Why do you want to be rich?

I'm not the only one who has been thinking about the relationship between money and meaning lately. This is a guest post from CJ at WiseMoneyMatters.com, who is trying to live a rich life even as he works to pay down debt.

“Wealth and riches are not synonymous. Wealth will get you riches, but riches will never make you wealthy.” — Dr. Edwin Louis Cole

I love this quote from Dr. Edwin Louis Cole because it gives me a heart check. It helps me understand my motives for doing what I'm doing.

You see, my goals are to become completely debt-free. I'm getting closer and closer to that goal. Within the last few months, I downsized my house, doubled my income, and was able to pay off all of my debts except for the mortgage. So now all I have left is about $100,000 to pay off before I am completely debt-free.

In order to get to those goals, I'm working extra hard. I work a job that has a great schedule: ten hours a day, four days a week. While that's nice, it's 45 minutes away, so I get very little time with my wife those four days.

Then I use my three-day weekends to work on side jobs. I'm a D.J. and videographer for weddings. I also work on my blog, WiseMoneyMatters.com. I do everything possible to earn extra money to help pay down debt.

And, of course, I try to be as frugal as possible. My wife and I are on a strict budget. We each get $100 per month for play money (this includes new clothes, eating out, coffee, etc). Groceries are limited to $200 per month. Everything else goes towards bills or savings.

Be Careful What You Wish For

I'm on the right track toward getting out of debt and becoming rich. I'm doing all of the right things. But why? Why do I want to be debt-free? Why do I want lots of money? I know intellectually that money doesn't always bring happiness, yet we all strive for more of it, and sometimes at the expense of our own families.

I know too many guys who have built very successful businesses and made large amounts of money and had their family fall apart. I used to be envious of them and what they had. Now I just feel sorry for them.

They wanted riches so bad that it consumed them. They have nice houses and brand-new cars, yet are completely alone. Many celebrities find themselves in similar circumstances.

I hear stories all of the time on personal finance blogs and podcasts about how the drive to get out of debt causes significant conflicts in the home. One spouse goes crazy frugal while the other is a spendthrift. Money-related issues are the leading cause of divorce these days.

What's the Point?

Let's say I accomplish my goal of becoming completely debt-free. What then? What will I do with all of that extra money? I'll probably save for retirement. That's the next logical step, right? But it all just seems so superficial.

I'm spending my whole life working my butt off so I can be lazy the last 10-20 years of my life. Something about that just doesn't sit right with me.

I want for there to be more purpose in life than just a selfish dream of ultimate laziness. I want to make a difference in this world. I want my life to be meaningful.

My Purpose

My wife and I decided to give our money away. If we've been blessed this much, I feel it's important to bless others.

We have set aside 20% of our income just for giving to charity. My wife takes girls from our church youth group out to lunch. She just talks with them and helps them through those tough situations that come up for teenagers. We sponsor a girl in India via Compassion International. We give to Teen Challenge to help teenaged boys with drug addictions. We donate both our time and money because time is as valuable (or more so!) as money. I tutor some of the boys in math every Friday. And, finally, we give to our church and to our community.

We also set aside $100 per month for date nights as my family is of utmost importance to me. We take out my wife's 11-year-old brother every week. He comes from a broken home where his mother is addicted to drugs and brings new boyfriends home all the time. He needs a little stability.

I can tell you that I find so much more satisfaction seeing people's lives changed than I do watching my mortgage go down another $1,000. I find I am much wealthier than I can imagine, even if I might not be considered “rich”.

Now don't get me wrong: We are still saving and planning to pay off our mortgage early. Those things are very important to us. But without a purpose, they don't really matter.

Don't let the prospects of tomorrow come at the expense of today.

What's Your Purpose?

So I challenge you: What's your purpose?

If all of your dreams come true and you pay off debt and make millions of dollars, what's the point? Is it to satisfy your selfish desires? Or are you going to make a difference? Are you going to pursue those riches at the expense of your family? Or will you set boundaries in order to spend time with the kids, and to take your wife on dates?

Why do you want to be rich?

CJ's article reminds me of another guest post from last December, in which Jeremy M. asked, “What's your why?”

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Allen
Allen
11 years ago

My goal is not to be rich, but to lived a well-proportioned life. I do not want debt because I prefer to be the master of my own finances. I want to have enough to have a car, house, go on some trips to Europe, retire when I am young and then do some philanthropic work. My plan is to die not with a lot of money, but with many spiritual riches that will never die. I want to give a rich legacy of dependability, helping others and minimal aesthetic living to my children. I only want to be rich… Read more »

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

I don’t believe there is a ‘purpose’. We live, we die, some stuff happens inbetween, and there’s no heaven or hell. I don’t want kids, and I don’t have the ego to want to be ‘remembered’ or ‘make a difference’. So for me, it’s selfish reasons. I intend to be debt-free by the age of 40 (mortgage included) and have enough invested to be able to do whatever I want. Whatever’s left when I die will go to charity.

Derk
Derk
7 years ago
Reply to  Russ

Russ, there is a purpose and something beyond. I just can’t imagine how depressing it must be to believe otherwise.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
11 years ago

This is exactly what many of us need to hear. I spent the first 6 years of my marriage mindlessly achieving goals in pursuit of happiness. But there was less and less happiness involved as time went on. The goals weren’t enough. Without a deeper meaning, there would always be something else around the bend, some other measure of dissatisfaction. This kind of thinking can lead you into the dark alleys of life and suck the joy right out of living. Accomplishing things is not the path to happiness, at least not in and of itself. Goals are important, but… Read more »

Baker @ ManVsDebt
Baker @ ManVsDebt
11 years ago

Same, as the poster above. My goal is not to be rich, but to lead as FREE and BALANCED life, which for me includes being not only debt-free but secure in our financial life.

David
David
11 years ago

Being rich is the same thing as not owing money to other people. A man who owns a home is already rich because he can live rent free for the rest of his life. If he has a kid then that’s a whole different story.

retired
retired
11 years ago

You are richer than most in that you value your family and community. If everyone did this I feel we would all be a wealthier nation, world. In the fifties before credit cards people lived closer to their income levels. No matter the economic level problems will always arise, people will cope, but if they focus on smiling their stress level would drop as they cope with the changes. When was the last time you saw someone hold hands with their sweetheart? So smile at someone today, enjoy a good joke, sing along with a song, hug you spouse and… Read more »

Annie
Annie
11 years ago

This is an interesting perspective to me. I got caught on one line, about working hard now so we can be lazy for 20 years after we retire. I look at it a different way: I’m working hard and saving for retirement now so that when I can’t work anymore, I won’t die if I come down with pneumonia. I don’t look at it as wanting to be rich rich rich because money will solve all of my problems. But there are some specific financial problems that money CAN solve, and those happen to be some things that I’m particularly… Read more »

Brandon
Brandon
11 years ago

This post was particularly inspiring. Thank you.

Trendy Indy
Trendy Indy
11 years ago

I want to be rich so that I don’t have to “worry” about money and invest my time elsewhere like educating people in rural India.I have been blessed to come this far to this country and get a good education,I beleive I should give back to the community.

KC
KC
11 years ago

Like others I don’t ever want to worry about money. If I need something – food, shelter, clothing, etc – I want to be able to purchase it without it impacting my life financially. The problem is knowing how “rich” you need to be. If I knew how long I was going to live and what type of care I might need at the end of my life my problem would be solved, but no one knows that. But as I’ve progressed in my goals (no debt but a mortgage, increased emergency fund, increased retirement and other savings) I can… Read more »

KC
KC
11 years ago

Commenting on what retired said above “In the fifties before credit cards people lived closer to their income levels.” I read somewhere that the reason for this is TV. In the 50s and earlier people lived in neighborhoods with people of like means and compared themselves and their possessions to what their neighbors (of like means) had. Their evening activities were usually walking, visiting with neighbors or visiting on the front porch. All of these tended to make you “compare” yourself to your neighbors. But when TV came along we started to compare ourselves to Ricky & Lucy or Mary… Read more »

Ralph Hogaboom
Ralph Hogaboom
11 years ago

I don’t want to be rich. What’s the point of amassing tremendous wealth? Instead, I want to be intentional. It is important to me that the resources I have are used in a way consistent with my life and my family’s philosophy. We put our money where our mouth is, which stands in the way of being rich. My wife, with a chemical engineering degree, now is home and homeschools our children. We’d have lots more money if she worked, but our values don’t equate to her working. We downsized to one car – a 1980 Mercedes 240D – because… Read more »

mhb
mhb
11 years ago

I was daydreaming about this recently, actually: having enough income and time to give to causes that are important to me. Right now we’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, we’re both in school, and what little time we have left we want to spend together, because, like this poster, our marriage is the most important thing we have going on. It troubles me that I can’t respond to the appeals from my favorite causes for money or time, but I look forward to the day we can do that. I think that the ability to share what we have is true wealth.

sabrina
sabrina
11 years ago

…what’s the point? Is it to satisfy your selfish desires? Or are you going to make a difference? That line strikes a sour note for me — it seems a little self-righteous. I’m not aiming to make millions of dollars, but if I was, what would be the harm in satisfying myself? (Take it as given my selfish desires would not include, say, hurting other people or wearing lots of jewels and furs so I could be snooty to everyone, or whatever.) My goals in attaining wealth, such as it shall be, are pretty simple: stability and, as a previous… Read more »

Kate
Kate
11 years ago

I was actually never driven by accumulating wealth and have therefore lived my life up until now somewhat financially irresponsibly. I used to equate working for wealth as materialistic and competitive. For the past year and half I’ve worked hard to bring down my debt and live within my means – primarily because as I’m getting older and now engaged to be married I have longer term goals that as important to me. I’ve gained an understanding that to have financial security can enable you to live out your values rather than have your values dictated by money. Just this… Read more »

a conscience life
a conscience life
11 years ago

“I’m spending my whole life working my butt off so I can be lazy the last 10-20 years of my life. Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.” How about this, then… I am spending my whole life working my butt off so I can be *free to do with my time what I wish* for the last 10-20 years of my life. The point being that if you do not have to work, simply to eat, then you can work at whatever you wish (eg. charity, volunteering, or being lazy). When you lifestyle no longer demands you… Read more »

Victoria
Victoria
11 years ago

I want to be a healthy, wealthy woman. I define wealthy as many of your readers do: enough to live a comfortable life without worrying whether I’ll be able to get new shoes, replace the water heater, pay the gas bill, or fix the car. I have a job I love that rewards me with personal and professional satisfaction. I have time for the important things: gardening, reading, volunteering, and having thoughtful conversations with friends. It took time and effort to arrive at this point in my life. I count it time well spent.

Karla K.
Karla K.
11 years ago

An excellent message… 🙂 I’m still a student right now (in India), and have a long long way to before I’m done with my education and set on a defined career path. So I guess my reasons for wanting to be wealthy would be to afford the best education, to be able to invest in a good home in the near future, and all the other ‘stuff’ that I guess any young person would aspire for. But I totally can relate to your views as well… I have always maintained that my Ultimate Goal in life is to build shelters… Read more »

KS
KS
11 years ago

A lot of this came off as self-righteous twaddle. I see the ego-driven line “making a difference” as one of those “selfish desires”. Even though I have a good career where I do “make a difference”, I want to be financially secure so I can so I’m not sponging off society or well-meaning relatives (no kids, by choice) someday. But I like living well here and now because I don’t know how long I’ll be here. I’m fortunate that I can lead a life I want while paying off my debt and amassing savings AND giving some of my time… Read more »

Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas
Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas
11 years ago

This is an excellent article. It is reminding us to have a purpose for our financial goals: hopefully giving back in ways that are meaningful to us while still providing adequately for our families and also making sure there is money for fun. Life needs balance in all aspects, and I think this piece is a great reminder that having loads of money in the bank (etc.) doesn’t yield a rich life when that cash flow comes at the risk of things that may truly make you happy (family and philanthropy).

lisa
lisa
11 years ago

I want money for me so I can open myself and my home for people I know who need a hand. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s alot more satisfying than giving $$ to a charity or church. Like the writer said, take someone out to lunch…or give someone a place to stay, or help someone navigate some of life’s more complicated landscapes. It’s easier to do that when you have money and don’t have to worry about paying the electric bill. I like being someone other people know they can turn to.

Jamie
Jamie
11 years ago

This is my favorite post of yours yet.

I don’t want to be rich, but I do want to be debt-free. My husband and I desire to be open and available to do whatever God calls us to without having the burden of debt to consider. We want to be able to give freely of our time and resources.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

I like the idea of the above mentioned charity (Compassion International), but I was wondering if anyone here has heard of a similar charity organization that isn’t religion-based (Christian or otherwise). Possibly children.org … they used to be a Christian Ministry, but perhaps not anymore?

Thank you,
dan

Joey
Joey
11 years ago

It’s interesting that you view living life on your own terms in the way you *would* live as “purposeful”, yet simultaneously view living life on your own terms in a way you would *not* live as “selfish.”

I’d say a pretty good “purpose” for you to strive for would be to learn not to look down on others for living their own lives.

Margaret
Margaret
11 years ago

It sounds like people are very lucky to have you in their life and you and your wife are acting as excellent role models.

I’m surprised that some people are miffed and think this post is self-righteous. It sounds like you have seen people cause damage to others and are intentionally doing what you can to help. Yay for that.

Rob Bennett
Rob Bennett
11 years ago

My goal is to spend the remainder of my life doing meaningful work. I don’t think that anyone can count on that on that in Corporate America. You need financial freedom to pull it off.

Rob

Karen
Karen
11 years ago

Excellent post! I agree, it is so important to keep in mind what we all are working so hard for.

For myself, being financially secure has primarily been a goal because of it allows security, for me and more importantly, for my children.

If you grow up poor, it is hard to forget what it’s like to not be able to buy the basic things you need. Just try going 20 yrs without dental care, for example. I don’t want my kids’ lives to be limited in that way. And personally, I don’t want to go there again myself, either.

April411
April411
11 years ago

I think the author kind of contradicted himself. He stated that he’s working “extra hard” to get rid of debt by working a 10 hr a day job (with a 45 min commute) and then spending his 3 day weekend doing side jobs. Then he goes on to talk about the importance of spending time with family instead of chasing money. Well, honestly I don’t see how he has extra time to spend with his wife when he’s working that much.

JB
JB
11 years ago

“I’m spending my whole life working my butt off so I can be lazy the last 10-20 years of my life.” Yes. Years that you may or may not get. Like my friend Jenny, who died in a car wreck at 47 this month. Or the younger people who develop cancer and die before they even see 40. Nobody knows how much time they’ll get. A better objective would be to plan AS IF you’ll get those extra years, but live as if you might not. Balance. I want to be wealthy but I don’t care about riches (material stuff)… Read more »

Andy @ The Daily Click
Andy @ The Daily Click
11 years ago

Firstly, my hat goes off to you for getting yourself in a situation where you are able to offer both time and money to good causes, whilst paying off your mortgage early. I believe giving to good causes is something we should all strive to. So what is my purpose to want to be debt free? Well for me it is about gaining the financial stability which has been lacking for years. But also to get rid of that sickening feeling of dread when it comes to being in debt and realising that unless I work hard and live frugally… Read more »

dreamin2u
dreamin2u
11 years ago

This post is a great reminder for me. Although I’m drowning in debt, attempting to build my own small business, I had temporarily forgotten to practice what I preach. This post prompted me to make 25.00 loan through Kiva … because so many others DO have it worse. The best part about doing this is, if the loan does manage to get repaid, I can just send it on to another deserving person. A hand up is always better than a hand out. http://www.kiva.org/ Just in case there are others of you who feel the same way.

Aniruddha
Aniruddha
11 years ago

My dream is to accumulate enough so

1) I’ve a peace of mind that if I wake up next morning and something unexpected happens, I am psychologically ready to handle the situation

2) I’ve saved enough to invest/increase/multiply my assets by putting some extra money, experimentally, into money machines

3) I don’t know when I may do so, but I have a strong desire to somehow financially support a hardworking student in need

4) I may taste how it feels like to be rich 😉

Morgan
Morgan
11 years ago

Hi Dan – not sure where you live but there’s a children’s organization in Canada called “Plan” that isn’t religiously affiliated.
http://plancanada.ca/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=194

Baker
Baker
11 years ago

Great post. I would like to add, that I believe that money is just an idea. It takes on whatever form you wish it to be.

Lindsay
Lindsay
11 years ago

I guess we look at it from the other direction. If you work hard at something that changes the world, getting rich is just one of the ways that the world lets you know you’ve done something right. As for working hard to enjoy the last 20 years, when you get to those last 20 years, it will probably seem like a pretty good idea! In the meantime finding a job you love and where you can really make a difference will make the work easy.

sandy
sandy
11 years ago

AS far as I see it, there is always going to be someone materially richer than me. So, while I enjoy the process of accumalating wealth, my husband and I contribute greatly to our church, and other nonprofits as we see fit. We also have 2 daughters that I would like to see through college, and make sure that they are not too far in debt. To me, that’s wealthy. We’ll be done with our mortgage by the time we are 50, so that will (hopefully) leave us time to volunteer, travel, and do what we would really like to… Read more »

IndependentOperator
IndependentOperator
11 years ago

I have to take issue with a couple things here. And, of course, I try to be as frugal as possible. My wife and I are on a strict budget. We each get $100 per month for play money (this includes new clothes, eating out, coffee, etc). Groceries are limited to $200 per month. Everything else goes towards bills or savings. Play money? Why are you playing with money when you are in debt? Your point is: saving money needs to have a purpose. The decision to spend or save is whether you want gratification now or later. HOWEVER, when… Read more »

Shawanda
Shawanda
11 years ago

Freedom is my purpose. There are some days I don’t feel like working. I’ve been in positions where someone I’ve worked with said or did something that angered me, and I had to bridle my tongue. If you’ve ever been in a position where your livelihood depends on tap dancing for someone you can’t stand, you know why financial independence is important. Even if you love your current employer/customers now, that could change. Your boss could quit. You could get laid off. A customer could take their business elsewhere. Who knows? I want my investments to provide for me. Additionally,… Read more »

Jacqueline
Jacqueline
11 years ago

How do you possibly spend only $100 per person per month for groceries?

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
11 years ago

@39 (Jacqueline) It is very possible to spend $200 per month on groceries for two people. I know because we are a family of four (two adults, a 5-yr-old and 3-yr-old) and we spend $280 per month. I coupon a little, but I mainly plan our meals and buy frugally. I do not buy much processed food at all, avoid hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup almost 100% of the time, eat mostly whole grains, fresh or frozen produce, and some meat almost every night of the week. It’s a juggling act sometimes, but it is entirely possible.

ResortAtSquawCreekTAHOE
ResortAtSquawCreekTAHOE
11 years ago

My goal of having $3-5 million in the bank by age 40-45 is so that I can WORK purely for the love of working, and not having to worried about finances and doing something wrong at work. When I went to get my MBA part time at Berkeley, I LOVED school b/c grades didn’t matter. I was schooling purely for the sake of learning. It’s the same thing for me going to a luxury car dealership. I enjoy looking, touching, sitting in, and occassionally test driving, but not buying even though I could pay up the 100K cash for a… Read more »

ResortAtSquawCreekTAHOE
ResortAtSquawCreekTAHOE
11 years ago

What annoys me is when people have to TELL OTHER PEOPLE they are giving to charity etc. Give to charity silently, and for charities’ sake, not for your own.

retired
retired
11 years ago

Wealth is an individual concept. To each person wealth will mean something different. Yes money will make you more comfortable, and is excellent security. But if you end up alone are you truly wealthy? Yes save your money live frugally but do not neglect your relationships, your health, or your peace of mind. Charity begins in your heart, giving what you can whether it is money or labor is up to you. Sometimes charity is just the kindness of smiling at others when you have nothing else to give. My husband has been ill for the last 6 years. The… Read more »

The Arabic Student
The Arabic Student
11 years ago

Being rich to me is all about not having work to survive. You are free to throw yourself at your passions if money is not an issue. Some people are content with a life of working every day until they are old and feeble. I’m not one of them. From the day I started having to work for a living I realized that it was not something I wanted to spend my entire life doing.

gfe--gluten free easily
gfe--gluten free easily
11 years ago

I like this post. I want to have enough funds so I can stop working and devote most of my time to celiac education. Why do I mention this? It’s not to get personal recogniton as others have mentioned. It’s because 97% of the 3 million people who have celiac remain undiagnosed. I mention it any time I can to spread awareness. (If anyone has any unresolved health issues on anyone in their family with celiac or related conditions, they should read more on celiac.) The reality is that so many people retire and then feel unfulfilled and “lazy” as… Read more »

Diasdiem
Diasdiem
11 years ago

Because working for other people sucks, that’s why.

Kelley
Kelley
11 years ago

I’m surprised that no one mentioned anything about trying to get custody of the brother. If you want to change someone’s future, change your family’s. I’m not talking about weekly dinner. I’m talking about raising someone else’s child. That is a purely selfless act. It shouldn’t be that hard if the mother is an addict. I guess that’s what stuck out to me the most.

Jeremy M
Jeremy M
11 years ago

There was an incredible comic about two years ago: Berke Breathed’s ‘Opus’, where the punchline is that purposes are not found, they’re created – as he holds an umbrella over a sleeping child to keep her dry. The image was a bit exaggerated, but I love the idea. We keep looking for a purpose to life, but how often do we create one? Bill Gates has: leveling the playing field for children worldwide. The Dalai Lama has: compassion. And I find I’m at my best when helping people too. So I’d love to be financially free, so I could spend… Read more »

DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
11 years ago

Great post! People get mixed up– wealth may be money, but many times it can be the free time to enjoy that money . . .

vern
vern
11 years ago

You have to enjoy life folks! I’m going to pay the house off later this year and the wife and I are going to celebrate by flying first class to China. We are in our early 40’s and have never paid a penny in credit card interest. (We’re DINKs BTW…Double Income No Kids.) We really enjoy traveling and you can’t put a dollar value on life experiences. This post was intersting to me because I was wondering what to do with the extra money. I’ll kick some more into the retirement fund, but I’m not going to obsess over it.… Read more »

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