What’s Enough to Make You Happy?
I have a secret for you. This secret will allow you to double your income in 18 months for only five more hours of work per week. Do you want to know the secret?
If you answered “yes,” I want to give you an opportunity to double down: Triple your income in 18 months for just 10 more hours per week! Interested?
What about quadruple for 15? Quintuple for 20?
At what point would you answer “No”?
A while back, I was talking with my friend James Osborne. At 28, James left a safe job to start his own company, Bason Asset Management, based in Colorado. Initially, he was doing a lot of marketing on social media, and I noticed it everywhere. Then, out of the blue, I realized that it had stopped.
I was kind of worried: Why wasn’t he promoting the business? How would it grow? Had the thing tanked? I reached out to ask what was going on.
James told me: “If I wanted to work more, I could double my income in probably 18 months. But I don’t want to. My wife and I have this conversation all the time. If we’re not happy with our current income, 20 percent or 50 percent is not going to make us more happy. Why? Because this income is enough. So, happiness is no longer about money. It’s about other things.”
I was relieved, of course, to hear that he was doing so well. But I was also really interested in his response. How do you know when enough is enough?
To be clear, I understand that for most people, doubling your income would probably provide plenty of extra breathing room for you and your loved ones. There’s a lot of research out there that contradicts the adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.” You can even do a quick search to find a per-state estimate of the point at which more money will not make you more happy.
But if you want to know where that level is for you, reading articles or even University of Cambridge research studies probably won’t help. Instead, you need to be clear about your values and goals. For James, that meant sitting down with his wife, figuring out how many hours he wanted to work and then deciding how many clients to take on.
And even though James has a waiting list that is nearly a year long, he is sticking to his guns and says he is happier than ever.
“Just because you can,” he told me, “doesn’t mean you have to. This is such an important topic to me. Enough is everything.”
My wife and I often talk in specific details about how much money we need to be happy. Most of the time, we realize that we are incredibly fortunate to be able to pay the bills, save for our children’s educations and do most of the things we really want to do. In other words, we have enough.
I can’t emphasize “enough”… well, enough! Take a few minutes to begin the conversation about how much might be enough for you and your spouse if you have one. Whatever that number is, if you don’t have it, then yes, you should definitely try to reach that point. But if you do have enough, and you’re still not happy, what makes you think you would be happy with enough times two?
This column appeared originally in the New York Times on May 1, 2017.Buy This Sketch