Making enough vs. making what you'd like

I don’t usually post to GD, much less start threads, so please go easy on me…

I recently got into an argument with someone on AIM about finances.
I said that I hope to land a well paying job in the future, $80+ or more. He debated that I shouldn’t want to make so much because it’s more than I need and that wanting to make more money than I need is purely selfish and greedy (unless you give it to charities and such). He won’t budge from his position. I can see where he stands, more of the “be content with what you have” thing, but I can’t help but wonder why I shouldn’t have more than I need to just get by. His proof mainly rested on his opinion that rich people are usually depressed (which I’ve always believed to be a sour grapes statement), because once you make all that money and buy Ferraris and yachts that you’ll have nothing left to live for and be depressed. He dismissed me as being “naive” and “greedy” because I’d like to earn more than necessary to just get by.
I guess there’s not really a question here, but I would like some opinions on the matter.

FWIW, I make (slightly) more than that and live a relatively happy normal existence. Of course, this is scarcely Ferrari territory. And I am sure there is a “Murphy’s Law” for this, but your spending will normally expand to meet or exceed your income.

There is enough insecurity in this world, and relatively little social net (assuming that you are American), so I would recommend to make at least a little more than you need, and then sock it away for a rainy day.

On the other hand, I have generally enjoyed the work I do and do it because I enjoy it, I’m just lucky that it pays fairly well. Advice I like to give to people looking for a career is to look for something you love to do and figure out a way to earn a living doing that. If you take a high paying job that you despise, just to make big bucks then you will probably be very unhappy and your friend will be essentially correct.

What is enough anyway? My opinion is that $80,000 is chump change compared to what some make out there. This is coming from someone making exactly $0.00 right now. Don’t worry though, I’m going to be getting a 20% raise soon.

Are you married? Plan on getting married? Do you have kids? Plan on having kids? Plan on getting into a serious accident where insurance doesn’t quite cover everything? Of course you’re not planning that…but no one knows what the future holds. Need a new car? $80,000 is a hell of a lot of money. But there’s also a hell of a lot of things that can happen where you’d still have to stretch that. Or have to stretch $100,000, or $200,000. And if you make $30,000 you’d certainly need to be a heck of a lot more limber to do those stretches, but money is money and debt is debt.

Certainly there is an amount of money you can make to cover almost expense you can reasonably be expected to shell out. But anyone that begrudges you for making 80 grand doesn’t understand the first thing about finance. Anyone that begrudges those that make more than they need doesn’t understand what a comfort it can be to not be uncomfortable.

Also, the salary required to make ends meet differs radically depending upon the area you call home. I am relocating from relatively cheap Alabama to relatively expensive Denver in a matter of weeks for a new job - hence, I don’t feel so bad that my salary has gone up something like 27% in the new position. Even then, it will allow me to provide a nice house and a good standard of living for my family, with our own share of toys here and there as we save up - if you’re friend has a problem with it, tough.

Additionally, what kind of life is your friend living? I hear there are plenty of monks out there who get by on next to nothing - is he willing to go that far? Or does he think we should all conform to just HIS idea of “enough to live on?”

He’s a liberal arts major, isn’t he? :slight_smile:

Over here in the Silicon Valley, $80,000 per year would probably be lower-middle class. You can’t afford the mortgage on a decently-located home here, and still have enough left over to pay your bills, without a six-figure income.

And don’t forget, a sizable chunk (up to half) of that $80,000 annual income is going into Federal income tax, State income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, State Disability Insurance, …

Tracer, that’s Bubble-time pure and simple! I think that when Silicon Valley gains a little perspective, grossly inflated prices will be dropping further than they already have and may even approach realistic levels.

On the topic of making a lot of cash, a good friend of mine always says: “it is better to be rich and healthy than poor and ill”. Sums it up perfectly if you ask me.

Skwerl, your AIM buddy is a nincompoop. When he says you have to be “selfish and greedy” to make excessive money (whatever that means), he is implying that you’re taking that money away from someone else. The thing is, it doesn’t really work that way. If you work 16 hours a day instead of 8, you get more money, but guess what; the world has been improved by an additional 8 hours of your labor. I.e. the world is a better place because of your efforts. The same logic holds true for higher paying wages. Higher wages are paid because the world holds the work done to be of higher value. People who insist in being less productive (like your AIM friend) are not saints, they’re a drag on society. This isn’t just my opinion; this is Economics 101.

And his bit about rich people being depressed is nonsense as well. I’ve known rich people and poor people, and the rich were happier. Hell, I’ve been rich and poor and I’ll tell you poor is lousy. Not to say that being rich solves all your problems; there’s still plenty of sad things in this world, but at least how you’ll pay the bills this month ain’t one of 'em.

As far as your friends accusation of “naivity,” well I’m afraid he’s the guilty party there.

Bah! Money is not the most important thing in the world, but being poor sucks :wink: .

I don’t think it is impossible to do something you enjoy and make a decent living at the same time. Don’t let your friend browbeat you. He may have a valid complaint ( and some would argue the point even then ) if you were a CEO making a couple hundred million, and were just banking it. But if you are interested in a field that pays decently, more power to you. Financial solvency eliminates quite a few every-day headaches.

The only caveat I would make, is DON’T fall into the trap of taking a job that will make you miserable, just for the sake of the bucks. You will end up unhappy in that scenario, believe me.

tracer: Amen :-). I’ll make just about 80k this year ( 79 and some change actually ), and lower middle-class is about right :smiley: . Which is why I’m renting in Alameda, rather than owning.

Abe: That bubble can’t pop soon enough for me :smiley: . Especially since I have a nice, safe government job. Actually it has popped, but the housing market has so far not responded in core areas much. The only part of the real estate market that is really declining, is in the area of office rents. Much higher vacancy rates of late. But family homes? Not quite yet.

  • Tamerlane


I’m a big believer in capitalism but even I must say that money isn’t everything. I’d rather make a little less money at a job I enjoy then make more money at a job I can’t stand. That being said even I would rather make more money then I need to get by for several reasons.

  1. I have hobbies and interest that go beyond what is necessary for survival. These things add to the quality of my life and I’d like to continue doing them.

  2. I actually like to own nice things. It isn’t that I like to own things simply for the sake of owning them. But depending on what I’m buying I like to make sure I purchase quality products even if they cost a little more then others.

  3. Savings! I like the idea of putting a few dollars away towards my retirement or a rainy day. It gives me peace of mind knowing that should something happen to my wife or I we wouldn’t run out of money in one month.


That’s a pretty weak arguement he made. Though I don’t have a cite I do believe that wealthy people are more likely to committ suicide then poor people. On the other hand I think poor people are more likely to engage in crimes such as robbery and murder.

To me someone is only greedy if they’re willing to obtain wealth through any means including immoral or unethical ways.


Its up to you.

A certain amount of money is required for happiness as it allows you to live in a relatively safe area, nice house etc.

It depends on what your aim is.
Do you want to make x amount of money or do you want to be happy or i suspect want to make x amount of money and be happy ?

To be happy you generally need.

  1. somewhere safe to live
  2. friends / partner
  3. hobbies or time to do the things you like
  4. not a lot of stress

I have been relatively poor and mega happy and vice versa.

Goals can become skewed, no one is going to put an advert on tv saying ‘if you buy this flash car you will be just as happy with a cheaper one’.

thats my thoughts anyway…

The Consolations of Philosophy

by Alain de Botton

says it all, cheap and good…

THat sentence right there is the key to your friend’s entire argument, and us such, can be dismissed out-of-hand. Provided that you are a mentally competent adult, it is neither for him to say what you need nor what you “should” do. It is for him to decide what he wants and what he should do.

The rest of his remarks are simply unfounded speculation.

So, your friend lives the life of a monk? He owns no stereo, no tv? No extensive collection of books? He consumes only the calories required for subsistance? He lives in an 8x8 cell?

If not, he’s blowing it out his butt.

The majority of Americans make more than “enough,” the question is “at what point does it become obscene?” I’d say $80k is far below the obscene level. However, I’m also the first to admit that obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. For your friend it seems to be below $80k.

Your friend has a case of “sour grapes”. He probably works in a low paying profession (perhaps a schoolteacher or something?) and will never see $80 k as long as he lives. He’s obviously jealous of your success and wants to drag you down to his pauper’s lifestyle.

First of all, at $80k, you are hardly “rich”. Of course, I’m basing this on NYC salaries. In Manhatten, the CHEAPEST appartments are $1500/month and they wont even rent to you unless you make 40x the income. You do the math. If you live in Alabama or some place, $80 k probably seems like a fortune.

Second of all, I can’t imagine people living in a rat infested appartment and driving a beat up pinto are happier.

And finally, some people want challanging, high paying jobs. I’ve done the low income job thing in high school and collage and you know what? Those jobs are tedius and boring! I am a hell of a lot happier working 60 hours a week at a consulting firm on Wall Street than 40 hours a week asking white trash if they want fries with their meal. But that’s just me.

I have a feeling that Skwerl is misrepresenting his friend’s arguments. No disrespect intended.

I do believe that Aristotle is quite correct in his claim that because money satisfies no human need, no amount of money will ever be satisfactory. Hence the pursuit of wealth without some primary reinforcement is futile, foolish, and destines the pursuer to a life of unhappiness.

What money I do make is spent in order to satisfy my needs and occasionally my whims. This suits me well, as I am ultimately satisfied by my material goods. I generally like the things in my apartment. I can take an occasional vacation. I can buy books and CDs on impulse when the cash is available. On the other hand, I don’t have a television. I’ve only had a phone line in my apartment for the past month or so. Other than my mp3 player, my constant companion, I own no digital toys other than a crappy old computer. I have very little that I do not need nor use on a regular basis.

Provided that the goal of making money, regardless of the amount, is to achieve some real measure of satisfaction, I have no personal problem with acquisitiveness. I object to the love of money for its own sake, and for the power and the potential for the exploitation of others that it brings. While I recognize the right of others to pursue such things, I would prefer to stay out of their rat race.

For the record, I live in New York City. On Manhattan, actually. I make maybe $40k per year; I might as well be a beggar. Rent consumes nearly half of my net income. I am going through a rather rough financial patch these days, as I was unemployed for some time. But once I get through it, I will be good and satisfied.


I talked to him again and he clarified that his main objection is not to the amount of money but to the motivation in earning it. Wanting to earn more money so you can live well and have nice cars and see the symphony when you want and travel often are reasons of greed and selfishness, reasons that he has a problem with. He has no problem if you make $100 million a year as long as your goal is to donate it and such. He is strongly religious (and for all I know he may be a creationist as well), and I think that is where the whole issue lies, in those 2 Deadly Sins.

“Whoever said money is the root of all evil doesn’t have any.” - Boiler Room

It figures that a moronic, consumerist Hollywood flick wouldn’t even get the damned quote right.

Timothy, 6:10

Difference. Big difference.


Well, if we don’t see the symphony, it will die off. It isn’t greed and selfishness that moves me to support the Arts, its a desire to support the Arts.

I suppose I could just give money to the local symphony, but the Art is nothing without an audience.

Likewise, if I never travel, I don’t support those folks who make their living off tourist dollars.

Its a little more complicated than your friend sees it.

Besides, $80K a year will get you some nice things, but add a family and you aren’t buying BMWs or taking trips to Europe (or if you are, you are either giving up other things or getting into debt). Pay your mortgage, save for retirement, put something away for your kids college, drive a decent car (but not a luxury car) and one for your spouse that isn’t about to break down, have some savings set aside, be able to buy shoes without having to pull out a credit card, take a vacation now and again and go out to dinner occationally, and yes, write a few checks to charity every year - that’s $80K. You aren’t buying yachts.

I bet you’re thinking one of two things about now:

  1. you want to rip off his arm and beat him to death with it.


  1. wondering what his god’s rasoning was in creating stupid people like him.
    Ask this blockhead to provide you with a causal relationship between money and evil and while his two brain cells are busy sorting that one out - make a break for it!