy $200k house (where average homes are $125-150k), we have a simpler lifestyle than our pals. They drive newer cars, drink fancier beers, and eat at better restaurants. Then wonder how we retired so much earlier than them – complaining about being able to save even modest sums.

    To be fair, we graduated college with zero debt while most of them have massive student loan balances. There’s something addicting about debt that makes it tough to stop adding more and/or replacing paid off debts with new debts.

    • “There’s something addicting about debt that makes it tough to stop adding more and/or replacing paid off debts with new debts.”

      I’ve never thought about it this way, but you’re on to something. I know way too many folks who jump out and buy another car as soon as the previous one is paid off.

      Is loan inflation is the best friend of lifestyle inflation?

  2. If I made $1.5 mil I would pay about $500-600K in taxes so that reduces things substantially. Other than that, my saving rate would go through the roof. I don’t see a need for a boat or airplane or bigger house.
    Maybe we would take one more big vacation a year.
    The only people I know that made that kind of money are now retired. They retired in their late 40s and have two homes. The go on 3-6 big vacations a year. I’m talking African safaris and touring European wine country, so they spend more than the average bear. Still, they can afford it and have plenty of money to fund the rest of their retirement so I wouldn’t say they are being irresponsible.
    With five kids I don’t think I can really keep my life simple but that’s okay. We are in a time of growing and learning. I guess the simplicity comes from making the main thing the main thing. For us spending time with family and enjoying rich experiences is the main thing so if I can keep that as the priority, everything else gets done and isn’t as important.

    Tom @ HIP

  3. The problem with more stuff is that it costs you more time and more mental energy.

    If you earn $1,500,000/year you could afford all sorts of fancy things but how much time would you spend on this stuff? Even if you didn’t maintain it yourself you’d still need to think about it at some point.

    Having less isn’t just about the money its also about the time and mental energy you need to spend on your ‘stuff’.

    Actually, as it happens my post today is about how my wife and I live with our two daughters in a 1,000 sqft bungalow. We could afford a much larger home but living small saves you both money and time, and isn’t time the most precious resource of all?!?
    Owen @ PlanEasy recently posted…Living Small: The Best Way To Save MoneyMy Profile

    • I like living small too. Our 1850 square feet are luxurious. I’d like a smaller home, but with a better layout.
      Mr. 1500 Days recently posted…Ask the Readers: $1,500,000 Per Year?My Profile

    • Arrgo says:

      I definitely agree with this. Even though I could afford it, I’ve really cut back on the amount of stuff I have or would consider buying over the last few years. With all the things you have to do in life just to keep up, you really only have so much time and energy to maintain or enjoy everything. You realize things start collecting more dust than being used or utilized and you can save some money in the process. Even a long time ago I thought that if I ever won a huge lottery, I wouldnt want the hassle or liability of owning a boat or multiple homes etc.

  4. Miss Mazuma says:

    “A disciplined life’s is a good life.” I like that. So simple but really builds a complete picture. I can answer your last question with the equally insightful quote by Thoreau, “I make myself rich by making my wants few.” I don’t need many things to make me happy. My dog, a nice day, and a good book will usually suffice…well, maybe a picnic and bottle of wine to go with it. 🙂 The richness of life has nothing to do with the waistline of your wallet. Sure, having money helps to buy a safe and secure lifestyle, but after that everything else is frosting. And how much frosting can you eat before puking? Not too much.
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…An Aha Moment… Reverse Engineering FIMy Profile

  5. Oh man, if only I raked in that kind of salary. Mmmm. Honestly, I’d work for 3 years and sock away all the damn money I could, and then retire super duper early. If you’re already in tune with what you *need* to live and be happy, there’s no need to upgrade your life so drastically.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! June 18My Profile

  6. Mrs PoP says:

    Ha! We’ve talked about this before, but I think 1%, or even more likely 0.01%, kind of wealth just removes society’s restrictions and expectations and allows you to be who you want to be. For better, or for worse.
    Mrs PoP recently posted…Happy Friday – Finally a 1 Car Family!My Profile

  7. Well I wouldn’t be working! Or at least not working for “the man” anymore! Yes I know people who are wealthy, and I wouldn’t say it looks like a rap video, but it’s still too excessive for me. Most have huge homes (for having fairly small families) and pay for top schools, kids on club teams, and things like nice (but not excessive) cars, nannies, and take pretty expensive vacations. The house payment alone would be enough for me to be super conservative with my money. I just don’t get all that space. I’d be a perfectly comfortable multi-millionaire living in a very modest home. Location would be the only thing I’d give lots of consideration too.

  8. Well, I don’t make that kind of money, but I earn a lot more than we need. Any time I’ve seen a bump in salary, it simply accelerated my mortgage payoff or taxable account buildup. There’s no need to fix a lifestyle that ain’t broken.

    The only thing that might be a little bit difficult with a ludicrously high income is the stronger pull of One More Year syndrome. Even if you wouldn’t spend hardly any of it, think of the good your favorite charities could do with that kind of money.


  9. Brandon says:

    What would I do with $1.5 million a year? I’d like to say that I would be a disciplined individual but I do think it would be a super hard struggle against lifestyle inflation. Even at my current salary I have to renew my dedication to FI on a regular basis and fight against lifestyle inflation.

  10. Matthew in Michigan says:

    ” I like bicycles, so I’ll give you a pass there” HaHa! What a timely post, I’ve been struggling with getting another one the last couple of weeks. I’m a bike geek and I also try to keep my things to the basics/minimalist. With bikes, I struggle. I guess I now have permission. However I should mention is used from CL, so that makes me feel a bit better!

  11. I guess it depends how much I liked/hated the work. One of my reach goals is to live on a big body of water (huge lake or ocean) and own a Tesla. So I’d work a few years, buy those, and then retire into the sunset.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…To Buy or Not to BuyMy Profile

  12. Ms. Montana says:

    I had a friend who made 750,000 a year, and honestly, it was complicated. And the work was stressful and demanding. I didn’t envy her. She wanted to retire early, but the lifestyle got bigger and it was hard to walk away from the money. I saw a lot of the things she really wanted pass through her fingers, like running a small hobby farm. She is an incredible person, but money only added complications.
    Ms. Montana recently posted…Paying Cash for Our House is Only Half the StoryMy Profile

  13. Man…….. That would be amazing. I’d get to live out all my bucket list items, like being a St Louis Cardinals season ticket holder in the seats behind home plate, setting up my family for comfort (helping out my sisters more, funding my niblings’ college funds, taking them on fun vacations), funding a scholarship at my alma mater, and definitely not working in a stressful job I don’t like. The freedom that comes with that kind of money is mind-boggling!
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Confessions of a Bad MustachianMy Profile

  14. Team CF says:

    Work that one year and be done 🙂
    The richest people I “know” are a few bloggers, that’s about it. No millionaires in real life actually. At least, not that I know off anyways (stealth wealth anyone?).

  15. At $1.5 million a year I would set up a charitable foundation to give most of the money to. Given the crazy hours that would presumably be involved in earning that kind of income, I wouldn’t be able to run it myself, but I could hire someone that I trust and set the goals and directions at a big picture level.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Platinum Cards and Status SymbolsMy Profile

  16. I had that conversation years ago, and it stuck with me to this day. He was right. There is this threshold of income that flips a switch in people and they start buying stuff they never would have considered. It is a version of the “paradox of choice”, where the more options you have the more stressful the decision. As Ms. Montana noted above, it’s complicated.

    More money creates many more decisions. At higher the income levels you are forced to “deprive” yourself of many more things you can afford. One of the keys to a rich life is to build up the muscle that allows you to resist this, but in a way that is automatic and doesn’t result in constant low level stress.

    MMM is a Jedi master of this concept. He is simply somehow immune to it. We should crowd source some research into this and study him. Do you want to set up the GoFundMe site or should I?
    TheHappyPhilosopher recently posted…That Time I Didn’t Buy the ShoesMy Profile

    • “At higher the income levels you are forced to “deprive” yourself of many more things you can afford.”

      As we both know, you hit a point of diminishing returns. A 6000 square foot vacation home won’t make you much happier than a 4000 square foot one. However, I don’t think most people know what their thresholds are.

      Another issue is that the things that we think will make us happy often don’t work out that way. Exhibit A: My daughter and her fidget spinner.

      And yeah, MMM has multiple millions, but lives in a modest home with modest cars. He sets a fine example for anyone. I’ll setup the GoFundMe page if you agree to read the brain scan…

  17. Mr. Tako says:

    If I had $1.5 million per year…. wait a minute, is this before taxes or after?

    I’m going to assume taxes need to be paid. OK, now I’m down to about a million a year. With $500k, I would move to Hawaii and buy a nice house, then invest the other $500k.

    After about 10 years of that, I’d be financially independent and could quit that job.

    Simple, and works for most income levels. 😉
    Mr. Tako recently posted…How Much Global Diversification Do You Really Need?My Profile

    • Agi says:

      Well, if you moved to Hawaii then you would no longer had that same exact job (to quit 10 years later). Just sayin’ 😉

  18. Jax says:

    A boss I had at my college job once told me that when I started making “real” money (salary instead of hourly, I guess?) I wouldn’t think twice about spending $300 on a shirt. I thought he was crazy then and still do now that I am making “real” money.

    I literally cannot fathom making that much money a year. But if I did, I would pay off my mortgage, hire a house cleaner, eat out every night and set up college accounts for all the kids in my life.

    I would hope that if I ever made that much money (please send all librarian positions with that salary my way) that it wouldn’t fundamentally change how I view money. I wouldn’t focus on earning more but enjoy the experiences that it could provide.

  19. Sometimes I already feel like I make an obscene amount of money, but $1.5M per year – that’s a whole new league. And I’m talking T-ball vs. MLB kinda stuff. It’s an interesting thought experiment to think about what I would do if I made that kind of money. So, what would I do if I made that much money? Part of me likes to think that I’d work for just one more year to really pad my nest egg and then get out. But this quickly gets into the classic trap of “one more year”. Something I worry I’ll be facing soon as I approach 40 and the end date for my plan to leave the “normal” 9 to 5 working world. Of course, if you can do one more year – why not two more years? Or why not 3? Then you’d really have a pile of cash! When the numbers are big – the fact is that it really is very hard to walk away from the money, even when part of you knows and realizes that there is much more to this world than the numbers. Getting back to the question – what would I do with all that money? Honestly, I don’t think I’d change my lifestyle much at all. I’d just sock it all away in savings and investments and set myself up for the future. This would include FI for me, but I think it would also start to include setting up plans for multi-generational wealth preservation. Now that I’m looking at becoming a Dad soon – setting my kid up for success is certainly on my mind. Imagine if you put some money aside now the potential growth timeline it could have for someone just being born now!
    Freedom 40 Plan recently posted…How to Get Your Landlord to Not Raise Your RentMy Profile

  20. Divnomics says:

    Probably work for a few years, pay off every debt and invest the rest. When that is finished just stop working. I mean, I can’t even imagine earning so much, can’t imagine what I should buy with it either, except a nice motor cycle probably (does that count?)

    Do know a few people that live the upper life, have a fancy home and travel a lot. But besides that, they live pretty modestly,

  21. Wade says:

    If I made $1.5 million I would work 2 years. Pay a lot of taxes. Save in all the buckets and create a large taxable account.

    Then I would not work and enjoy life. If I get bored after 5 years, I would re-evaluate.

  22. My answer is heavy, rough and simple as AK-47

    Mrs FR and I we need about $65,000 per year for our family. And it doesn’t matter if me make $100,000 or $1,5M

    After paying the taxes we would have $1M, so for us it would be easy
    1) Give – $200,000 to a church and charities.
    2) Annual Household Budget – $75,000 – we would increase our annual household a little bit, to have more room for traveling.
    3) Invest – we would invest $500,000 every year

    And we would give even more: scholarships, foster kids in Russia,

    OK, who am I kidding? We would work for 2 years. Buy two nice motorcycles and would hit the road for all the way round trip.
    Friendly Russian recently posted…A story about one financial mistakeMy Profile

  23. If we (the Mrs. and I) made $1,500,000 per year, we would only work another year or so. After taxes, that would allow us to pay off our mortgage and invest the rest in our brokerage accounts. Our retirement accounts are in good shape, so we could live off a few hundred thousand dollars until we hit 59 1/2.

    In regards to the bicycles, I have two plus a motorcycle. But I don’t have a mountain bike…

  24. JS says:

    With that kind of money, I would try to fund a variety of long-lasting projects to benefit the public good in a town or area I lived in or cared about. I lived in a town that had a public pool and a retirement residence which were largely funded by a single man’s generosity in the 1950s. Both places have been open for 50+ years and have contributed greatly to the town and its people. His name is not on either building and most folks couldn’t tell you how these great places were originally funded. He has humbly left a tremendous legacy in this town.

  25. Stockbeard says:

    If I made $1.5 million per year I would retire early after 2 years of work. Even after taxes, that would cover our lifestyle.
    Or I could be on the safe side and work one more year, in order to save around 3 millions and be set for life.
    Stockbeard recently posted…Early Retirement is how I express my mid-life crisisMy Profile

  26. Russell says:

    Like many of the others here, all of our debts would be paid off. We would also be able to buy a house, though nothing extravagant, 3-4 bed/2 bath, 1500 sq ft. with a yard, so we could finally have a dog! We live pretty simply already and jointly agree that if we had more money, it would go toward savings and experiences, like travel and food, and traveling to find good food and learning to make it.
    I would probably keep working if I enjoyed what I was doing, but it would be with the flexibility to travel extensively throughout the year. If that wasn’t the case, then I would probably work for a few years to build up a substantial kitty, then quit and do a combination of entrepreneurial and charitable endeavors to keep myself occupied.
    I do know some people who are quite wealthy, and you would never know it to see them on the street. They have lived in the same house for over 40 years. They drive cheaper cars now than they did 20 years ago, because they realize it doesn’t matter to them. Their main foci are spending time with their kids and grand kids, other family, and traveling. They are somewhat of my financial idols!

    • Chrissy says:

      You just described my in-laws. They are kind of astonished by their piles of cash and are very modest in their lifestyle. Lifestyle inflation doesn’t seem to register with them. They keep using coupons and buying used cars and truckin’ along.

  27. We make a good chunk of change but there is a far line between what I make and a million and a half. But. To date we’ve basically banked each amount past our needs. Boringly I would expect that to continue at least until savings was so high there wouldn’t be any financial worries. After that I could see a beach home and a Ferrari. After that…. I’m not sure I could spend it. It’s just not in my culture.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…The impact of Universal Financial Independence?My Profile

  28. Mr. zero says:

    If I made 1.5 million per year, my FI date would move from 2 years to 3 months. Boo-yah! 🙂

  29. I know a couple really wealthy guys. One guy has the huge house and the toys. The other (less wealthy) has a modest house but no financial worries whatsoever. Both of them are still working.

    Here’s the thing about this question — a $1.5MM salary doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not like winning the lottery where the money falls in your lap. If you make $1.5MM, you are probably very driven and very good at what you do. It can be difficult to turn that off, because after all it’s who you are and how you got your success. Generally people like that either keep moving up or just move onto new projects — probably a good thing otherwise they’d get bored and destroy themselves.

    Imagining myself in that situation, I’d probably do what I do now, which is to engage in interesting work, spend on things that bring happiness (travel, food, etc), and look at my salary as an opportunity to express my values. But I’m not really in the “escape work” or “give it all away” camp. I don’t see life as a goal to be reached, and only then to live to the fullest. Life is a process and the real trick is to live to the fullest along the way.
    Rich @ recently posted…Penny Has No Plans To Ever Move Again, And She Likes ThatMy Profile

  30. LadyFIRE says:

    Step One: Pay my $650k taxes (wow!)
    Step Two: Take two weeks worth of pay ($32k) and shove it into a high interest savings account with a linked checking account (for living on)
    Step Three: Save, Invest, Quit, Laugh Manically as I ride off into the sunset! I’d have $800k invested within the year.

    I can’t imagine the level of stress that would come with that kind of career. I don’t have the mentality to work in that space for more than a few months.
    LadyFIRE recently posted…Bake yourself richMy Profile

  31. Elena says:

    I worked for about 5 years as the nanny for a super rich family (they were on the Forbes list). They paid really well and the kids were polite and well behaved. i only worked during holidays so it was a perfect job as i was a student back then. This people earned more, way more than 1.5million a year. They had more than 6.000 mill euros! Yet… the father was always travelling and never spent time with the kids. The mother was more present but still worked +60hs a week. And those kids went to the best schools, had everything they wanted, except for their parents.
    That job changed my life. I was naturally frugal, coming from a frugal family, yet working for this family made me go beyond that. It made me understand that money is a tool to reach the life you want, and should never make you a slave.
    If I made 1.5mill a year I would only qork for a year. Time spent with my family is the most valuable thing i can ever do, and no business deal could ever be more important than that!

    • “The mother was more present but still worked +60hs a week. And those kids went to the best schools, had everything they wanted, except for their parents.”

      And kids want nothing more than the attention of their parents.

  32. Elizabeth says:

    I work with very high net worth clients who all have $20MM+ in investible assets and many of whom also have 7 figure annual incomes. It’s true that it can be more stressful and that those people “imagine things that wouldn’t even enter your consciousness before.” But that isn’t generally because of the material element.

    None of these people worry about their retirement lifestyles or their kids (or grandkids’) college funds or the pedestrian financial worries of the rest of us. But they worry about things like how to allocate their resources within their communities – which charities to support, which politicians to fund, which causes will make the most difference. They worry about passing down their values, about raising kids and grandkids and great-grandkids who will benefit from a hand up but whose who will not be destroyed by it. They are well aware that money simply amplifies everything – personality traits, problems, addictions. Of course wealth at that level is a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility and can be a burden as well.

  33. David says:

    If I made 1.5 million a year, it wouldn’t change who I am at all. The only difference between me now and me having 1.5 million a year, would be that I would have more investment capital and thus able to make more money on investments. Of course, I’d eventually buy myself a nice place, nice cars and make sure to help those that I care about (friends and family). Giving to God is also something I view as important and would not skip. And maybe once I get the ball rolling on a few business that could run themselves and produce good income stream, I might even organize a few charities or helpful community organizations like that. I’m not one to flash cash and expensive gear, so you won’t see me riding around in a gold Bugatti or anything like that. I’m a simple guy, and to be in such a good financial position, I’d probably have more free time which I’d use to help others get achieve financial freedom. In the end, once you’ve made millions, money doesn’t matter and if you have no one around you, life will be depressing.

  34. Theresa Smith says:

    Hubby and I have done doing good, so why would we ever want to quit doing good? The money gets better every few years as we’re climbing up the rungs of the ladder, and we’re in a position now where his job means spending a lot of time traveling together . We can’t imagine why we’d want to do anything else. We have a little bit of mortgage still to pay off, our retirements are well funded, etc. But we spent a lot of time perfecting our work to make it enjoyable, rather than working to escape it. Maybe that will all change someday, but for now If we suddenly skyrocketed up to making $1.5 million.. we’d set up a family trust so that our family would hopefully be safe for generations..not spoiled, but safe. Then we’d make donations to what we call “physical charities”.. food banks, homeless shelters, summer lunch programs, etc. Then I’d buy the largest lot I could find near a less affluent part of town, and hire elderly gardeners to plant a Free-Food-Forest with nut and fruit trees and edible plant “flower beds”. I think it would be lovely! I think that that kind of money., the HOLY cr@p kind of income is just like a magnifying glass. It just makes whatever you already are much larger. So if you’re lazy, you’ll be more lazy, if you’re miserly, you’ll be more miserly, If you’re generous you’ll be even more generous, and if you’re creative, you’ll have the scope to be MADLY creative etc. I don’t think it changes people too much, I think it just enables us to be more extreme.

  35. huetouristvn says:

    I definitely agree with this. Even though I could afford it, I’ve really cut back on the amount of stuff I have or would consider buying over the last few years. With all the things you have to do in life just to keep up, you really only have so much time and energy to maintain or enjoy everything. You realize things start collecting more dust than being used or utilized and you can save some money in the process. Even a long time ago I thought that if I ever won a huge lottery, I wouldnt want the hassle or liability of owning a boat or multiple homes etc.

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