I’m rich Baby! (And follow your Heart)

Growing up, I didn’t think much about what it meant to be rich. My family and I lived in a lower middle class ‘hood. My dad was an electrician. Our next door neighbor was a mailman. The guys who rented the house across the street were entrepreneurs (drug dealers). One day, the police showed up at their house and took them away. We never saw them again. But I digress.

Mike, the first rich person I met

I started programming computers right before the year 2000 and it was great. All of the old-time mainframe programmers (Hello COBOL!) were making big money fixing decades-old code. I was assigned to work with Mike.

Shortly after meeting him, I was convinced that he was rich. Mike made a little over $100,000 per year, had a new Corvette and was in the process of buying a lake house. Mike flew off to exotic locations frequently.

One day, I had a conversation with Mike that went something like this:

  • Me: Man, you’ve got it made!
  • Mike: What do you mean?
  • Me: You have a pretty nice life. Corvette, house on the lake and awesome vacations. Must be great!
  • Mike: I actually think I’m a bit poor. You should meet my brother Matt if you want to see rich.

Enter the 1%

I did meet Matt a short time later at his own lake house. Matt is a partner in a very high powered law firm. One of his clients is a billionaire who lets Matt use his private jet. Matt’s wife is a doctor who owns her own practice on Chicago’s prestigious North Shore. Matt and his wife live in Kenilworth, the most expensive city in Illinois and one of the most affluent in the United States:

Must be nice

Must be nice

Matt and his wife are 1 Percenters, but like Mike, don’t ever seem to be satisfied. A couple years ago, they spent $700,000 remodeling the kitchen in their Illinois place. Yes, $700,000 for a *&^%ing kitchen remodel. Shortly after that, they traded in their million dollar ski condo for one that was a bit closer closer to the main gondola. Why walk 500 feet when you can be just 100 feet away?

At the present time, Matt and his wife are fighting about their lake house (house #3 if you’re counting). They have a stunning home on 100′ of prime frontage on a private lake in Wisconsin. Even though the home is just a weekend getaway for Matt and his wife, it tips the scales at over 3000 square feet and is in immaculate condition. Matt’s wife wants to demolish it and build something over 6000 square feet. Must be nice to have that kind of money. However, there are plenty of folks who have a lot more money than Matt.

Billionaires

You may be thinking that the richest people in the world must be happy with what they have. After all, a billion dollars is a pretty big wad of money. However, this isn’t the case either.

Larry Page (Google co-founder) and Larry Ellison (Oracle founder) are both pouring loads of money into research to expand their lifespans. Now we have the answer of what to give to the man who has everything. Immortality! Can’t pick that up at Walmart. I’m sorry Larry and Larry, you can buy almost anything, but you can’t buy time. Steve Jobs had a healthier perspective on death that I quite like:

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

But I digress.

What rich means to me

What is the answer to all of this? Easy. Be happy with a modest existence. Forget about living to 250. Forget about having 3 houses and flying on private jets. To hell with the purses and luxury cars. Here is what I think it takes to be rich:

  1. Home: Live in a modest house in a safe neighborhood with great neighbors, preferably on a quiet street where children can cruise around on bikes all summer.
  2. Town: The town needs to be bike friendly, have a great library and have outdoor pursuits nearby. Live near downtown so you can walk everywhere. Or live near open space where you can watch the sun disappear over the horizon every evening.
  3. Car: Get just enough car to tote you and your family around. Add a roof rack or hitch carrier to occasionally haul more stuff for vacations or the children’s sports league.
  4. Money: Figure out how much you need for all of the above and then work your ass off to get there while you’re young. You may choose to stay at your job, but it’s always better to work because you want to, not because you have to.
This is our evening family ritual

This is our evening family ritual

OK, now here comes the hard part. Crush your desire for anything else. If you’re living in a first world country and have all of the above, you have a better life than 99.9999% of all the humans who have ever lived on the earth (and most that are currently alive). Once you have all of the above, if you can establish your Enough and crush desires for anything more, you’re rich. Even if you find yourself with 5 or 10 million dollars, don’t allow your life to expand proportionally.

I’m rich baby

I’ve met Matt and his wife now on various occasions. While I don’t know them well, I know I’m just as happy as them. I may even be happier. While Matt and his family always seem to want more, I’m happy with everything just how it is now. I don’t have a $1,000,000+/year income and I never will. I’ll never fly on a private jet. I’ll never have 3 homes.

I have just what I want though and it is good.

I am rich.

Soon, very soon, I’ll leave my job and follow my heart.

I’ll be exponentially richer.

Little Miss 1500 concentrates on her rock pile this past weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park

Little Miss 1500 concentrates on her rock stack this past weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park

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55 Responses to I’m rich Baby! (And follow your Heart)

  1. I prefer you kind of rich much better than the others. A 700k kitchen remodel? That’s just ugly. I would expect this family to cook often want not take that money and eat $100 meals for the next 19 years.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Summer College DiscussionMy Profile

    • EurFI says:

      I would bet they don’t cook that often!
      But even if I’m wrong with that asumption – I can not imagine how you can spend 700k on a kitchen. Our kitchen did cost around 10k and I see a lot of room to the upside, but at around 50k my imagination stops…
      EurFI recently posted…9 to 5 status report after four weeksMy Profile

      • 1500 says:

        Exactly! They never eat at home.

        We did DIY on our kitchen and it isn’t huge, so we came in at $7,000. I even gagged at that, 1/100th of what these people spent.

    • 1500 says:

      Ha, they should be cooking for the whole town after spending that kind of dough!

      The really crazy part is that these people probably make close to $1,000,000 per year and my friend Mike, being the guy’s brother, tries to keep up with him. The problem is that Mike makes like $130,000 a year. Mike has zero savings.

  2. Mr. 1500,
    We know a family in our community that built a massive brand new home on a very expensive lot. The wife stays at home, and they have two au pairs for two kids. TWO AU PAIRS! And a private playground. Not just a jungle gym. A playground.

    Then one day the wife confided in mine that her husband is terrible at controlling his spending, and can’t seem to find money to save for retirement. Shocker.

    -RBD
    Retire Before Dad recently posted…Thor Industries: In It For The Long HaulMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      WHOAH! Why do you need an au pair at all when the wife is at home?!?!? That is just insane. And two of them? What is wrong with these people?

      And a playground? Go to the public one down the street…

      Yikes.

  3. Beth says:

    Love this post! I prefer your kind of rich too. I think it’s a state of mind rather than a number. One of my parents was from a blue collar family who lived simply and the other was from a well off family — both were happy, had lots of love in their lives, gave back and were respected members of their communities.

    I think I always knew I didn’t want to be “rich”. I’ve never wanted a big home (too much to take care of!), a fancy car, designer clothes or world travel. That’s just my personality, other people can do what pleases them. I just think it’s easier to find contentment and financial freedom when you prefer a simpler lifestyle.

    • 1500 says:

      Thanks Beth for the kind comment!

      Sounds like you came from a well adjusted family. I like that your parents came from different places in life. I think that probably gave them and you a solid perspective.

      I’ve always wanted money, but not stuff. Well, maybe a car that teenage boys have posters of, but I’m not silly enough to do that!

  4. I don’t want to be rich in monetary terms if it means working my life away. That is the exact opposite of what I want.
    Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets recently posted…My Road to Travel HackingMy Profile

  5. Congratulations on achieving your goals. Your story on having “enough”, reminds me of the following story from Kurt Vonnegut:

    “Kurt Vonnegut and novelist Joseph Heller were once allegedly at a party hosted by a billionaire hedge fund manager. Vonnegut mentioned that their wealthy host made more money in one day than Heller ever made from his novel Catch-22.

    Heller responded: “Yes, but I have something he will never have: enough.””
    Dividend Growth Investor recently posted…The Best Broker for Dividend Investors: Interactive BrokersMy Profile

  6. Wonderful post…the exact same thought that I had going through my head recently. Mainly because my mom was talking about a relative who earns a lot of money, with the big house and the luxury cars. He is what some may define as “rich.” But the last time I saw him…he was dead tired from working practically 7 days a week. I have a modest place to live, a car that works for me and enough to be happy…plus my hours are better than him and I hopefully will retire early. So maybe I’m the one who’s rich.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Who’s Worse with Their Finances: Gen X or Millennials?My Profile

  7. Amber tree says:

    The best way to be rich: be happy with the little things and stop wanting more. I like your view on things.
    The one thing we cant buy is time, so, we need get most out of it by enjoying friends family and other things we like.
    And a lot of people out there define rich by material things, or rhey define the best use of their time: climb the corporate ladder. If it works for them, why not?
    Amber tree recently posted…Is seeing an index mutiple times a day good for you?My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I think friends and family are everything. I worked my ass off getting ahead in corporate America for a while. I admit that it was gratifying and rewarding, but it has no place in my life now. If you’re 24 with no family, go nuts. With a family though, big no thanks!

  8. Even Steven says:

    Yeah Kenilworth is on another level, I thought Lake Forest was rich and fancy, but guess not. Defining rich is like trying to define success you have to have your own definition for each and only then can you declare either one.
    Even Steven recently posted…Choose Your Own Adventure with DebtMy Profile

  9. I’d happily take the baller money, but it’s certainly not necessary in life. We can all be happy on a lot less and your about to be rich in our most precious commodity – time.
    Adam @ AdamChudy.com recently posted…Sick… oh so sickMy Profile

  10. I had some of the same sort of entrepreneurs in my neighborhood growing up. That was actually the family business, that I refused to work in. Thank god!

    So the moral of the story is to find a friend with a jet and vacation homes so you don’t have to buy them yourself right? Hook a friend up Mike…LOL

    You don’t have to be “rich” to live a rich life.

    Cheers!
    Dominic @ Gen Y Finance Guy recently posted…Freedom Fighter Interview #5 – JayCeezy (Multi-Millionaire)My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “So the moral of the story is to find a friend with a jet and vacation homes so you don’t have to buy them yourself right? Hook a friend up Mike…LOL”

      I fully admit that I had a great time tubing behind their $100,000 waverunner boat. Key word is “their!”

  11. Love the healthy perspective on money. It reminded my of Jim Collins’ early post on the monk and the minister:

    http://jlcollinsnh.com/2011/06/02/the-monk-and-the-minister/
    Done by Forty recently posted…A Defense of Price OptimizationMy Profile

  12. Bryan says:

    Not only that, but just the stress about thinking about what you NEED to buy next just isn’t worth it. In the end, it’s all just stuff.

    • 1500 says:

      Stuff is bad. Stuff brings complication. Complication takes your time. Time is everything.

  13. Debt Hater says:

    I wouldn’t turn down that amount of money because it would certainly accelerate all my plans, but I think your perspective is much healthier on everything.

    3000 square feet on a weekend home and you want to just demolish it and double in size? For a place you only visit on the weekends?! There has to be a point where enough is enough. Maybe I just have a different mindset, but I can never understand that sort of thinking. It all seems so ridiculous to me.
    Debt Hater recently posted…Santander extra20 Checking ReviewMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      The weekend home story gets even worse. Because they are so busy with their lives, they make it up there 4 times a year at most. Such a waste.

  14. Vawt says:

    A larger lake house is never a bad thing, oh wait that is a huge waste of money.

    I think perspective on money is a skill/view that far too few people have. I definitely think education about spending, budgeting, and retirement is important, but without perspective of what it all means people will miss out trying to keep up with the Joneses.
    Vawt recently posted…How Much Is Your Vacation Worth?My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      These people have an ungodly amount of money, so will never run out. Just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to go nuts though. I never would. Even if I came into millions tomorrow, I’d stay put. Everything is good, so why increase the complexity?

  15. Norm says:

    $700,000 to spend on a kitchen remodel. Wow, just imagine. That gives me all kinds of ideas! First among them is a, oh I don’t know, 75% marginal income tax rate on the rich? Or, here’s another idea, Feed The Children. That kitchen renovation money could feed a lot more than just the two people using that kitchen.
    Norm recently posted…Cutting The Cord, Part 2: Antenna Madness!My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I didn’t know it was possible to spend 700K on a friggin’ kitchen remodel. As someone else said, they don’t even eat at home that much. I’ll never relate to this type of stuff.

  16. Ryan says:

    The Wisconsin dream of lake living can be had for much less, albeit not on a private lake. 138k plus renovations to be exact 🙂 Plus an ample amount of room at 2500 sq ft.

    • 1500 says:

      Nice!

      To get on this lake (Beulah), you have to have about $600,000 and that only buys you a small dump.

  17. TheMoneyMine says:

    This couple spent 700k$ remodeling their kitchen (of their 30M$ house?), that must be good for the local economy, ha!
    That reminds me of that movie “The Queen of Versailles” where the Siegels are building a 90,000 sq ft house for 100M$. These guys didn’t seem particularly happy (even with their 11 kitchens!).
    TheMoneyMine recently posted…The Greek Crisis : What you need to knowMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I’ve heard of that movie, but have not yet seen it. I’ll add it to the list.

      11 kitchens?!? What on earth would you do with that?!?

  18. You have it figured out and that’s all that matters. If you had that kind of money you’d still be the same kind of happy because you really wouldn’t live any differently (except for the Tesla of course).
    Fervent Finance recently posted…HSA InvestmentsMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Yes, the Tesla. I will have one some day, but probably a used Model 3 in about a decade…

  19. Marguerite says:

    Thanks for this post! Kids have moved out & life is good.
    I want to add this thought: No matter what you have, if you love someone, please get your estate plan completed; Trust, Will, Power of Attorney for Finance, and Advance Health Care Directive. The estate plan is about quality of life more than it is about money or possessions, and can reduce the grief of your survivors. If you have a body, you need a plan! Want to learn more? Go to http://www.EstatePlanning101.org

  20. Retire29 says:

    That’s a great story about Matt and his wife. It reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut / Joseph Heller story about the hedge fund manager who had millions (billions?) but Heller had something he’d never have: “enough.”

    I’m sure many folks far wealthier than you would be envious of your life.

    Eric
    Retire29 recently posted…Analyze any Stock in 12 Minutes or LessMy Profile

  21. A huge, resounding YES to this post! This is exactly how Mr. FW and I feel and how we perceive the value of life and money. Money by itself is worthless–the inability to enjoy life no matter how much money you have dogs people at all levels of the spectrum. It truly is all about finding that “enough” and experiencing daily joy and contentment with what we already have. Such a pleasure to read this!
    P.S. How the F do you spend $700K remodeling a kitchen????!!! Just sayin.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Frugal Hound Sniffs: Debt DisciplineMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “…the inability to enjoy life no matter how much money you have dogs people at all levels of the spectrum.”

      Absolutely! If you can’t enjoy life making $200,000/year; you’re probably not going to enjoy life making any amount of money.

  22. Jason says:

    Man, I can just never get enough of hearing these sorts of reminders about what matters. Thanks for sharing. You’re in a wonderful place Mr 1500!
    Jason recently posted…Investment Plan Island Interview with…. Jason from Dividend Mantra!My Profile

  23. Vmed says:

    FOLLOW YOUR HEART!!! Great post, thanks for sharing. I just started to follow your blog. It’s gonna be very useful, as I also decided to go back to uni and follow my heart
    Vmed recently posted…The books I bought firstMy Profile

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  25. Leigh says:

    I have some friends who make similar incomes to us, but they’re always wanting the next new shiny thing: a big house, a fancy new car every few years, etc. We can all afford those decisions just fine, but that’s not what my boyfriend and I are doing. We’re staying in the condo and keeping the five year old car, in addition to saving most of our income, which is going to soon provide us with a lot of options, like when I pay off the mortgage soon and eliminate that $1k/month payment.
    Leigh recently posted…Net Worth: Why I Track ItMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Nice work! Sounds like you’re doing a great job.

      Why do people have to upgrade the second they receive a raise? Why not just be happy with what you have?

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  27. Chella says:

    We are rich in our own little ways. And it is true that often times the richest are the ones who are not actually rich and happy at all. Rich people have more worries and things to think about so I prefer a simple life.
    Chella recently posted…Right Mindset and Right Tool To Better Your FinancesMy Profile

  28. Andrew says:

    This is crazy! I’ve always been amazed by how rich people are seemingly never satisfied with their lives. On a similar line I don’t understand why people can’t learn to ‘pull the plug’ and make a life change. As a case in point I have a good friend who is about 12 years older than me (around 54). We live in the Vancouver, Canada area. He has owned a house in West Vancouver for decades. He also owns a condo In Whistler. Both he and his wife work and probably pull in over $250. He has been running his own small company for 10 years. In case you haven’t seen the news Vancouver real estate has boomed since 2010. His places are probably worth close to $4 M. I said to him one day. Your kids are gone. Why don’t you just cash out and move into your condo. His answer…we don’t know what we would do and I want to grow this business. I just don’t understand!

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