There is a discussion on Quora about the timeless classic question, if getting rich is really worth it. Some anonymous ‘rich’ people have shared their thoughts about what it actually is like to be rich. Its not all bells and whistles. Let’s hear it from some of these people.
I made $15m in my mid-20s after I sold a tech startup. I talked to a lot of people about this question, and thought a lot about how to stay the same person I was before and after making money.
Here’s my answer: being rich is better than not being rich, but it’s not nearly as good as you imagine it is.
The answer why is a bit more complicated.
First, one of the only real things being rich gives you is that you don’t have to worry about money as much anymore. There will still be some expenses that you cannot afford (and you will wish you could), but most expenses can be made without thinking about what it costs. This is definitely better, without a doubt.
Being rich does come with some downsides, though. The first thing you are thinking reading that, is, “cry me a river”. That is one of the downsides. You are not allowed to complain about anything, ever. Since most people imagine being rich as nirvana, you are no longer allowed to have any human needs or frustrations in the public eye. Yet, you are still a human being, but most people don’t treat you like one.
There’s the second downside. Most people now want something out of you, and it can be harder to figure out whether someone is being nice to you because they like you, or they are being nice to you because of your money. If you aren’t married yet, good luck trying to figure out (and/or always having self doubt) about whether a partner is into you or your money.
Then you have friends & family. Hopefully your relationship with them doesn’t sour, but it can get harder. Both can get really weird about it and start to treat you differently. They might come and ask for a loan (bad idea: if you give, always give a gift). One common problem is that they don’t appreciateChristmas presents the way that they used to, and they can get unrealistic expectations for how large a present should be and be disappointed when you don’t meet their unrealistic expectations. You have to start making decisions for your parents on what does and does not cost too much, and frankly, it’sawkward.
Add all of these up and you can start to feel a certain sense of isolation.
You sometimes lay awake at night, wondering if you made the right investment decisions, whether it might all go away. You know that feeling standing on a tall building, the feeling you might lose your mind and jump? Sometimes you’re worried that you might lose your mind and spend it all.
The next thing you need to understand about money is this: all of the things you picture buying, they are only worthwhile to you because you cannot afford them (or have to work really hard to acquire them). Maybe you have your eye on a new Audi — once you can easily afford it, it just doesn’t mean as much to you anymore.
Everything is relative, and you are more or less powerless to that. Yes, the first month you drive the Audi, or eat in a fancy restaurant, you really enjoy it. But then you sort of get used to it. And then you are looking towards the next thing, the next level up. And the problem is that you have reset your expectations, and everything below that level doesn’t get you quite as excited anymore.
This happens to everyone. Good people can maintain perspective, actively fight it, and stay grounded. Worse people complain about it and commit general acts of douchebaggery. But remember this: it would happen to you, too, even though you might not think so. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
Most people hold the illusion that if only they had more money, their life would be better and they would be happier. Then they get rich, and that doesn’t happen, and it can throw them into a serious life crisis.
If you’re part of the middle class, you have just as many opportunities to do with your life what you want of it. If you’re not happy now, you won’t be happy because of money.
Whether you’re rich or not, make your life what you want it to be, and don’t use money as an excuse. Go out there, get involved, be active, pursue your passion, and make a difference.
Another anonymous ‘rich’ person says,
In my experience, for an entrepreneur at least — getting enough money to havefreedom is worth it and a glorious thing.
Here are my experiences:
1. “Made” $10M+ in paper gains on DotBomb 1.0 stock, lost all but $50k. Felt horrible. Took me 4 years to get over it. Horrible. Terrible emotional scars. Of almost having had something, but having lost it forever.
2. Made $2M on first start-up. This was the best experience ever. The good feeling lasted four years — the good feeling — every single day, until Lehman Brothers and lost half of it (until the market came back). This was the happiest time of my life, from here until Lehman. Why?
$2M after taxes was about $1.5m. At the time I was making about $150k a year. After taxes that’s about $90k in California. So, in selling my first start-up, I made the equivalent of almost 20 years of income (ignoring inflation). Plus, at the time, the market was reliably growing 10% YoY, so I didn’t even have to worry about inflation. That meant I never, ever again had to do a job, or something, I didn’t want to do. I did have to work again – clearly. So the pressure to work wasn’t gone. Which is actually a good thing, it keeps you alive, the need to work at some point, in some fashion. But the freedom to only do exactly what I wanted to do was new. It was glorious.
3. Made $20M on second start-up. Finally, real f’you money. I feel no better. Yes, I bought a better house. I didn’t even bother to buy nicer cars. Who cares. I just bought some more jeans. Look, I am intellectually proud and gratified to have this money. But it didn’t buy my freedom, which I had from before. It didn’t improve the quality of my life.
So the $2M was the best. Losing $10M was the very worst. The $20M wasn’t as sweet as the $2M.
So for me at least, the learning is the one thing that matters money can buy you is freedom. Some may call this f’you money, but it’s not about that for entrepreneurs. It’s about having freedom from the man, freedom to just go for it.
I certainly don’t regret it.
Wealth removes constraints. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the extent to which you needed those constraints. If you have a serious alcohol or other drug addiction, wealth could be fatal for you. In general, it makes people more of whatever they already were. If you’re an asshole, getting more money will probably make you more of an asshole. However, if you have purpose and meaning in your life that goes beyond chasing the golden carrot, money can give you the freedom to focus on the things that truly matter to you.
One of the biggest dangers of wealth is that it often causes people to cut themselves off from the larger society, either out of fear or the belief that they are somehow better than others. We are all one.