Self-reflection is a good thing. You can start getting down to the reasons behind your behavior.
One question that has come to mind: “Am I greedy?”. Why have I become ultra-passionate about increasing our net-worth?
I think the first step is to define what “greed” is. According to Merriam-Webster’s definition of greed:
a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed
Source of Motivation
Most of my adult life has been spent trying to play catch-up on my past spending mistakes. It took a ton of time to get everything paid off.
But to make matters worse, I kept on making the same mistakes. The consequences were much larger than money; it also made things difficult at times in our marriage.
Every vacation was a bitter-sweet experience because it felt like we were spending money that could put towards our debt. Money has always been the center of our conversations because of this, and it has sucked a large chunk of joy out of our lives.
We had to cut out things we wanted to do or buy because we were trying to pay off debt continually. The future didn’t have a positive outlook because it felt like we were always up against a negative net-worth.
The fire burning desire to increase our net-worth came from being sick of these negative experiences. Why do we make so much money and are still miserable? Why are we always fighting about money?
Most people ignore their finances until they get to a point where it can’t be ignored. So it’s good we were thinking about our money situation; but it’s not good that it was such a massive problem for an extended time.
Money Works Best In A Supportive Role
Now that we have become credit card debt free, it feels like we can start enjoying life again.
But now we are faced with similar feelings in trying to continue to grow our net worth. But what is the point of building wealth when we can’t enjoy life right now?
That’s why I think maintaining a super-tight budget when you don’t need to, is not worth it as a long-term plan. Some proponents in the FIRE movement argue that learning to live on as little as possible opens up the opportunity in retiring early since your expenses are so low.
I’m sure some people hate their jobs enough, that cutting back on their expenses permanently is much better than having to wake up and go to work. In our case, we like what we do, but we want more options in the future. Maybe we quit our jobs, or switch to working part-time. In either case, having more flexible ways we can spend our time is what we want.
At this stage, we are loosening our budget belt quite a bit. Having a little extra money to spend at the grocery store allows us to get things we don’t “need”, but provides us a more comfortable and sustainable lifestyle.
How much money is enough?
And I think this question gets to the core of what “greed” is.
Greed is wanting an excess in what will make us happy. There is a line between what you need, what will make you more comfortable, and what is an excessive amount. The difficulty lies in figuring out where that line is, and that can only come from personal growth and maturity.
Some of these things are relative to each person. For example, you might be able to utilize a much larger house than other people, because you host a lot of guests.
Another point to consider is how much do you want to depend on your kids when you are older?
In our case, we don’t want to depend on our kids at all financially when they become adults. To do this means our nest egg has to be larger. And since we don’t know how the future will look, we need to cover multiple scenarios.
Just Because You’re Broke Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Greedy
Looking around at how other people spend their money, it is clear that if they had a massive amount of money, they would most likely waste those funds as well.
Sure, some people barely have enough to survive, and that’s a whole different discussion. But someone who is making a 6-figure income is not in that category. They are most likely wasting their money on status purchases or getting caught up in wanting what they don’t have.
To me, greed is how you look at money—always having to have more just to spend it. But it can also materialize in a way that allows you to hold power over others. Making people look up to you because of your net-worth is a sign that you might struggle with greed.
Making More So We Can Be More Generous
In addition to not being a burden to my kids, I also want to be a financial blessing in their lives.
I envision a day where we can pay for family vacations. Or send them on a romantic getaway where we watch the kids. We’ve never experienced this ourselves, and it would be a blessing to be able to do this.
But it also goes into wanting to be more generous with money in general. Being able to donate funds to organizations we believe in is not something we’ve done in the past (at least not with large amounts of money). And we like to host dinner parties for our friends.
Debt has made it difficult to tap into our generous nature because of financial stress. I’m not using this as an excuse, but I’m realizing how credit card debt has taken a toll on how we look at money. And we want to undo that damage.
I do think the saying “it is better to give than receive” is true. It’s getting to a point where you realize you have extra funds, and using that money to help others is an incredible feeling. I don’t want to fund people’s bad habits, but if I can help someone who is at a low point and needs some help, I want to have money available to do that.
And getting to a point where we can be as generous as we want to is going to require us to have a substantial nest egg.
An Excuse to Be Lazy and Relax
Being able to take a vacation and not have to look at your vacation budget every moment sounds refreshing. In fact, we are planning on doing a little bit of this during our vacations this year.
It goes well with the idea that money should not be a focus in our lives. Having enough margin to splurge once in a while is healthy, and can be used to create lasting memories. Does this mean you need a massive amount of money to create positive memories? No, but getting out of town and going to exciting destinations can be loads of fun.
Just because you are cognitive about your financial future, doesn’t mean you have to always avoid spending money. Money is meant to be spent eventually. The question is when and how much. It requires figuring out the best balance to get the most out of life now and in the future.
Another example is with things around the house. I know Andrea would like to have nice outdoor furniture. Being able to purchase these things would add to our lives, and provide more comfortable seating when we have guests. Are these “needs”? No. But they would add value to our living space.
This idea could easily bleed into the “excess” category if we aren’t cognitive about what will truly add value, and what are things that we just want because other people have. But I think it is healthy to splurge once in a while, especially if you can afford to do so.
Not Sacrificing What is Right for Money
Hard work is essential in maximizing your earnings and growing your wealth.
But that doesn’t mean you have to choose money over what you know is right. That is why I’m not willing to post sponsored articles for products I don’t believe in. If me gaining more money means I have to con or cheat others out of their cash, the cost isn’t worth it.
I rather work harder in earning money truthfully than finding a shortcut that steals what others have worked hard earning. To me, that’s not how I want to live. And I don’t want to make that an example for my kids to follow.
Being able to sleep at night, knowing that I made honest money is a big deal to me. Greed has led many people to compromise on what they know is right for a buck. That’s not the path I want to go down.
It probably means that I will have to earn less money than what I “could” earn. But part of the journey is figuring out how to increase my income honestly—which is part of what makes life fun. You don’t have to be dishonest to grow wealth.
Money Does Not Lead to Happiness
Money can make our lives more comfortable and provide more opportunities. But it does not have the capability of making us happy.
Sometimes it can be confusing because we mix up comfort with happiness. If only we could have a larger house. Or a new car. But all of these things can only offer us temporary satisfaction, and the excitement will eventually fade. And so we then replace these items with newer or bigger models and repeat the cycle.
When money is used to try to buy happiness, that’s a big sign there are more significant issues than what appears on the surface.
To me, greed is just a way for us to drown out other problems with money. It never works though. At best it distracts us from the core problems in our lives. Unfortunately, some people won’t learn this lesson until it is too late. I know if I kept on the path I was on, this is where I would end up.
Time is More Important than Money
There is one thing I don’t think we can have too much of, and that is time.
Time is one of those things where its’ value isn’t clear until we don’t have much left. And by that point, it might be too late to fix things (but hopefully not).
The real value in money is in its’ ability to free up our time. The more I learn about personal finances and think about this subject, the more I realize time is much more valuable than money. Money can free up future time, but it can’t give us time from the past.
Money can’t buy me time that I’ve lost with my children. Or a broken relationship. Or the times I’ve hurt Andrea.
But having more time can also provide opportunities for me to heal relationships, or bless others. To me, this is powerful. When you have to work a job, because you are paying off credit card debt, you don’t have many options. Looking at it now, it’s sad how much time and money I had to dedicate paying credit card balances. I can’t do much about the time I’ve lost, but I can stop the debt cycle.
My main goal in life is prioritizing what matters most. Greed prioritizes money above everything. The sad thing is that you can usually get what you go after. By the time you receive your “prize”, you realize that’s not what you ultimately want.
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.