I don’t want to be a millionaire.
That might seem like a weird thing to say but it’s the truth so I’m leading with it.
I don’t want to be a millionaire. Seriously.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. Not constantly but it’s one of those things that has always sort of lingered in the back of my mind.
And now, at 30 years old, I feel confident about my conclusion.
I don’t want to be millionaire. And here’s why.
Why I don’t want to be a millionaire
There are four key reasons I don’t have any interest in being a millionaire.
I don’t want to chase money for the sake of having more money
I am a big believer in the idea that the purpose of money is to spend it. What that looks like will look differently for everyone. But at this point in my life, I am not interested in having money for the sake of having money.
That’s not to say I don’t think it’s important to have savings (like an emergency fund) or plan for retirement. Those things absolutely matter.
But simply chasing money for the sake of having more money doesn’t appeal to me or align with my values.
Money and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive
Money can’t buy happiness is a total cliche, but I’ve really found it to be true in my own life.
This is not to say I have never spent money on something I’ve enjoyed — I definitely have.
But the older I get, the more I find my happiness and joy is linked less to stuff.
Additionally, while making more money at my job over the years has helped in many ways, I wouldn’t say it has me happier.
Having a higher salary has made it easier to pay the bills, but it comes with a trade off. The jobs that have enabled my salary to grow have been the kind of jobs you don’t just leave at the office at the end of the day.
Thankfully, I enjoy the work I do for the most part, but I think this is an important thing to note.
Having a lot of money can change you — and it’s not always for the better.
Growing up lower income helped shape me into who I am today.
Not only did it teach me how to steward my resources well, I think it also taught me to have empathy and understanding for those who have less than I do.
My financial situation has changed a lot over the years. Once we clear our debt, we will be solidly middle class. But regardless of how our income changes, it’s important to me to maintain those important lessons about empathy and understanding that I learned from my upbringing.
I’m not sure if I would be able to do that if I was ridiculously rich. Sure, I like to think I’d be able to remember my roots, but I can’t say for sure.
We don’t need more people with a ridiculous amount of money
Much like I think it’s messed up that we have normalized the idea of young people starting out their lives buried in student loan debt, it’s also wild to me that there is someone out there with a net worth of $126 BILLION while others struggle to keep the lights on.
I’m not here to say people who make a lot of money don’t work for it. I’m sure they do. And if making millions is your goal, go you! I mean that sincerely.
Personally, though? I don’t see why any person would ever need that kind of money.
The millionaire who took a million dollar pay cut
In an interesting twist of fate, the day I planned to edit this post, I read a fascinating story about the CEO of Gravity Payments.
In 2015, Dan Price introduced a $70,000 minimum salary for all his staff — and took a pay cut of $1 million to make it happen.
What he said in an interview with the BBC really struck me:
“People are starving or being laid off or being taken advantage of, so that somebody can have a penthouse at the top of a tower in New York with gold chairs.
“We’re glorifying greed all the time as a society, in our culture. And, you know, the Forbes list is the worst example – ‘Bill Gates has passed Jeff Bezos as the richest man.’ Who cares!?”
The article goes on to explain what happened after he implemented the minimum salary for all staff, including himself.
And well, the results speak for themselves. Not only has the business continued to grow, but it also had a significant impact on staff, enabling them to pay off debts, contribute to their pensions, buy houses and have children.
Their lives improved in so many ways.
A million dollar lesson from the million dollar pay cut
There are a lot of things to like about the Gravity Payments story. However, as I reflected on it, I kept coming back to the impact the change had on the CEO.
Taking a one million dollar pay cut meant he had to change his lifestyle. The article notes prior to the pay cut, he was living the young, tech billionaire lifestyle. After, he started renting rooms at his house out through AirBnb to stay afloat.
And yet, at the end of the story, he concluded his life is better.
How is this possible?
It seems to me the CEO learned something important through the experience: that some for others means less — not none — for him.
What does this mean for me?
So if I don’t want to be a million, what do I want instead?
Put simply, I want to be in a place where we are financially comfortable. Perhaps more significantly, I want to be in a place where we can use our money to help others more.
Giving is something that is really important to me. Again, I think it’s because of how I grew up, but I feel strongly about sharing whatever wealth I have.
Being in a financial position to meet the needs of my own family and help others is my goal.
It took me a while to realize it, but I don’t want to be a millionaire.
The older I get, the more certain of this I become. I much prefer the idea of a life where we make the money we need to meet our needs and have capacity to help others. That’s more important to me than the amount of money in our bank account.
How would you define being rich?
I agree, money doesn’t measure your value. And it is a lousy personal goal. But if your goals are having a job you love and being the best you can be then it is not unusual to end up with a ton of money, by accident. I never had getting rich be a goal. My goal was to enjoy my job and to be a good husband and father. I ended up with a few millions and retiring slightly early but I’m mostly happy that I enjoyed my work and that I’m appreciated by the folks that used to work for me as one of the best bosses they ever had. I’m happy my kids are all functioning adults supporting themselves and that my wife of 41 years still loves me. The money is nice but it pales next to the really important stuff. And don’t count yourself out, my guess is you will be a millionaire because you have so much self awareness, you are happy in your own skin and you are a great communicator.
See, to me, that’s the dream: enjoying the work you do and loving/supporting the people in your life well. And you’re likely right re: the idea if those are your goals, you’ll likely end up acquiring wealth anyway. If it goes that way for me, I’m certainly not going to complain about it (more to share?). What I have found, though, is that releasing myself from the idea of wealth as a goal has been helpful when it comes to identifying what’s really important to me and bringing my goals into focus.
All that being said, thank you for the kind words. I really do appreciate it.
Katie Camel says
I loved this piece, although I do want to be a millionaire. If I’m not, I won’t be considered financially independent, i.e., having enough savings to generate sufficient annual income without a job. That said, I don’t want to work indefinitely to accumulate more money than I actually need, nor do I want to quit working before I have enough money where I don’t need to work. But I agree that part of wealth is sharing it with others. The more I have, the more I can share. And the more I work, the more I money I have to share. Having enough passive income will provide me the time and ability to do things I want to do, like volunteering. Sure, I can volunteer now and do, but not as much as I’d like. My schedule is predictably unpredictable, which means I never know how many hours I’ll get stuck working in a week. That translates into my weekends usually being full of errands, etc. and catching up on all the things I couldn’t do during the week. Okay, I’m on a rant here.
But I loved how you included Dan Price’s story. Such a great example! I agree that no one needs a billion dollars, especially while others are suffering and struggling to make ends meet. I’d like to think that all those billions are somehow fueling the economy and employing people who otherwise might not be employed. What do I know?!
That’s a totally fair point re: being a millionaire as it relates to financial independence. I anticipate my thoughts on the figure could change, especially when I move out of debt repayment and into…whatever comes next. It’s entirely possible it would be more accurate to say I don’t want to be a person with more money than I need? Or something like that.
I do love that giving back is a big part of your reason for wanting to get to financial independence. I think that is so important (and will only become more important in the future).
Dan Price’s story really fascinates me. He’s been doing some interesting things in relation to the whole global situation right now, too — cut his salary to nothing (which I assume he can do because he has some savings?) and consulted with his employees to find a way to keep everyone employed. If I’m recalling correctly, it involved voluntary pay cuts? Like people cut what they could to ensure everyone could keep getting paid? Something like that. Obviously, preference would be that that would not have to happen but I found it unique (especially since he seems to walk the walk). It will be very interesting to see what the economy looks like as a whole when all this is said and done.
Family Money Saver says
I’m not sure the number or idea of being a ‘millionaire’ is as relevant as the desire for financial independence people strive for. I think being able to live a typical middle-class lifestyle but with no worries about a mortgage or living paycheque to paycheque would satisfy a lot of people.
However it is our very nature as well to want more than we have and those that do will have to work for it somehow. There does also come the point as your article states, of when enough is enough? Nobody “needs” gold chairs in a 12,000 sq ft penthouse.
I think you might be correct re: the middle-class-lifestyle-without-worrying would be enough for a lot of people. I will be particularly interested to see how the current state of things impacts this — the way I see it, it could really go either way (either more excess or less excess). I would like to hope either way, no one would be out looking for gold chairs, though! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!