I Don’t Want to Be Rich

It’s sort of amusing to me that when ever I mention my plans to retire by my early forties that the average person assumes I’m trying to be rich.  When in fact, that never was part of my goal at all.

Why? Being rich in my mind always means more than I already have.  Rich conjures images of exotic vacations, buying whatever you want and fulling my even whim.  Which in theory I could reach if I kept saving and worked until I was like 65 at the same rate of savings I could manage to have over $4 million dollars saved.  So I could be rich if I wanted, yet I don’t want it.

What I really want in my retirement is to be comfortable and perhaps the odd little luxury beyond that.  Why?  Because that is all I really need to be happy in life.  I’ve never spent $100,000/year so even if I had it I won’t know how to spend it, expect on things that really don’t matter much to me.  So what is the point of being rich and having everything if that won’t really give me what I truly want in life: time.

I want time to write, to read, to go for walks, to help others, garden, visit friends and family.  I want to live my life not chained to a job.  I want time to nap when I feel like it, cook, research a new interest, build things with my hands, watch movies, play with my kids, go for a run or anything else that comes into my head.

To me that level of freedom is worth giving up being rich.  We often mistake money for freedom, because we are sold the idea we can buy ourselves out of any problem.  Yet in reality, there are often many other solutions we fail to realize exist.  For example, we often complain how we have no time now to do things, but rarely do people consider part time employment.  I know I’ve previously done by 80% and 90% time and I have to say both were eye opening experiences.

For example, 90% time gives you an extra 26 days a year off (or equal to over five weeks of unpaid vacation).  In my case I took every second Friday off and it was wonderful.  You could do errands on that day and then actually leave your weekend free to relax and enjoy the time with your family.  Why wait to be rich when I could enjoy more time now?

So in the end, I’ll keep my modest lifestyle and my dream of more time.  It seems to work for me.  How about you?  Are you ever tempted to be rich?

22 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Be Rich”

  1. We are switching to a 9-9 days work schedule. Otherwise, when we adopt, I plan to reduce my schedule to 80%.

    It’s totally worth it. Otherwise, life just passes by while you are at work.

  2. We are switching to a 9-9 days work schedule. Otherwise, when we adopt, I plan to reduce my schedule to 80%.

    It’s totally worth it. Otherwise, life just passes by while you are at work. 1

  3. Yep, I am. Just because I know how much it costs to do my favourite hobby: TRAVEL.

    Flights, hotels, food, sights.. all that stuff costs money and it’s the main driver for me to want to be rich, although it’s not really my #1 goal.

    I’m aiming to be comfortable and to have a relaxed life, which I am achieving quite well.. even while being a Type A who hasn’t worked in a while and is itching to get a contract.

    I think even if I were rich, I’d want to work. If not, I’d be bored.

  4. Once I stopped working full-time back in 2001 and switched to working part-time, I have valued time and personal freedom over money from working. Even while I was working part-time, I still wanted more time and freedom over money from working which is why I reduced my weekly hours worked from 20 to 12 back in 2007. But even 12 hours worked per week was too many so when I was sure I was able to, I cut those 12 hours to zero in 2008 and retired at 45. It is what I treasure the most, not having to work at all because I am financially independent (FI).

  5. while I have realized that I can be perfectly happy on very little and, in isolation, could be fine in just a couple of years …

    the reality is that the opportunities offered by continuing to earn still entice me. But the real change for me has been not feeling like I *have* to do any of it. Just conceptualizing that freedom was hard, and facing its impending approach is actually quite difficult when under 30.

  6. Interesting perspective… I’m 43 and have been able to retire for a few years. But every time I contemplate retiring I think of the opportunity cost of missing out on amazing experiences. For instance, my work is about to move me to Europe for 2 years where they will pay for rent and my kids schooling for two years while I rent my house here in Canada. I wouldn’t be able to have that kind of experience if I retired right now…

  7. I’m just retiring now, a few days before age 59. I understand your view and completely agree with it. I was too dumb to know a way out until now, but I could continue to work and save a small fortune if I worked until age 65, but it’s not worth it. I still have 3 months to go, but I dream about it every night, and I’m giddy with the excitement of controlling my own time. Once you have enough, then time is worth more than money. Besides, some kinds of work are high stress. I can’t take it anymore.

  8. The temptation to work longer is there for sure. If I worked to 50, I would probably be legitimately “rich”. But I think I’m still opting to retire in my early 40’s, and enjoy a decade in which my body is still spry.

    My wife and I are genetically frugal I think, so to work longer for money we won’t be able to spend doesn’t make much sense – though my wife still wants to work until 50, but I think I will be able to bring her to her senses. 😉

  9. Also, just because you are retired from full time employment does not mean that you still can’t work from time to time in some side hustles. Sometimes the creative juices flow a lot better when you don’t have to contend with the grind of full time employment. To me, being “retired” is living in paradise.

  10. As per spend.save.splurge (btw the website seems to not work) one of my hobbies is travel which I have indulged in over the years by taking significant chunks of time (2 years was the longest) and doing just that.

    I determined early on the corporate ladder was not for me so embarked on a contract consulting career in IT which gave me 2 great (imo) things – 1) the chance to take time off when I wanted (i.e. end of contract = no obligations but crazily enough the clients kept saying please come back ) 2) instant feedback as to job performance (if the client didn’t pay the invoice I knew they didn’t like the service(never happened!))

    In the last years of this I worked @ 80% (when on contract) by NOT working Wednesdays – why Wednesdays? – well you either had just had time off (Mondays/Thursdays or were taking time off (Tuesdays/Fridays) so work stress was minimized and Wednesdays basically became mini-weekends and the impact on getting the job done was non-existant. No client ever complained.

    Finally stopped all together when the passive income from savings/investments exceeded expenses (tracked religiously!) by a substantial amount – and its been great!

    In the final reckoning all we have is time and the more one spends in pursuit of things other that leaving more time for oneself is fruitless.

  11. I do want to be rich, but wouldn’t change my lifestyle much. I want to be able to travel and own little cabins all over Canada. And I want to be one of those people who can leave $50 tips, or donate large amounts to charity, or pay extra at the farmer’s market.

  12. Many members of my family would be classified as rich. For the most part, the money itself and the ability to spend it doesn’t drive them. They’re entrepreneurs that want to build something and challenge themselves and the money just followed. They’re mostly mono-focused types of people however where family and interests come last (or never – most are childless), and it does make a difference.
    Their response would be what’s the point of having this free time when how they want to spend it is by doing more of what they’re doing – building something?

    For job-oriented people, the striving for “excessive” wealth is likely just a way of buying insurance. It’s interesting to go back and read all the OMY/fear oriented posts on the ER forum circa 2007-8.

    I’m sort of in the middle on this one since I find the market extremely interesting and look at creating wealth from it as a way to win the game – and also want to build a body of work outside of the workplace/profession. These are “going to” goals that work gets in the way of accomplishing since after a certain point, it’s served its purpose (seed money).

    I do think my most enjoyable schedule of all was when I was working for one client on average less than 15 hours a week sort of centered around quarter ends. That was enough to do all the things I wanted to and still save about 25% of my income.

    I don’t think that most people are introspective enough to think about these things and what they really want/their values. Other people are buying newer and bigger houses, so they must too. Other people are going to that all-inclusive, so they must too. Other people have a new car every 3 years or a Prada purse every year, so they must too. Then they slowly lock themselves into a lifestyle that requires 2 full time jobs to support it.

    In speaking with friends around your age recently, it seems that their interests are primarily playing golf, hiking, skiing and/or biking, watching TV and traveling. They think I’m not working now just to go RVing for the summer and can’t fathom why anyone would take extended time off if not to travel. They need more interests IMO.

  13. I’d like to be rich. I feel like I never have any free time. I’m very frugal so I waste so much time researching things I want to buy even if its just a $10 difference. I would like to think that if I was rich I would just go buy it.

  14. I don’t care to be rich, especially at the expense of my time. Now in my mid 40s and noticing that my health is very gradually slipping. There are no guarantees and the last thing I’d want is to die with a wad of cash and dreams unfulfilled.

  15. Great perspective Tim. I’ve been very focused on financial independence / early retirement recently, but have started changing my perspective to think about working less now to spend time with my family (while my daughter is young), and postponing my ‘early retirement’ date.

    I’ve always struggles with this balance, but I’m really leaning towards taking 7-8 weeks off a year to do some important things now with my time while I can. I’d certainly always trade a few extra weeks a year for not being any ‘richer’!

  16. I agree, having enough to live on so you can pursue your interests is my goal. I don’t even buy lottery tickets because I wouldn’t want to win a lot of money. I haven’t always felt this way, but let’s just say I had an epiphany.

  17. What does it take to “be rich”? It’s unfortunately a qualitative answer more than a quantitative one, because what you consider necessary for a high “quality of life” is different for every person.

    Our net worth keeps accumulating and I keep having to remind myself that it does not matter how big the number is if we won’t go even near spending it…and our monetary needs seems to keep decreasing every year as we hone in on how we really want to spend our time and money.

    By focusing on the bank account, the number may never feel like it’s big enough to some folks, especially if their view is that $$$ = security.

  18. I did it! just had my meeting with the bosses and on my 42d birthday next month I will be RETIRED!
    I feel like the richest man in the world- I get to spend the next 10-14 years with my kids while they are growing up at home, no amount of overtime paid to work holidays will overshadow that anymore. Love the blog guys!

  19. Well thanks for the comments everyone. Interesting discussion.

    @Fritz – YA! Great for you on being retired by 42! I would love to hear how it all goes so feel free to send me an email.


  20. I want my freedom far more than to be rich. I wouldn’t turn down the latter if it was offered to me instantly though. If “wealthy enough to be financially independent” versus “stinkin’ rich” was on the table for grabs, I know which one I’d take. Doesn’t mean I’d change my lifestyle one iota though. (Except the “having to go into a dreary cubicle 5-days a week” bit.) Whichever one of these come first, I’ll be happy with. A case of beer or entire keg are both perfectly drinkable, IMO.

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