Why?

If you’re like me you have a goal to accumulate some pretty substantial wealth. I had a goal to accumulate $6,000,000 over the course of my lifetime. While that goal is lofty, I don’t think it was completely unreasonable. One thing I never did, however, was ask myself why? Why did I need Six Million Dollars?

Truth is, I didn’t need it. I actually didn’t even plan for it. It just kinda happened. I plugged some numbers in to a Roth IRA and 401K calculator, made some estimations for my investments performance, and BAM there it was, six million. While I don’t know if I will actually reach that number, it’s not unreasonable to predict I will have at least a few million to my name when the Grim Reaper pays me a visit.

It’s one thing to plan on being wealthy, but it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to figuring out what to do with that wealth.

So I asked myself “What am I getting rich for?” Is it so I can buy a $50,000 car every five years? Or so I can have a second house in the mountains when ski season approaches? Or better yet, maybe it’s so I can afford the $30,000 membership fee at the local country club I’ll never play golf at?

Of course I plan to enjoy my later years. I’ll probably take some pretty SWEET vacations, maybe I’ll buy a few man toys (jet ski, snowmobile, or a pet shark), and I’ll definitely upgrade my closet with all Tommy Bahama gear (side note: I love Tommy Bahama, but feel too young to wear it yet). But let me be clear. These are not the reasons I’m accumulating wealth.

When I die, how many people are going to remember how many jet skis I had? Answer: No one! What they will remember is that I donated $100,000 to a Young Life camp. That I paid for my children’s, grandchildren’s, and great grandchildren’s college tuition. That I pulled a “Bill Gates” and donated a ridiculously sizable portion of my net worth to some noble cause or charity. Those are the things that make being wealthy great!

Just to make sure I’m being completely clear, I really only have two purposes for accumulating wealth and they are…

1) To ensure my family is taken care of

2) To give a crap load of that wealth away

Thornton Wilder said it best…

Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.

So I ask you, what are you getting rich for? What great (or not so great) things do you want to do with your money?

23 thoughts on “Why?

  1. Great post and great question ! I like the conclusion, and totally agree with it.
    Here is my answer : I want to get rich and financially independent so that I can take care of my family, and most importantly, so that I can travel the world and work on development projects everywhere.
    As an engineer, I would feel insulted if the only thing I do was to sit in a cubicle and do boring tasks like filling excel sheets so that I can by myself expensive toys. I like challenges, I want to develop solutions to problems like “how do I bring the water from this river up to a vegetable garden”, etc etc. Hopefully this will all come to real within the next 2 years.
    I think there will be lots of things to do for engineers : all that is about alternative energies, water preservation etc.

    Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading it, and I like the stick figures.

  2. Like you – to leave a legacy. To do something really great, that I am passionate about. I want to make the difference and not just contribute to a cause

  3. Since Hubby and I are not having kids, we want to ensure that we have a nice lifestyle when we retire. I’m not confident there’ll be enough in the gov’t coffers when we reach our golden years (for me, that’s in 22 years, 29 for Hubby), so we’re doing what needs to be done to ensure that we don’t have any debt and that we are able to live in a comfortable way. “Comfortable” to us is having enough money to do little day trips, the occasional vacation away from home, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, and reliable transportation. We’d certainly find ways to fill our days (ie: volunteering).

  4. Same as you! I want to be able to take care of myself, my hypothetical and potentially non-existent kids, and my family. I would also love to set up a scholarship at my local high school because so many kids there don’t have the financial means to take on additional education (post-secondary or other).

  5. Problem with your projections, Ninja, is that you have no actual idea how much you or your investments will earn in 40 years or what your expenses will be. I am perhaps 3 years from retirement, I am not rich but have a comfortable amount saved, and yet I feel no certainty either. What happens for example if unexpected medical expenses wipe out all my savings, or if I die in 2 years rather than 20, or even 30 years rather than 15? Obviously at this point, these questions are not academic.

    Anyhow, to the original question: What am I getting rich for? Right now, to the extent that I am getting rich, I am thinking primarily of funding my retirement accounts. At my age it is likely that social security and Medicare will still be around, and if nothing unexpectedly adverse happens, I should be able to live comfortably for at least 20 years after retirement. This means also that for the time being I am not making a lot of charitable contributions; however, if I die with assets to my name, I have no heirs or dependents, and my will leaves almost all of my money to various educational, cultural, and philanthropic charities.

  6. I’m pretty much on the same wavelength as you–I love the idea of giving back, but I want to do it while alive as well. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to take some insane vacations…haha…

  7. First of all when did you start reading books by Thornton Wilder, and second of all your are never too young to start wearing Tommy Bahama. The truth is what Girl Ninja won’t let you wear Tommy Bahama.

    I agree with your reasoning on accumulating wealth. The whole purpose for me is family security, and blessing others.

    • First of all, I’d be surprisied if Ninja is reading Thornton Wilder; he may have just happened on that line surfing the Net. The quotation is from Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker,” which was the original source for “Hello Dolly.” Actually versions of that line have been around for centuries; in 1625 Francis Bacon wrote similarly, “Money is like muck; not good except it be spread.”

      Now on the other hand, I could believe Ninja did read Francis Bacon in the original, that is, unless Girl Ninja wouldn’t let him.

  8. I’m saving so that I never have to rely on the government to get me by each month. In my line of work I see a lot of people who never bothered to save for their retirement because they assumed they could rely on Social Security alone. Now they’re crying out for COLAs and it breaks my heart to see their struggling. I never want to go through that.

    Also, I want a debt-free wedding.

    • The problem is several-fold: first, people are living longer, which means their own savings are being stretched and they are likely to incur higher health costs, not all of which are covered by Medicare. Second, employers and the public sector are getting away from pensions and moving more towards 401(k)’s and similar plans, which place more of a burden on individuals to wisely choose investments, and obviously not all individuals choose well. Third, social security, which was instituted in the 1930s when life expectancies were only a few years past retirement age, is facing eventual shortfalls which will likely impact not only people about to retire but generations beyond. That said, in its current form, social security is probably helping to keep many retirees out of dire poverty, and that’s a good thing. But although I believe the death scares for social security and Medicare are highly exaggerated, in my opinion the generation now starting in the work force would be wisest to save on their own as aggressively as they can.

  9. Why do we save for retirement or anything else for that matter. One reason is to live a reasonable life in retirement. We do not know how long we will live, so we save.

  10. I’m not sure I’ll ever be “rich” but I’m saving now so that I don’t have to work so hard later in life. My parents both worked into their 60’s at physically demanding jobs, and that has definitely taken its toll on them. Main goals are to reduce debt while saving/investing now so that our “revolving” costs later on are lower, making it easier to get more money socked away.

  11. We are saving because we don’t want our kids to have to take care of us financially when we are older. We want to have an enjoyable retirement, we want to travel, and we want to be able to enjoy life to th fullest. We also want to be able to send our kids to college, and if there’s enough money, set them up so they don’t have to worry about their kids tuition.

  12. Great post! I often work very hard and wonder if money is the end goal or just a reason for working – it gets me in circles sometimes. The main reason I am accumulating wealth is to take care of my family and friends when they need it. Being able to use your gifts (making money) in order to help others out is a great feeling indeed.

  13. For me, the number I came up with is based on my age, not having to work anymore and allowing me to live comfortably without touching the principal. It’s not so I can buy lots of things. It’s so I can do the things I want to do.

    There are a lot of people who just come up with a number and don’t know if it even will be enough or not. Great post!

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