Steadfast FinancesKnowing When Enough is Enough

Knowing When Enough is Enough

Filed in 20s Something Advice , Career , Strategic Planning 11 comments

Some people can never have enough. Alternatively, some people are satisfied with just eeking out a living doing what they love.

It all depends on your goals, your upbringing, and maybe even your sensitivity to the law of diminishing utility. In other words, asking how much of something (money, time away from family, anonymity) is enough to make yourself feel safe, content, and in some cases, when do you as an individual have enough of that something to make you hang up your cleats and walk away.

I’ve been struggling with some of these issues lately, so imagine my curiosity in finding out that my favorite comedian — Dave Chappelle — struggled with similar issues prior to walking away from The Chappelle Show and a lucrative $50 million dollar contract. (Note: no one offered me millions so it’s not that sort of struggle!)


[Scroll to 6:20 in the interview for the "when is enough" conversation.]

The point Chappelle made that really struck me was recalling a past conversation with his father prior to becoming a comedian, where they discussed knowing the proper exit point after becoming a success. In essence, or at least what I took the main point of the conversation to be, was that in order to have a bank account of X dollars and a celebrity profile of Y amount, you must be willing to give up Z amount of yourself. So when X + Y is > Z, then it’s time to get out and look for new projects that interest you.

I find this advice to be particularly sobering, because, by in large, your happiness (however you measure it) depends on how much of yourself you are willing to give away compared to how much of the other important parts of your life are you willing to compromise.

As he goes on to say in the interview (part 9 of 9), when you achieve a certain level of professionalism and begin crossing certain economic thresholds, the amount of time that you will be forced to invest may not be worth the financial compensation that you would receive.

In other words, once you have X in your bank account, do you really need 50X to make you feel happy or complete, when most you ever had over the majority of your life was 0.05X? How should the observation that you were 100 fold happier when you only had 0.05X weigh upon a future decision that you should even attempt to get 50X, given that X will do nicely.

While one would be extremely fortunate to have such personal choices to make, it doesn’t detract from the possibility that such a difference in economic thresholds creates a multitude of new personal responsibilities, or problems, that one might not want even want to think about. Much less, experience firsthand.

So I ask you… at what point is it worth it?

Should having enough be just a personal issue related to your happiness? Should it be solely about time investments and the toll it takes upon your personal life? Or should it be about finding a compromise between the two?

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Posted by CJ   @   11 January 2010 11 comments
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11 Comments

Comments
Jan 11, 2010
7:34 pm

This is an issue I will be grappling with in a few year’s time when I hit my retirement number – do I stay in a lucrative career for the money or pull the plug and do other things? My two cents on the issue is here:http://aprivateportfolio.blogspot.com/2009/12/ten-reasons-to-retire.html

cheers
traineeinvestor
.-= traineeinvestor´s last blog ..2010 – Moving forward =-.

Jan 12, 2010
10:00 am
#2 Evan :

I think has a lot to do with understanding, “you.”

I am positive I would go absolutely crazy if I hit the lottery tomorrow and just retired. 100% Crazy, and the subsequently make my wife 100% crazy.

I think the point you are overlooking is the utility you derive from working. While the extra utility you derive from another couple thousand (or in the extreme case couple hundred thousand or million) may not be “necessary” working to obtain that amount may bring you happiness.
.-= Evan´s last blog ..What is the Estate Tax Trap High Net Worth Individuals Fall into? =-.

Jan 12, 2010
2:54 pm
#3 Craig :

If I ever got to that point I will be glad to let you know, ha.

Jan 13, 2010
2:27 am

I’m still SO amazed that he walked away from the $50 mil contract. Impressive!

I honestly believe I will be happy $5 million liquid cash and accessible securities. Maybe I’ll have another $5 million in assets, which are not liquid. But, I truly believe at this level, it’s enough. I’m walking away.

How about you Matt?
.-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..Be A Sloth and Don’t ROTH – Why Converting To A ROTH Is A Mistake! =-.

Jan 13, 2010
9:38 am
#5 Matt SF :

That’s a tough scenario. If the lucrative career becomes a “job” but you have enough to get by, and if you can find a hobby to successfully monetize, maybe it’s a worth a real try. As long as you can stay cash flow neutral, it might be worth a shot.

Just make sure that when you leave the lucrative career that you have the option of returning. I used to work in biopharma, so I stay up to date on the issues/technology being that if I need to return, I can jump back in without missing a step.

Jan 13, 2010
9:42 am
#6 Matt SF :

Absolutely, and that’s why I stated one could drop out of a career and move into other projects they enjoy.

I can’t stand sitting idle, so I would have to do something. Write a book or maybe start a Christmas tree farm for charities, but for certain, I would go nuts watching doing nothing everyday.

Jan 13, 2010
9:43 am
#7 Matt SF :

You better let me know! I want an invite to the retirement party!

Jan 13, 2010
9:55 am
#8 Matt SF :

Yeah, I’m guessing that’s why some people mistakenly called him crazy. Who walks away from $50M because of an ethical conflict with getting too rich? Surprisingly, there is a small percentage who would because the end result and how they feel about their content may not be worth the comp.

For me, I’m fortunate in that my tastes are low. So a small ranch that was fully owned and a nice passive income stream coming in would be a good start. I’m not sure about the numbers, but maybe a $1M security blanket with a $10k per month cash flow would be my exit point.

Of course, once I had that setup, I would get completely bored with growing tomatoes and training horses so I would have to start another project and monetize it a few months later.

Jan 13, 2010
11:52 am
#9 Evan :

Woah, Christmas Tree farm for Charities how random is that?
.-= Evan´s last blog ..Wifey 101: Messing with His Manhood =-.

Jan 13, 2010
12:17 pm
#10 Matt SF :

Saw it on the 6 o’clock news many years ago and the idea stuck with me.

A small community got together for a weekend and planted a few thousand Christmas trees every year. When the trees finally matured on a staggered basis, the proceeds went to local charities. Food banks, local scholarships for high school grads, etc. Thought it was a clever idea, although takes a while to reap the dividends.

Jan 18, 2010
1:55 pm
#11 Matt SF :

I agree. Contentment isn’t a meme that has been adequately promoted, at least, not in contemporary Western civilization.

In my opinion, when you have a consumer based economy, personal contentment isn’t something you want to promote any more than necessary because consuming less is bad for GDP.

You can see the trickle down effects of this in the advertisements we see everyday:

1) The teaser ads: buy this and you’ll be x% happier.
2) The guilt trip ads: everyone else is doing it, so better not be left behind.
3) The over promising but under delivering ad: leaves a feeling of bitterness and depression for foolish consumers.

When taking it all in, it’s not that surprising that we can’t be happy with what we’ve got because, it would appear, the system is built around the idea that it takes someone to manufacture “stuff” to make us happy. Unfortunately, that’s tough to do when most things that make us happy are sensitive to the law of diminishing utility. (My completely unprofessional opinion only.)

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