126 comments

What Would You Do with WAY MORE Money?

One of the things that happens when you get older, living in an affluent area of a rich country, is that the concept of gigantic amounts of money becomes commonplace. There are wealthy people sprinkled all over the Boulder County of Colorado where I live, and to a certain extent, this wealth is contagious.

People with high incomes and consumer habits will gladly fork over great sums of money for luxury products and services, enriching the owners of landscaping companies or car dealerships or salon/massage/spa outlets. Entrepreneur-minded wealthy people and companies will fork over top dollar to hire talented people to work for them, in hopes of growing their own businesses, creating even more wealthy people in the process. And wealthy families will dump buckets of cash this way and that in the hope of ensuring successful upbringings for their children and grandchildren.

Living in such an area, and being retired from what I consider to be the cushy field of software engineering work, Mrs. Money Mustache and I have  occasionally had brushes with the opportunity to amass one to two additional shitloads of money for what sounded like not very much work.

Several years after she quit her job, her company called her back, eagerly suggesting that she return to a position several levels up the ladder that would have paid twice her previous salary. It was a very exciting and tempting offer, but she was still able to quickly decline it. When I quit my own job, I gave up an estimated $900,000 of salary and stock option proceeds over the next five years. Since then, I’ve passed up job opportunities that would have paid even more. Even now, the autotuned pop song of the Extreme Cash Goblin is playing in the background, with fantasies of million-dollar-real estate deals, or hell, why not, blogging empire proceeds that would blow away all past earnings.

I’m not going to lie to you. My name is Mr. Money Mustache, so you can tell that I find the topic of money to be pretty interesting. So whenever one of the opportunities comes up, I get a little fidgety and excited, and my heart beats faster. “Ohmigod! I could be a super-multi-millionaire! I could earn and save so much more if I took this job, that I’d have a WAY higher retirement income for the rest of my life after I finished it. I’d have so much money that I would… ummm..”

Do absolutely nothing differently.

Strangely enough, even though the money sounds exciting in my fantasies, they always end up back in the same place – with me tucking away all the extra cash somewhere useful and then going right back to exactly the lifestyle the MMM family is currently enjoying.

In the olden days,  I would have had a much better answer for you. There would have been seaside compounds in Hawaii, fleets of Teslas plugged in to the 26-car garages in my mansions in all of the world’s hotspots. Air travel via the Gulfstream G650, Playboy Mansion Grotto areas beside every pool, and whatever else money could buy. The fantasies were fun to indulge in.

So when I noticed over the past few years that my fantasies had disappeared, and now I couldn’t even rake up the desire for a 2010 Prius in response to my imaginary millions, I felt a little bit empty and cheated. “What good is several more shitloads of money, if you don’t even have any desire to spend it?”, I found myself asking.

“Aha!”

The answer was of course that when it comes to buying additional treats for myself, the extra money is in fact no good at all. And that was a very liberating thing to figure out. I have completely lost the desire for any more of the things money can buy than I already have, which means I have completely lost any form of envy, any sense of deprivation, or any sense of missing out on anything – no matter how many rap videos I watch or over-the-top houses I visit.

Some people would question this assertion. “Sure, Mr. Money Mustache claims to be happy living on $2000 a month, but that’s just because he’s good at fooling himself. He doesn’t even go out to restaurants several times a week! If this guy could see my new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and cruise the beach strip a few times, I could shake him out of it. I think it takes WAY MORE MONEY to be truly happy.”

But after punching that guy in the face, I’d question his questioning.  As one form of proof, I’d offer the fact that I actually do have way more money than the amount required to sustain our lifestyle while never running out, and I’m still perfectly happy not spending it on myself. We actually want to find ways to need even less over time, just because it feels like the right thing to do, and the happier thing to do.

What could be the explanation for this unusual lack of wanting? How is it possible that almost everyone in this country, even people much wealthier than me, wants more money, but a small minority of us are more than content with what we have?

I think it’s a combination of two things.

Logic: I put a lot of effort into figuring out how to have the maximum possible amount of fun in any given day and week. The availability of time is always the limiting factor, not the number of amazing activities to choose between. Spending more money can only broaden my list of options even further, without giving me more time. It would be like adding another fifty pages to the menu at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant. There are already more choices than you can even read before the waiter grows impatient with you. Just pick something and start eating already.

Practice: in order to attain early retirement in the first place, you need to spend much less than you earn. This process, far from being a temporary deprivation, actually cures your want for many things, so that even when you can afford them, the needy want is no longer there.

The ideas above will sound cuckoo-bird to the most junior Mustachians, and “well, duh” to the most advanced ones. And really, that’s as it should be, because this article is a bit of a test for you.

If your goals for the extra money involve simply paying off the rest of your debts and living the financially independent life you were already planning before I gave you this extra $5-$10 million, then you’ve passed the test – you’ll do well in the uncharted and very adult world of complete freedom.

On the other hand, if you started adding just a few niceties, like a second house up by the ski resorts for those family gatherings, and maybe just one new SUV to get back and forth to it, and oh, maybe just a bit more four-star-resort international travel, because hey, with $10 million, you could easily afford those things… I’d say you’re not completely free yet.

Your personal freedom grows with each material desire that you grow out of.

If this sounds a little bit too bleak and Buddhist to you, don’t worry, there is still hope. Even after you lose your material desires, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with money, in the form of trying to do some good. I’m a real beginner in this area, with little fantasies of fixing up my own neighborhood, helping the school, buying up the crappy vacant lots in the middle of the city and turning them into public orchards, and things like that. Over time, hopefully this can grow to something bigger in scope.

There’s always work to be done, so never fear that all the energy you’re putting into your day job will go to waste if you decide you no longer need the earnings it provides.

But for now, just keep note of your desires and see if you can detect them fading away over time. It may sound strange, but they really will start to slip away from you.. and you won’t miss them when they’re gone.

 

Further Reading: coincidentally, a blogging friend named G.E. Miller happened to post this alternate take on the concept at almost exactly the same time as this article came out: http://20somethingfinance.com/mega-millions/

 

  • croomsta April 4, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Is this a trick question, MMM? Like you, my heart goes pit-a-pat at income opportunities; unlike you, I can fill in the blank as to how I’d spend said money. Granted, we’re newbie MMMers, and not yet FI, so a small chuck would definitely go to paying off the mortgage & investing for FI. What else is there, you ask? Contributing to some of our favorite non-profits, including our church building that sustained damage from the earthquake last year that insurance doesn’t cover. And as long as I’m dreaming big, I’d buy some land & some buildings & set up a foundation for an artist retreat like Skowhegan or VCCA . I think I’ve gone over the 5M budget.

    That’s how I’d spend a windfall. If you’re talking how to spend money on “stuff”, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got–more time is the only other thing we could ask for!

    Reply
  • Joelle April 4, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Sure, I can honestly say that I am not into consumerism. I have a cell phone because I am locked into a contract. I never use my phone and plan on getting rid of it when my contract ends, I certainly won’t be getting an iPhone. I don’t have a tablet or laptop, have an old used frankenputer (a tech-y friend mashed it together from old broken computers), I buy used more than new and love to DIY things.

    The thing is, I still have a long list of “needs” should I ever get lucky enough to win some major dough. I have spent 12/16 years raising my kids alone, I have a mediocre job as an admin and barely make $50K/yr. I have been through too many relationships with deadbeats that sucked me dry financially and have made a lot of poor money-management decisions in the past. I dream of one day having a home of my own (but never having enough to put money into savings kills that hope), I dream of a small economy car that is all mine, I dream of finally getting to go in a plane for a vacation instead of spending my vacation time cleaning the house.

    I would say that anyone who has grown up quite poor (my parents at one point had to scour the couch for change to buy a loaf of bread) is probably already “all grown up” in their consumerism. You don’t have to get to the point of being independantly wealthy or retiring early to get beyond the need for multiple houses, fast cars or expensive electronics. Never having the idea that you could ever get those things in the first place works too.

    Most people put themselves into debt so that they can show off to others. There are some of us though that live in debt just to eat and have a place to lay our heads.

    Reply
  • Barbara April 4, 2012, 10:57 pm

    Heck, I don’t need a jet or yacht. I need 6k for root canals and crowns that I’ve needed for 5+ years and can’t afford. I need eye exams for me (uncontrolled diabetes) and my partner needs an exam and new glasses. She also hasn’t gone to a dentist in 6 years. I would be happy with an extra 50K just to get our basic health needs taken care of.

    That’s what I would do with more money.

    Reply
    • Sofie October 28, 2013, 1:38 am

      All of that except maybe the eyes can be fixed with proper nutrition. Avoid sugar, grains & processed foods, eat animal fats, shellfish, eggs, roe, organs. Weston A. Price cured toothache with such a diet.

      Reply
  • Monevator April 5, 2012, 9:20 am

    Hmm, even if I was utterly financial free to the extent you are, I think I could still use the extra money.

    Though as in your new fantasies, I wouldn’t spend it. I’d use it to double-lock my security by investing overseas — Australian property and the like — and probably buying a load of gold stored under the hills of Switzerland. You can never be too paranoid!

    I couldn’t agree more with the main message. Desires beget desires, everything we’ve ever seen from the rich shows us that. So you’ll do and have more. But you likely won’t be any more content — that comes from somewhere else.

    Reply
  • Lea April 5, 2012, 11:44 am

    The jackpot got so high that I don’t know what I would possibly do with that much money. I think I’d actually rather win $5 million than $500 million. With $5 million I know what I’d do: buy a house that’s a little more expensive than I was originally planning, invest the rest, maybe continue to work for another couple years, then retire at 30 and start a family. But with $500 million? I can’t even wrap my head around that much money!

    Reply
  • txmail April 5, 2012, 3:54 pm

    Just found this site via Reddit. Gotta say that I think I am somewhere between where you are and some place else. I do ok; and the only thing I cam focusing on is paying off my debt and getting a few rentals so I can spend my time working on stuff I want to. But when you say you wouldn’t change anything if a pile of money landed on your lap; well it makes me think that while you are Canadian you lave lost some of the “American Dream”. I know there is a limit of how much you can buy and use and fully understand the greatest gift is time. But still; $1M drops in your lap and not even a nudge from your neither region?

    Reply
  • Franco April 9, 2012, 3:42 pm

    I would bury it in a field and organize a scavenger hunt for my kids and nieces and nephews. On second thought, they would be much more excited to find a skeleton or suit of armor than a briefcase full of money buried in the ground.

    Reply
  • Jon April 17, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Every year I get a little bit closer to having no wants. This just seems to be happening naturally. I’m perfectly happy with my modest 3/2 house, no need or even a want for a mansion. But I must admit, there is still a part of me that would love to drive a Tesla Roadster every day. :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 18, 2012, 6:37 am

      Glad to hear it!

      I’m with you on the Tesla envy, although I think I could be content just borrowing one for one day. The feast is in the first bite, as they say. After that it would become normal, since the thrill would have worn off, and I’d need to get back to biking everywhere anyway.

      There could be a downside to this plan, however: every other car I drove for the rest of my life would seem noisy and dead slow by comparison. Right now I have a great situation where my 105 horsepower car and my work minivan actually feel FAST to me. Probably shouldn’t screw that up :-)

      Reply
      • Jon April 18, 2012, 8:00 am

        Agreed. If I could have one for a month, that’s probably all I’d ever want. My first car was an old slow Dodge Dakota truck my brother gave me. When I upgraded to a used ’97 Subaru Impreza I bought for $2,880, it felt like a dream car to me. It had A/C, much faster, better on gas, etc.

        But what happened? A couple months later, I was used to it, and it was not very special anymore. Now I look at the Tesla like WOW, but I’m sure I’d get used to it too, and then I’d be craving an Aston Martin. ;-)

        Reply
    • TLV April 18, 2012, 9:52 am

      Last week I had a chance to race a Tesla from a stoplight – on my bike! I made it halfway across the intersection before they started moving, but they still beat me to the other side. Then I caught up to them again at the next stoplight. :)

      Reply
  • Heath May 29, 2012, 5:20 pm

    “But after punching that guy in the face…”

    HAHAHAHA!! Oh man… That’s got to be one of your best face-punches yet. That guy totally deserved it too.

    I’m enjoying your blog like none other. It’s incredibly refreshing after all of the consumerist and gossip bullshit of which the rest of the internet seems comprised. Keep up the awesome posts, and apply liberal cursing and face-punching as needed.

    As for not wanting more… well I’m definitely still a Junior Mustachian there. I’m still at the beginning of my FI journey, so there are many things I haven’t yet worked into my life. OF COURSE with a large windfall I would invest enough right away to ensure a healthy income at a conservative (3 or 4%) withdrawal rate. I would also buy my own home in cash. I have no real debts so to speak, so that’s not even an issue. But then?

    I would travel more. I would probably hire contractors to fix up every element my house and work right along side them to learn how to do everything. I would also probably take music and cooking lessons for fun :-)

    I believe you that I will slowly let go of many of these wants as I continue to grow and explore my frugal lifestyle. Fingers crossed!!

    Reply
  • Kath1213 June 1, 2012, 3:55 am

    I’d honestly love more $ in my life.

    Took a $20K paycut almost 5 years ago to work for my dream company. And while it’s been fun and the best job ever, it’s lowered my standard of living to a dangerously low level.

    There’s a certain cut off level where $ CAN buy happiness.

    And I’m doing everything I can to make that happen.

    Reply
  • Corax December 30, 2013, 7:07 am

    “Sure, Mr. Money Mustache claims to be happy living on $2000 a month,…”

    Hey, my partner and I are happy living on €1000 a month, not because we are saving the rest, but because that is what we earn. And we are happy this way.

    Learn to be happy with next to nothing and the rest comes a’rollin’!

    Reply
  • Adi December 9, 2014, 7:59 pm

    Hey MMM! So, it’s Christmas at the Eaton centre in Toronto, and I have passed by this one pair of lovely leather boots about 5 times now. My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I mentioned those wonderful looking shoes to her, thinking nothing of it because they are way expensive so its a no-go anyways. She said no problem I will give you money for shoes darling, but mama, they are $180. She said honey its my gift from me to you!
    The great thing is I felt no actual need for the shoes other than the fact that they would match 3 pairs of skinny jeans in my closet.
    The bad thing is my mother uses my father’s money like its hers, and it makes me feel terrible because I abuse this fact because I’ve grown up with the standard of high living because of them. (This will change with time and practice, I promise you MMM) When they emigrated from Poland they had nothing, now they have everything they want and still want more!! Their spending habits are f**** retarded put simply. My dad has been a hard-working, dedicated construction supervisor for the past 40 years and I honestly feel bad for him. He is overworked. He is tired. And he is 62 and kiteboards like it’s his dayjob. I have begun readings your series in chronological order, and feel the need to help my parents realize the joy of being happy with what they have so that when my dad breaks his back fixing the cottage to perfection my mom doesn’t ask for a pool, or a sauna, or … you get it, and she’ll get it too if I don’t intervene. The only thing is they don’t have the time or energy to read your blog to realize that their spending habits are products of the ideological system they immigrated to. And my dad doesn’t even care that my mom spends HIS money on shit all!!!!!!!!!!! Help. Love is blind and so is money.

    Reply
  • Fargles September 10, 2015, 11:40 am

    Sure, more money is useless *to you* if you don’t want to live a deluxe lifestyle, but what about all the good you could do? Not many people have an opportunity to earn and donate that much money. You could start a hospital, donate to your favorite causes, feed and shelter hordes of homeless people, plant millions of trees. I think it’s a lost opportunity.

    Reply
    • Mark LeGear December 7, 2015, 8:26 pm

      What about all the good everyone could do if they decided to live on less and give to others. It would be trillions of dollars, and not a measly few million. Just like saving, it is all the small sums that add up that make real difference.

      Reply
  • Brad October 8, 2015, 6:11 am

    This posts reminds me of a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
    Hell, I might have read it on this site. Yep, here it is
    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/25/groupon-never-heard-of-it/
    But I haven’t read the linked article until now. So I’m posting this comment anyway.

    Reply
  • Mark LeGear December 7, 2015, 8:23 pm

    Another great post. I was thinking about this very topic a few months ago before I came across this blog. I was thinking what I would do if I won many millions of dollars. My answer was to pay my debt and that of my families. Otherwise, I would maybe travel but I found the thought of winning not even the least bit thrilling. It felt like cheating or wasteful in some way. I now understand why I felt the way I did and it was simply that I am not drawn to the consumer lifestyle. I was born into and learned to be part of it but it did not bring me any joy and it never can.

    I feel complete now and have no desire for large sums of money. I want only what I need, which is not much at all. It feels right.

    Reply
  • Greg February 9, 2016, 5:43 am

    This blog is awesome, life-changing even.
    I am reading my way through from the start, since it’s almost five years since the blog started I know I have quite the task – but it just keeps getting better. Just getting to the point where I am now has had a huge impact.
    1. I have always been pretty casual about knowing “exactly” where our money was going. Now I am carefully paying attention, more and more, to every bit we spend and tracking it with Quicken, connected to my bank account.
    2. Getting really serious about reducing expenses. Out of necessity the last few years I have done things like keep looking for cheaper car insurance, canceling cable tv, getting cheaper Internet, buying bulk, etc. but now I’m trying not to use the clothes dryer, picked up a bike for $25 at a thrift store (my cyclist friend told me to buy it immediately when I texted him) and things like that.
    3. Started reading “Your Money or Your Life”. This one is really making my head expand. Wow!
    4. Treating my debt like a hair on fire emergency. Just applied for and got a balance transfer card with no fee, 0% interest for 15 months. The balances transferred and now I am saving over $150/month in interest charges, and tossing more money at the other high interest rate cards. I’m on a mission!!
    5. Taking a risk on myself: I have worked for almost ten years at a job with a 2.5+ hour commute (round trip). I am a graphic designer/photographer and my super-busy freelance friends have urged me for years to make the jump. I estimate that I can (more or less) reliably make the same income in the same or less time and have 4 hours more time in my day (commute and getting ready time). Time for exercise, being with family, etc. In addition I will save because I can write off for home office, car expense, etc.

    MMM, you have really changed my thinking and I am determined to: get out of debt, be more frugal, start investing, become FI (since I’m 54 it’s certainly not ER)! I barely have any stubble, but I am going for that mustache!
    Thanks MMM, and all the cool commenters!

    Reply
  • PhantomJedi July 22, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Very late to this party, but this article resonated shockingly because I was asked virtually this exact question this week. At a meeting, the icebreaker question was ‘if you suddenly got $10,000, what would you do with it?

    I missed most of the other answers, but I can gather what they were by their shocked reaction to my response (I’d give it to my siblings, who are struggling under student debt). And after sitting here contemplating this article for a time, I realized that the answer is the same if it’s 10k, 100k, or 100M. I’m already happy with my current lifestyle (though after reading this blog, I’ve got some changes to make to make life even more awesome).

    This bodes well for my still-peach-fuzz ‘stache…

    Reply
  • Mezzie December 13, 2016, 7:07 am

    I learned this lesson back when I was super poor. I would want every book in the bookstore until I’d get a gift certificate there for my birthday and realize every book I needed was at the library.

    I unlearned this lesson when I finally got a job at that bookstore in college, but I’ve since learned it again. It’s much better this way.

    Reply
  • Mark Schreiner March 5, 2017, 12:39 pm

    Reading this years late as I slowly work through the Maximum Mustache . . .

    I *did* win a lottery; I was born in the United States to hard-working and loving parents. I was gifted with a good education, and my own efforts to do good and do well have been more-than-amply rewarded. I did not make the country (let alone the world), nor can I repay the people who set things up for me. My parents and other ancestors (some of whom immigrated illegally to the United States from Germany) did contribute, but they did not do it all, and I see it as a lottery win, not an inheritance.

    So the question I ask myself is less “What would I do if I win the lottery?” but more “What have I done?” and “What will I do?”

    From a narrower financial perspective, my parents were frugal, teaching their kids to work and save. They also got lucky in their stock-market investments, and if I outlive them I would inherit $0.5mm or more. Sooner or later, I will have to answer the question “What would you do with a whole lot more money?”

    When this first dawned on me (and when I periodically remember it), I admit the thought passes through my mind of whether I would want the money sooner or for my Mom and Dad to be around longer. In a few seconds, I realize that I would trade the inheritance even for just a few more days with them. Even though I am very focused on money!

    By the time they pass away, I will probably be retired myself, and (as MMM and so many others here note) the money will not matter. If they die earlier than average, I guess I would invest the money to help pay for school for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Even with winning the birth lottery and with expected to inherit a lot of money, I still find that what matters is “paying it forward” and having time to spend with my loved ones.

    Reply
  • Mustache Jr April 16, 2017, 7:42 pm

    I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. However, If I wanted to earn more money than required, I’d be doing it for charity or to help someone out. I’ve always wanted to help flourish the tiny village in the third world I was born in. Up until coming cross FI/RE, my other goal was always contradicting that however – the other goal being to earn a lot of money and buy a mansion of the hill with giant swimming pool and a basketball court, and going to travel to Cuba and Philippines and London, and also eat various gourmet from around the world, and experience sky-diving and waterskiing and … well, you get the point. Coming across MMM and Reddit financial independent subreddits, I’ve had a complete paradigm shift on what I really need, and consequently how I could also achieve my mission of helping that village. As I said, I completely agree with your sentiments. I, personally, dont need any more than what a modest life with financial independence.

    Reply
  • Lou September 13, 2017, 11:25 pm

    Whilst not a huge/life-changing win, I did recently win $20,000. Before discovering MMM I would definitely have blown the lot, quickly and easily (a new kitchen, a holiday to the Maldives or a WRX). Thank the lord I won it several months AFTER discovering MMM and with my frugal muscles well and truly developed I put $19k on the mortgage, donated $500 to charity, took my fiancé out to a fancy lunch, and a bought my ma a nice bottle of Hennessey.

    Thanks for saving my financial life MMM; you da best :)

    Reply

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