How much money is enough?

kevin.guarino@… |

As some of my client know, I lost my parents at a relatively young age. My age isn’t that important and this post is really more about their ages.  We all know we are not going to live forever.  We get it, we understand that.  Sometimes it takes a death to actually have us stop and think about our lives.  I am sure all of us have had a close friend or loved one become ill with a life threatening disease.  That in itself, might be enough to trigger these feelings. This post is my attempt at applying that perspective to why I do what I do on a daily basis. 

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who has spent her career in a palliative care unit, caring for patients with very little time to live. As someone who interacts with the dying, she has had the opportunity to speak with them regarding the things that make their life worth living, as well as what they wish they’d done differently. Ms. Ware summarized the top five regrets of those about to pass on in her excellent blog, “Inspiration and Chai.” The “Top Five Regrets of the Dying” are:

1.    I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
2.    I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3.    I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4.    I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5.    I wish I had let myself be happier. 

Not a single mention of money or wealth.  Actually only one mention of work (which is obviously how most people gain money).  For the longest time, I spent my adult life chasing dreams that weren’t attainable.  Setting goals that, frankly were just wrong.  I finally came to a calm realization.  There are very little certainties in life and especially in my industry.  One is this, “No one will ever have enough money.”  Tough to say, but I promise you, the sooner you get to that realization, the better. 

The reason for this is simple.  We cannot equate something so quantitative as dollars and cents with “feelings”.  You will always "feel" that there isn't enough, or that you should have more.  Some find this out sooner than later.  My father was probably a lot sooner than me.  I promise you my father never would have traded one Saturday of coaching little league football (which he did for over 20 years), for an extra hundred bucks.  He got it.

I can prove it to you right now.  What is your biggest regret in your life today?  I can say with almost 100% certainty that it has nothing to do with the pursuit of money.  Even if money was needed to buy a vacation, buy a wedding ring for the “one that got away”, buy that house or car.  It was the actually act or product that we regret.  When someone tells me, "I wish I would have bought that stock for a buck a share 20 years ago, I'd be rich today."  I then ask where on their bucket list did buying stock fall today.  I have never had one person tell me it is on theirs today.  



If we look at money as a means to an end.  Then we can better appreciate it and (more importantly) how better to use it.  Everyone has heard, “Money can’t buy happiness”.  While that is true, it can be misleading.  That is because so many of us spend money on things that don’t actually make us “happy”.  We end up filling the space around us with objects that we soon regret.  Then, these idols of regret stare at us for years, reminding us of poor decisions. 

So…. “Buy” better things! 

Instead of spending money on things that end up being junk, spend money on things that you actually value.  What are your hobbies?  Who do you like to spend time with?  Always wanted to write that novel of the C.I.A. agent gone rouge?   "Buy" some time off and write it.  Make a garden in your back yard or, better yet, in your neighborhood.  Give your time and money to a local charity.  See how your work can bring joy to others in your own area.  Money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly can help you achieve your dreams that make you happy. 


Lastly, there was an ad campaign a few years back (could be a lot more than a few) that asked people, “What is your number?”  The idea was that there is a “magic” number people needed to retire “happily”.  There isn’t one.  That is because that number doesn’t represent happiness, as I have discussed.  Money is an easy “number” to count, it just won’t represent your happiness.  Find a better number to gauge your happiness.  If you like to fly fish, set a goal of 4 trips this summer.  Painter, 6 new pieces.  Like to spend time at charities, work 2 days in the next few months.  Those are the numbers that you should be watching and counting.  Those are the true numbers that make you happy.

For me, and many in this industry, this is why we do what we do.  It isn’t to “make our clients the most money”.  It is to see the pictures of their first trip to Italy.  Their kid’s pictures at college graduation.  The new condo in Florida so they can be “snow birds”.  We believe that our happiness is directly tied to the number of clients who achieve their dream.