“How much is enough?” That’s a question I’ve been asked a few times.
You could lose an entire afternoon to staring out a window and trying to find an answer.
I've spent 20 years talking to people about their relationship with money and even some of the wealthiest people I’ve met don’t feel like they have enough.
We seem to be hardwired to want more, but then there are those who take it to the extremes.
There’s a scene in the latest season of Succession where one of Logan Roy’s sons says: “What are you gonna do with five billion? Put it on your pile with all your other f****** billion?”
There’s a huge difference between millionaires and billionaires, but in just a couple of sentences that character emphasised the ridiculousness of building more money than you know what to do with while sacrificing other aspects of your life in the process.
Sometimes we want more because we’re afraid of falling into financial ruin, even if we’re mortgage free, have several ISAs and a well invested pension we’ve contributed to since our early 20s.
These fears or feelings of inadequacy can drive us to work harder than we need to.
We might do overtime at work, take on more clients than we can handle and say ‘yes’ to opportunities that fill us with anxiety. All because we’re on this constant hamster wheel searching for ‘enough’.
But how can we possibly get enough if we don’t know what exactly ‘enough’ is?
Let’s dive in a little deeper (as if you haven’t been overthinking it already) to get to the bottom of it.
Let’s start with the maths
Whether you’re good at maths or not, getting the calculator (or fancy financial planning software) out is one way to start.
It’s impossible to know exactly how long you’ll live in retirement, but with the help of our WealthMap planning tool, we can prepare for a number of possibilities.
Some of our clients get bogged down thinking about inflation and how much money they’ll need per month in future. Because of course, if you’re 30 now and would need £2,000 a month in retirement, that £2,000 probably won’t stretch very far in 2052.
But thinking about inflation too much will only stress you out and discourage you. We invest our clients’ money for a reason and that’s to make it grow. Focus on what you’d need in today’s money and tomorrow’s money will take care of itself.
We can show you how much inflation will impact your investments over time.
Hopefully, by getting some of the maths out the way, we can put your mind at ease and focus on more than the figures.
Figuring out your ‘why’
One of the problems with the constant quest for ‘enough’ is that it often focuses on money for money’s sake.
But wealth is about more than money. What exactly are you earning the money for?
Instead of thinking “When I earn £200,000 or £500,000 or £1 million a year, I’ll be happy,” focus on what you’d like money to buy you. And we aren’t just talking about material objects like a house, nice car or swimming pool.
We’re talking about freedom, spontaneous days off with family, and time to read, play golf or pursue your passions.
People often say: “When I retire, I want to do X, Y and Z!” But if you want these things for your future self, why not build a life where you can have them now?
Equally, when asked to fantasise about their dream retirement, many people talk about doing things that many years later they realise they didn’t really want to do.
You might talk about renting an allotment, going on annual cruises, and buying your grandchildren absolutely every toy in the toy shop.
But then you get to 80 and you realise that these things didn’t bring you joy. They were other people’s dreams.
(Psst. Your grandkids will probably have enough teddies and trains. Give their investment JISA a boost instead.)
Knowing when to turn down work
I recently had the ‘How much is enough?’ conversation with a couple of clients with well-respected jobs in the NHS.
They have heavy workloads and know they can make as much as they want, but they struggle to know when to stop. There’s the work they absolutely must do and then all the extra stuff they take on because of staff shortages and the guilt they’d feel if they let people down. There’s this pressure to work 90 hours a week.
Have you watched This Is Going To Hurt on BBC iPlayer? It’s a perfect example of this problem.
No matter which industry you’re in, working long hours and neglecting your other needs can leave you exhausted. It can affect your friendships and relationships. You might reach retirement age with a healthy pension, but at what cost?
I think there comes a time when you know in your gut that you’re doing too much.
If you’re losing sleep, you have no time for exercise or your partner is on the verge of taking the kids on holiday without you, change is needed.
Building a life you don’t want to retire from
Perhaps the key to having ‘enough’ is to build a life for yourself that you don’t want to retire from.
By doing fulfilling work that makes it easy to get out of bed in the morning, you’ve got the best of both worlds.
You’ve got money coming in for as long as your body will allow, and you’ve got that day-to-day joy and satisfaction that we all long for.
So, how do you get to this point if you don’t already love your job?
This might sound simplistic, but you could start by taking away all the parts of your work that you don’t like so that only the things you do like remain.
Do you hate your commute? Search for something remote or, at the very least, closer by.
Do you want to travel more often than your company’s holiday policy will allow? Negotiate with your boss or find an employer who’s more open minded.
Are you desperate to retire but you’re thinking of sticking around for more money? Talk to your financial planner for alternatives.
Take away the parts you don’t like so the only things left are the bits you want to do anyway.
With the rise in automation and a growing number of us working from home, there’s a shift in the way we talk about the world of work.
In the olden days, financial marketing messages would promise: “You can be financially free one day. By sacrificing the things you want now, you can have happiness in the future.”
Thankfully, people are starting to resist this narrative. It’s become uninspiring and unrealistic. Rather than waiting for later life for decadence and adventure, they’re fitting what they love into their lives now and realising that, technically, they already have enough.