How To Feel Rich Even If You Can’t Get Rich

To feel rich consistently is even better than actually being rich. In fact, learning how to feel rich might be the biggest wealth hack of them all. Once you got that rich feeling, you don't need to work as hard to achieve a net worth you think is required to be wealthy. Nor do you need a top income either.

I define rich as earning a top one percent income of $600,000+ or having a top one percent net worth of over $12 million. You may disagree with these money thresholds to be considered rich, but if you make more or have more than 99% of the population, you are rich.

However, you can be rich and still be miserable because your spouse left you. You can be rich and still feel terrible because your children despise you for neglecting them growing up.

Making $1 million a year is great, but due to tremendous job stress you hate your life. You're working 60-70 hours a week and always on call during the weekends. As a result, you have no freedom.

You may have a $20 million net worth and never feel rich because you sacrificed your health to amass a fortune. Then when you're on your deathbed with millions, you wonder why you didn't spend more time enjoying life instead.

Obviously, if you can consistently feel rich and actually be rich, then you've got the best of both worlds. But sometimes, we can't have everything we want.

Feeling Rich Without Having A Lot Of Money

I'd rather feel rich than be rich but feel poor any day. Money is only a means to an end. That end is to live a purposeful and happy life. Once you've got all your bases covered, earning much more won't make you much happier.

Perhaps it's easier for me to say I'd rather feel rich given I've finally got enough passive income to provide for my family. I don’t have to work for an annoying boss, commute, or do things that provide minimal value to society.

However, it was not always this way. I distinctly remember being a broke college student and still feeling really happy studying abroad in China in 1997. Further, I do go through the trough of sorrow on occasion after achieving something significant. That's the hedonic treadmill for you.

An Amazing Beijing Summer With Little Money

It was 85 degrees every evening in Beijing. All I had was a small fan that I shared with my roommate. Every eight seconds I would feel a pleasant breeze for two seconds until the fan rotated gently the other way.

We were in the old dorm with no AC and only squat toilets. In contrast, our richer Princeton University students had AC and western toilets. We also slept on wooden planks for months. Regardless, it felt amazing to be immersed in a new culture.

Poor students, but felt rich!

Come to think of it, while in Beijing, I even got to party with a friend named Lisa Joy every week. She is now the brilliant co-creator of the HBO hit show, Westworld. Small world huh?

None of us had a lot of money, but we were happy. Lisa, if you’re out there, can I get a small part in an upcoming episode? I will work for free. Think about all the good times we had at Solutions outside 北大!

Simple Life But Felt Rich

I remember feeling rich to be sharing a studio in Manhattan in 1999 because I had landed my dream job on Wall Street. Yeah, it wasn’t ideal to share a room after getting a job. But NYC was expensive and i had to what I had to do to survive.

Although I was only making $40,000 a year, which was equivalent to making $24,000 in Dallas, I was just glad to have a job. I felt my employer had made a mistake in hiring me because historically nobody had ever been recruited from William & Mary at the time. Feeling lucky made the 70-hour work weeks much more bearable.

Many of my fondest moments were all when I had little-to-no money. Think about all your fondest memories as well. Did you have a lot of money during those moments? I’m guessing the answer is no.

How To Feel Rich Even If You Can't Technically Be Rich

Now that we agree we don't need to be rich to feel rich, let's look at some ways to consistently feel wealthier than we really are.

1) Increase your freedom to choose.

Unhappiness exists when you can't do the things you want, when you want. A lack of choice is why so many employees are miserable at work. As the saying goes, “hell is other people!” By finding ways to increase your freedom to choose, you will feel richer.

When I left my day job in 2012, I lost over 80% of my income. Yet, I felt richer because I had complete control over my time. Of course, it hurt to no longer make six-figures and receive healthcare benefits, but the wonderful feeling of freedom more than compensated.

Consistently search for ways to increase your freedom to choose. Maybe you can find a job that routinely allows you to work from home when the pandemic is over. Maybe you can rise in the ranks so that you get more respect and leeway at your firm.

Perhaps if you acted kinder and aren't as easily angered by things you read on the internet, you would have more friends. Do things that increase your freedom to choose. By reducing the number of gatekeepers in your life, you will become happier.

2) Create something on your own.

Whether you spend a month creating a custom scarf or you spend a year landscaping your garden and waiting for your tomatoes to grow, you will feel richer creating something on your own. It is the best feeling creating something from now.

My dad planted a lemon tree in his front yard eight years ago. He diligently watered the darn thing for three years and it never fruited. One day, he decided to graft a couple lime branches to the tree. And finally, five years after first planting the tree, fruits came! He is so proud every time he gives me an update.

It is true that making $1,000 on your own feels more rewarding than making $1,000 at a company. When you make money on your own, there is no doubt that your effort was the main reason for the reward. When you work for a company, you'll always have some doubt about your impact.

Produce a good product. Let’s say you're an overpaid CEO who gets hired to run a sugary soft drink manufacturer. Whether you are the CEO or not, the soda will still get sold due to its existing distribution channel and sugary addiction. Instead of feeling rich, you might feel horrible for peddling poison in the form of a beverage.

Creativity Makes You Feel Richer

Next time you talk to your artist friend, ask why she continues to do art when her art can't pay her bills. Ask the same thing to your writer friend, who is grinding so hard to be a professional writer.

The reason why people create is that creation is the reward itself. Whether the creation makes money or not is secondary. Creating is magical!

I'm thrilled to have published a new personal finance book to the world. Even if Buy This, Not That doesn't become a bestseller, that's OK because I know the book will help anybody who decides to read it. But too late, it made the WSJ bestseller's list.

Buy This Not That Book Reviews

I could have read a book on how to feel rich. But it is much more rewarding to write this post and write a book on how to feel rich and get rich instead.

Having my own website is a convenient way for me to create, which feels very rewarding every day. Don't lose your creativity! Here's a post on how to be more creative. Let's not forget about all that we created when we were kids.

3) When you don't give up and finally succeed.

The longer you spend working on something, the richer you will feel once you succeed. It is extremely hard to fail if you don't give up!

This rich feeling is why you don’t want to just give your children everything. It’s better to make them earn their success. Please don’t envy the person who inherits everything. Feel empathy for them instead.

Here are some good examples of not giving up and finally succeeding:

  • Studying for the Bar Exam, Medical Board, or CFA and passing.
  • Self-publishing a book after working on it for two years.
  • When you finally land your first writing gig like Lisa did after pivoting away from consulting and law
  • Working on a new business account for a year and finally seeing your first order invoice from it.
  • Finding love after going on 100 bad dates.
  • Winning a divisional title after failing for three years.
  • Trying to naturally conceive, then trying IUI, and then trying IVF for five years with numerous miscarriages and finally conceiving.
  • Spending two years writing and editing a traditional book that goes onto be well-received

Even if Financial Samurai generated no income, I would still feel proud of fulfilling my commitment to publish three times a week for 10 years. It is the challenge of doing something hard and finishing it that provides one of the greatest rewards.

The more failures you experience, the sweeter the feeling of victory when you finally succeed. Do not give up on something you care about.

Today, I'm committed to recording more podcast episodes. My eyes are slowly failing and I know I'll eventually get arthritis in my fingers. As a result, I need a new creative endeavor to pursue, and that's podcasting. You can subscribe, listen, and review on Apple or Spotify.

4) When You’re Surrounded By Loved Ones

Friends and family are everything. Having friends to joke around with brings so much joy. Having family that support your endeavors feels priceless. Not being able to physically interact with friends and loved ones as easily is one of the main reasons why this global pandemic is so hard.

As a father of two young children, I feel incredibly rich. It took years to conceive our son. Then to have a daughter a couple years later felt like a miracle as geriatric parents. We just snuck in having children under age 40. Meanwhile, as older parents, we get to spend a lot more time with them because we don't have to work day jobs.

I wish someone told me in my 20s and early 30s that having children would provide so much love. If I had been told, I would have tried to have children five years sooner. Instead, I was overly focused on trying to achieve financial independence ASAP.

If we did not have children, then we would do more work to nurture our friendships. Great relationships are worth so much more than having a lot of money. Of course, you still need a baseline level of money to feel happy.

I'm so excited to be flying in my parents from Hawaii and my sister, boyfriend, and niece from New York this summer. We haven't had a large family get-together in over four years. Family makes me richer than anything!

5) Provide something meaningful to society.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

One of the reasons why people are so angry at the Financial Samurai Safe Withdrawal Rate is it has made people consider leaving money to others after death. This jolt of extending beyond oneself has made some folks feel bad. And that is my failure. I agree that it's foolish to die with a lot of money. However, if you want to feel rich try thinking longer term.

After talking to an estate planning lawyer, you'll start thinking about how to make your wealth last for generations. You start thinking about how to ensure your children and grandchildren will be taken care of if you pass prematurely. You also start thinking about how to continue to fund charities you believe in.

Some of these charitable institutions become a part of your family. Over time, if you are involved, you get to know the people who work there and the people who are being helped. You develop a relationship. To have the funding die with you feels bad because people will always need help.

Giving More Makes You Feel Richer

My goal is to figure out a way to give more. One way is to keep Financial Samurai online, get someone I trust to take over, and continue to charge nothing. Another way is to create a trust that provides income to a local foster shelter and a disability rehabilitation center.

The more you give back, the richer you will feel. The lack of purpose is one of the main reasons why people become disengaged from their jobs. This lack of purpose was one of my key takeaways after 10 years of fake retirement.

There is less of a hedonic adaptation to giving. Hence, if you want to feel richer, give more of your time and money away to causes you care about. Give every day, feel richer every day!

6) Get to a minimum investment portfolio amount.

After reviewing my recent investment performance, I realized that once you get to about $300,000 in your portfolio, you start feeling a lightness in your step. Having $300,000 is not rich. However, it does make you feel hopeful that you can one day be financially free.

With $300,000, your annual return on your portfolio could start surpassing your annual contribution. For example, a 10% return on a $300,000 portfolio is $30,000. $30,000 is $9,500 greater than the maximum you can contribute to your 401(k) at the time of this writing.

Once you get to $300,000, getting to $500,000 and $1 million will start to feel inevitable. So long as you are making progress, you will feel rich. $300,000 is the minimum investment portfolio amount to shoot for.

You Can Feel Rich By Being More Appreciative Too

I've highlighted five ways you can feel richer without being rich in the traditional sense.

Here are other ways you will feel rich. All involve being more appreciative of your circumstance. Never stop being grateful for the things you have right now. You likely have more good fortune than you realize.

  • If you walked away from a bike accident unscathed.
  • If you are told you only have six months left to live and live for another three years.
  • If both of your parents live to hold their grandchildren.
  • If your job is something you’d happily do for free.
  • If you were a C-student who now lives an A-lifestyle.
  • If you sprain your ankle and didn't break your ankle.

We can all agree that luck plays an enormous part in getting rich. However, we can proactively do things to make us feel richer every day. We can also spend more time appreciating what we have.

The more we can establish reasonable expectations about money, the richer we will feel. The most unhappy cities financially have residents with the highest expectations about money. Take a look at this latest list of financially satisfied and dissatisfied cities in America.

Can you imagine needing a net worth equal to 8X – 10X the median home price of your city to feel rich? If so, you may never be satisfied with what you have!

happiest cities in America measured by money and economic opportunity

Keep An Open Mind

Having 100% control over my time makes me feel very rich. To then be able to hug my kids every day is a blessing. I would give ALL my money to have my children and time, which is why I haven’t been lured back to the workforce yet.

In conclusion, it's much better to feel rich than actually be rich. Don't let some random guy on the internet tell you how to plan your financial life. Instead, listen to perspectives with an open mind and come up with your own game plan.

Like everything, feeling consistently rich takes effort. If you spend as much time nurturing relationships as you do chasing money, I dare say you might become the richest person in the world.

Related posts on feeling rich:

The Unhealthy Desire For Money And Prestige Is Ruining Your Life

The Bank Of Mom And Dad Strategy To Feel Rich

When Do You Finally Feel Rich? It's Not Just About The Money

Readers, what are ways in which you can feel rich without being rich?

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90 thoughts on “How To Feel Rich Even If You Can’t Get Rich”

  1. Bitter to Richer

    I really appreciate this article. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in what you don’t have or in what others have. Feeling “rich” is often a mixture of attitude/mindset and priorities. Spending less time trying to impress others and more time focusing on what matters to you will make a world of difference in your overall happiness.

  2. By Sam’s definition of rich, my wife and I would barely creep into the top 1%. However, when I think “rich,” I think about yachts and jets and that certainly isn’t us. Rich is not a term I like even though technically, in comparison to others in the world, it may be what we are. I prefer the term, “well off” which I define as having enough passive income to cover our living expenses for the rest of our lives without relying on any active income, and the health to enjoy it for at least up to our average chronological age expectations.

    And I would also add that it is having enough to pass on to help support our daughter and future grandchildren with the hope that they would manage what they inherit well enough to do the same. Last, the goal is to be able to do all of this off the earnings and interest generated while never having to touch the principal.

    1. Makes sense. Feeling rich is subjective. It’s just nice to get some objective ways to come up with a number that should make one feel rich, well off, or appreciative.

      Living off passive income and not touching passive income is what I’ve been doing since 2012 and it’s been great. But I started entering decumulation mode this year. That feels good too. Focused more on giving now.

  3. John and Rosemary

    We think you are on it Dogen. Very much enjoy your thinking. Don’t stop. Don’t even consider the possibility of stopping. It’s important for people like you who have a handle on “it” to keep on communicating your insights.

    We hiked the 3 miles down to the canyon this morning (a miracle in itself given our ages) (thank god for medical science and all the readily available replacement parts) to view the canyon walls and the many former homes imbedded therein. Beautiful, safe, chosen place to live. Could see any harm approaching for miles. They left about 900 years ago. Nobody knows why. May have had something to do with 2 or 3 successive years of drought, but nobody really knows.

    Covid has had a definite influence on what we now think of as “enough”. Way way less now than we planned for, living away from covid in our (still solar functioning) 20 year old camper parked in idyllic spots here and there in the west. Do we have enough to upgrade. Sure, we could buy umpteen gigawhopper rv’s. But why should we? The one we have is still functioning acceptably. Doing its job. It’s small enough and dented and scraped enough to park damn near anywhere. (And we do). Hint: In the “buy this, not that” category…buy the Winnebago. Maybe yours will last as long as ours.

    Let’s see. What else is wealth. Being a 1%-er and not having to act that way? Yes, check mark. Stealth, yes, definitely stealth.

    Having some level of acceptable health and years to enjoy it with someone you love. Check yes to that one too.

    Time to be spiritual, to meditate, no matter what you consider that to be. Yes. Our most recent fascination. Sitting in the camping chairs thinking about “IT”… Life itself. What an improbable miracle. It’s probably all over the Universe. But what the hell is it? Its a whole lot more than the chemicals that make it up. Where did it come from? When? WHY? Finally the time and meager brain chemistry to think about that imponderable. That’s wealth.

    The time to read all that stuff you were supposed to read when you were 20, but of course, did not. Another one of life’s fortunates. Means more now than it would have then anyway. Because age can’t help but bring perspective. Can’t get that perspective any other way. You have to be old. You will cherish those “oh, ya'” moments. Look forward to it. That’s wealth. Another big yes, check mark.

    Learning first hand that participating in investable financial markets is an AMAZINGLY FORGIVING process. Even rummies like us can do it successfully. That’s wealth. Another yes checkmark.

    The fantasy that keeps a lot of us going. That “feeling” that you can pass wealth down to future generations in some usable form, still recognizable to us as we know it now and earned it now. That’s wealth, or at least the imagining of that process in a future of AI (where nobody will really have to work to get one red cent), of somehow passing “the loot” on is a form of what we think of and experience as wealth.

    And after parking in the middle of nowhere, where even God couldn’t find you (unless you gave away your star sprinkled coordinates by somehow uttering a prayer) and still getting a good cell signal. Priceless. :)

  4. Imran Sheikh

    Excellent! It was worth sharing content for big dreamers that’s why I shared in my Facebook group ‘TheDreambloggers Group’ and a participant group ‘Growth Mindset’….

  5. For me, owning real estate outright rather than through a mortgage is the tipping point between feeling poor and wealthy. If you can’t own a home after 15 years of aggresive payments in your area based on your current income, you can still buy a beautiful unimproved 4 acre plot of land somewhere in the country for peanuts in purchase price and yearly property taxes. Having that absolute sense of security is what wealth is all about. PS You have no control over future HOA fees, so even if a property costs 20% more to avoid an HOA (or to avoid living in a special taxation district), it is totally worth the extra cost.

  6. “Many of my fondest moments were all when I had little-to-no money. Think about all your fondest memories as well. Did you have a lot of money during those moments? I’m guessing the answer is no.”

    Sam, you guessed right. My happiest moments have been when I’ve felt most free and/or fulfilled. Many of those moments have either 1) come when I was flat broke, or 2) had nothing to do with money in the first place.

    Flat Broke

    I had a similar experience studying abroad in Germany. I still remember how free I felt learning, improving my language skills, traveling, and meeting new people from around the world…even though I was there on a scholarship and living very frugally out of necessity. Every day seemed like a new, exciting adventure. That mindset is priceless.

    That sense of being “in the moment” has contributed greatly to how “rich” I’ve felt—during study abroad and at other times in my life—even though I was often so far from it. When I’m involved in things that are some combination of new, exciting, fun, and challenging, I’m in such a positive state of mind that I lack the time or desire to compare myself to others.

    Nothing To Do With Money

    Also, being with family and friends and connecting to people in other ways—being part of a sports team, for example—have created fonder memories and more richness in my life than any amount of money could. Living a comfortable life requires a certain amount of money, certainly. But after meeting that threshold, the ability to control your time and spend it on meaningful activities with people whom you enjoy seems to be the holy grail (which I believe you figured out a long time ago).

  7. I loved your Pepsi example because I once turned down a very good job offer from Coke straight out of my undergrad. I worked for them one summer and when they made the offer I thought, “will I feel personal fulfillment by helping Coca Cola kill people faster?” I pivoted and became a dentist instead! My wife and I both come from humble backgrounds. We have made far more for ourselves and live comfortably now. To this day we reminisce about how we felt like we had made it when we stopped noticing it was pay day or when we could go to Chili’s, order a molten lava cake and actual drinks with our meals and not feel guilty. Though we will never be 1%ers we still feel rich every day.

    1. Ah, good move! Yeah, the only reason why one would stay at Coca Cola is the camaraderie and the money. B/c come on, verybody knows that all that sugar is unhealthy for an already unhealthy America.

      1. Why pick on Coca Cola? They make other things too such as…. Fanta, Sprite, and Vitamin Water (Aka, sugar water with vitamins!). OK they do put out a lot of sugary products… heh :) Diet Coke is pretty good though!

        I used to drink a lot of Sprite as a kid.. probably 2-3 cans a day. Decided as an adult to just quit cold turkey… I lost 10 lbs in 1 week and felt so much less bloated without the CO2. I saved money too so felt richer!

        Its all relative. I cut all sugar out of my tea and for the first week it is weird, then taste buds adjust and you actually just taste the tea. Same with orange juice, I pour like 1/4 cup of orange juice and fill the rest up with water. Tastes weird at first but then you adjust and eventually it tastes really good. If I drink straight orange juice now it tastes like syrup. Just some little tips to use less sugar, feel better, and save some money by buying less OJ! :)

  8. Yeah, this is big- how to feel rich without being rich.

    I travelled the world for a year post-grad school #2 on a bit over $9k. Then amassed about $2k more plus some food donations from sponsors and did a thru hike for another 5 months.

    By all accounts I was poor AF but I fulfilled a lifelong dream of not working, travelling all over the planet. Sounds like something someone with money, or someone retired might do. No, I didn’t stay in hovels the whole time either- healthy mix of everything from camping, dirty and deluxe hostels, homestays and couch surfing, to 5 star hotels. I also had the “free time” to get myself in shape, both mentally and physically. I even did a couple months of volunteering along the way which was a huge boost to getting work afterwards (in my industry most people are self-employed; while there are starting to be more job listings, they usually prefer someone with experience- where do you get the experience if you don’t have a job? Yeah.)

    I’m very lucky right now to have not one but three 1099 jobs (full-time jobs not very common in my career either, unless it’s your own biz), all with room to expand hours. For the first time in my life I am making real progress at getting out of the poverty level and I am so grateful as the majority of my friends, including my partner, remain without work (or only doing stuff like deliveries). That being said, I’m not going to be able to “do” much with that money for some time, so I don’t know how “rich” I will feel. I’m not sure money means much until you actually use it. I can say I never felt I was poor or deprived when I was travelling, that’s for sure.

  9. Thank you for this article. When you used studying for and passing a medical board exam as an example of not giving up and succeeding, I felt inspired and encouraged to keep trying in my own studies. I am currently studying for my first medical board exam, and the repeated wrong answers and low scores on my practice exams have been wearing me down lately. Thank you for reminding me to hang in there and not count myself out simply because I haven’t achieved success yet!

  10. Ninety nine percents of the population will eventually become the victims of their successes or failures.

    The best litmus test to see if you are heading toward the victimization of an abyss – how well you sleep at night…simple!

  11. If you want to feel rich and pampered there is nothing like sleeping between “hotel quality” sheets. Yes, they can be expensive, but you will find the touch of top quality 100% cotton sheets is well worth it. So next time you are considering a weekend away, consider buying the most expensive sheets you can afford, rearrange your bedroom, and pretend you are in a top-flight hotel.

  12. Vikrant Thakre

    Hello thanks for the lovely article !! I likeed the concept of feeling rich by creating something on your own !!
    I would like to get your view on the IUL policies for college education instead of traditional 529 plan.
    I would like to share the plan with you if you are interested to take a look.

  13. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be grateful for what you have. Unless you are Jeff Bezos, there will always be someone richer. It will be impossible to feel rich if you are constantly eyeing someone else above you on the wealth spectrum.

    Also, when someone buys a nice watch or takes a nice vacation, just assume they spent all their money doing that. Don’t feel envy because you can do that too if you spend all your money.

  14. spaceassassin

    “What are ways in which you can feel rich without being rich?”

    Keep perspective and keep the world in focus.

    If we look beyond ourselves (and nearby circles) its often quite easy to realize how rich and fortunate we really are. Think about it for a minute–we are sitting on computers (some of them many thousands of dollars and extraordinary speed), connected to the internet (some of us at stellar speeds) hypothesizing how to “feel” rich, while a large percentage of the world searches for safe drinking water and literally tries to survive another day.

    I think we are already there–perspective is everything.

  15. FrugalBazooka

    I’m thinking back to my 20s when I was starting out in the world of work…would anything other than money in my pocket make that dumb kid feel rich? No, not by a long shot. There are 2 things that stand out from my financial journey: 1. The absolute fear and degradation of being broke with no prospects and 2. The absolute elation I felt when I had earned enough money to pay off my debts, my house and still have a 7 figure portfolio. It was a hellish ride, but well worth it.
    If I’m honest, I have to admit I was lazy and very stupid about life and money as a young adult. The only thing powerful enough to turn my life around was the fear of poverty and failure. Once I’d gotten myself to a place of financial security the feeling of being rich or fulfilled was everywhere in my life. I had real freedom, real security and real time with family – in other words honest feelings of success and accomplishment.
    I appreciate you are reaching out and giving hope to folks who are not as far along financially, but for anyone who wants the authentic feelings of financial success and fulfilment there’s no substitute.
    This doesn’t mean that life can’t be a Cabaret, my friend…but the only people in my life who ever said “money isn’t everything” were the ones who had a lot of it.

    1. Too true with the last comment. I once dated a girl that had a trust fund worth $40M. She used to always say how she hated money. I said, well you could always give away your trust if you hate it so much. She said, we’ll I don’t hate it that much…

      She did often say she felt like life wasn’t giving her a purpose though. She could afford nearly anything she wanted, and it often impacted her drive to work hard in college or to try and focus on getting a serious job. She knew she could work as hard as she wanted, and likely never make the same amount of money she was born into, so why try.

      We eventually lost touch, but last I knew after she took a couple years “off from work” and became a scuba instructor she spent the next couple years “bumming” around Europe. Haven’t heard much from her since… I think she might have relocated to Asia.

      1. Yeah I’ve known people like your friend too. There can definitely be a curse from inheriting too much money. But I also know people who inherited millions but yet found a purpose. In thinking about it, the latter group seem to all be creative types who had an intrinsic interest in their art (theater, acting, painting, etc). Being motivated to work solely for monetary reasons is inherently demotivating as many of us can attest.

        1. Too much success can lead to unhappiness just like too much money. At the pinnacle of your career, where everyone in the company knows your name, even across geographic locations, you may find you actually have less personal control and many more obligations/responsibilities than when you were at the beginning of your career. The dream and reality of being highly successful are two diffent things.

  16. This is a pretty solid article Sam. Wealth can be a state of mind for sure. I found that learning to think of the opportunity cost of spending for depreciating assets makes spending money on material objects much less satisfying. This allowed me to naturally feel better off while living off of less money.

  17. This article and the “Unhealthy Desire for Prestige” as well as “What if You Go to Harvard and End Up a Nobody” articles have been so incredibly important in re-framing perspective. You’re one of the only financial writers I know who recognizes that the Type A, elitist, overachievement at all costs mentality is a destructive force if the ultimate goal is happiness and a feeling of abundance.

    Thank you!!!

  18. Hi Sam,

    The talk of leaving legacies long after were gone just happened to coincide with my annual will and trust checkup I do every year. I recommend you look at a Charitable lead trust. It allows you to give to charities and eventually pass on money to your kids or grand kids, “when you think there old enough” in a tax efficient manner. Two birds one stone type of deal.

    As far as feeling rich, my wife and daughter make me feel like the richest man in the world. It boggles my mind how lucky I am. There’s no amount of money in the world that would replace what I have.

    Some of my fondest memories are when I was poor as well. However, a Wagyu steak before we tee off at Pebble Beach is a pretty damn good memory as well.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. Thanks Bill. Will look into charitable lead trust.

      Family really is everything, even though my son can be quite mean sometimes. Here’s hoping it’s just being a three-year-old with no social skills yet!

      1. My daughter was like that for a while. She turned 20 and now I’m amazing!! Hang in there. Eventually they figure it out. Remember, your their dad, not their friend.

        1. Haha ok. So at what age did she start thinking you were amazing or at least a really awesome dad?

          I have a daughter too now and I pray she will be as sweet and loving as she currently seems to be. She is so amazing and gives me so much motivation to do better

          1. For the first 3 years it was all about mom. From 4 to 10 it was all about me. She used to call me King Bill. That period really hurt my wife. Once she started junior high it was all about her and that lasted through high school. Now as a junior in college she appreciates what both my wife and I did for her.

            The one thing I know about girls is that if dad shows them love, affection, and discipline sooner or later they will be your biggest fan.

        2. “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”–Mark Twain. You reminded me of this quote.

  19. It's 2020, no names.

    Sam –

    You Get it. As always, I’m really appreciative of your content….even though your bond analysis and .5% withdrawl rule is a reality that I’d rather not internalize.

    Wonder what the modern version of a He-Man toy is. Feeling like the kid’s deserve a pandemic back to (internet) school treat.

    1. Thanks! I see the simple toys my boy plays with, and I will keep some of his favorites when he sick of them. And then in 10 to 20 years I’ll surprise him and maybe he’ll appreciate our thoughtfulness.

      1. spaceassassin

        Potentially better idea–save a couple bins of toys for your grandchildren rather than your son. Its awesome to visit my parents house and watch my kids play with the same toys my brother and I did 30 years ago…I promise he (they) will appreciate that.

      2. This reminds me of a divorced friend whose wife made more than him. He felt he couldn’t compete with the way she materially spoiled the kids. I told him to give that up, save his money, and said essentially what you said in this post. “Remember the best times you had with your dad?… did they involve money?” Some of my favourite memories of my father were when we drew on cheap paper with disposable ballpoint pens, or when he taught me the multiplication table, or even when we just sat there together while he read the newspaper!

        Someone mentioned a formal gratitude practice which is really helpful (esp if one doesn’t have organized religion) to counter our inherent negativity bias.

  20. Sam – It looks like your previous post about the 0.05% got to you. Well, let’s say the readers comments got to you. It inspired you to write this follow-up post which highlights the importance and richness of other things in our lives that are not money-related. When I first started reading this post I thought it was going to be about faking it and playing rich. Only thing that came to my mind was gold diggers. But as I continued reading it was the complete opposite. I like it.

    The majority of our fellow Americans will not make it in terns of attaining financial independence. it is just a reality. But we will always have haters. And the majority of haters are those that don’t make it. Heck, I remember reading a comment from one reader calling you a Trumper. They think that just because you are wealthy and were able to get a nice net worth you are a Republican Conservative Right Wing radical. Little do these folks know that it is not easy and it takes a lot, a lot of work and giving up much of the “toys” and “fun” activities to get here. Warren Buffet is a billionaire and we all know what he said about Trump in 2016.

    As always, great post and thanks for taking time from your two little ones to write and educate us.

    The Economy Chief

    1. Go take a lick and keep on ticking!

      One of the most fun reasons why I enjoy running Financial Samurai is all the comments. I can write one thing and it can literally be interpreted in five different ways. Maybe more.

      It’s pretty cool. Fun to check in on my own side between childcare or tennis matches and random stuff.

  21. Thanks, FS. This post reminds me of the day after I finished taking the bar exam. I didn’t know if I passed or not (I did pass, thankfully), nor did I have a job at that point (and the student loan debt I had incurred was ever looming), but the feeling is one I have not had since and I still remember it fondly (20 years later). I went to a swimming pool that day with some law school buddies. After all the exam stress had melted away, I felt “rich”, I guess, and free, for just having done that for which I had spent 6 weeks preparing. Thanks for the post.

    1. Amazing feeling right? I feel the same way getting my acceptance letter to the College of William and Mary, and then getting a job offer.

      I hope your law career is going well!

  22. Simple Money Man

    I feel rich simply by practicing gratitude for everyday people and things in my life. Admittedly I need to practice it more and more and more.

  23. I’m new to your website and I’m enjoying reading your articles. I’m not sure you or your readers will relate to this, but I have a collection of Vintage Barbie (1959-1966) and Vintage Barbie Mod Era (1967-1972) dolls, clothes and accessories. Pulling it all out and looking at it has brought back such happy and fond childhood memories. Now, years later, I have decided to sell it all on eBay. It has been exhausting and extremely time consuming researching each item to know what I have and how to price it so I make money and I don’t lose money. I then had to clean, iron, take great pictures, write a detailed description for each listing describing each item and any condition issues and then list it. So why am I having so much fun and why do I get sooo excited when I sell something? Although the money I make from a sale was nice, that alone wasn’t producing all my excitement. I couldn’t understand it until I read your article this morning. The fact that I created all this on my own is the reason. Thanks for a great article.

    1. I can totally relate about nostalgia! I bought around 20 He-Man figures from the 1980s at ComicCon once b/c they reminded me of my childhood and my mother taking care of me when I was hospitalized. She bought me a He-Man figure to cheer me up and I felt so happy.

      I’ve got a bunch of figures lined up on my desk. I’ll post a picture one day.

      The same nostalgia goes for having Air Jordans.

      Thanks for reading.

  24. I never felt rich until I retired slightly early five years ago. Then my time became mostly my own. That felt rich, still does. I still have meetings associated with volunteer work and a small amount of consulting I do but mostly I play tennis, go running, fish, hike and travel with my wife and friends. And since I expect to never exceed a 1% withdrawal rate, so far it has been zero % for the first five years, I expect to continue to feel rich for my entire life. Having three grown millennial kids navigating life without financial aid from us also feels rich. It makes me feel like we succeeded at the most important job we ever had, being parents.

    1. Very cool Steve. Controlling and having more time really does make us rich.

      I like how you say you have not touched Principal. And I’m wondering if many people who have not yet retired realize that a lot of retirees don’t touch Principal for many years. It’s just a really foreign concept after saving so much for so many years.

      Can you share how you were able to not touch Principal? It would be helpful to get more people to talk about this phenomenon, the benefit of having passive income, and the potential that The 0.5% rule is not that far-fetched in retirement.


      1. I consider it passive because it is fun to do but in reality it is a side gig. I consult with large companies on regulatory issues about 8 hours a week. I charge $250 an hour plus expenses so that’s $2,000 a day and about 50 days a year worked which nets me $100k approximately annually. We have always lived on about $80k so after taxes we’ve pretty much broke even every year. I did make an extra $40k each of the first two years of retirement on a negotiated exit from my 9 to 5 and on a big expert witness case. So I haven’t touched principle, interest or dividends in the five years I’ve been retired, we just live on my earnings. We could spend a lot more but honestly we do everything we want in life. We are very active outdoors types, play tennis every day and travel a lot, we just aren’t very expensive people. Our house is paid for and we drive used cars because we like bargains.

  25. It is funny but I get far more joy from the income I get from passive income ‘mailbox money’ than I get from my W2 income which is probably 7-8x larger (I have actually written about passive income as my favorite type of money).

    The reason I love it so much and it makes me feel rich/wealthy is that I am not trading any time to receive it and it works 24/7. Like you when I know it can support my normal annual burn rate then it will make me feel wealthy even if I don’t hit the loft 0.5% SWR goals you set out.

    And you are right that it is who you travel with on earth that makes all the difference. Going to exotic places or having incredible meals just does not feel the same alone or with the wrong person

  26. “One of the reasons why people are so angry at the Financial Samurai Safe Withdrawal Rate is it has made people consider leaving money to others after death.”

    I think what your 0.5% withdrawal rate post made people realize is quite the opposite: That leaving money to your children grandchildren an endowment or perpetual charitable trust has become impossible for most ex FIRE hopefuls, because you will need to erode that capital to finance your own retirement, your regular retirement that is, early retirement nearly out of the question for most.

    As a matter of fact, if your 0.5% safe withdrawal rate is correct at that exact 0.5% level then one wonders how all endowments and all pension funds will ever survive. At 0.5% they will all be toast in 30 years.

    In a separate line of thinking, if it is all just a matter of creating illusions then why not smoke some pot? Probably the main reason why people do it.

  27. I feel rich by living off of 4% of the money I’ve saved and invested. It’s enough that allows me to pay my bills and eat healthy. It allows me to play music with my friends, spend time with my family and read and exercise allot.

  28. I think some of that angry people who hold the 4% rule sacred simply don’t have kids and therefore cannot think about generations ahead. There’s nothing wrong with not having kids, it’s just that as you know as a parent, your tendency is to try to take care of them and ensure that there and your grandchildren will be OK.

    It’s just so hard to know about some thing if you just have an experienced it. But it is interesting to see how people just cannot except a different point of view.

    I feel rich when My family is fed and loved :)

    1. “There’s nothing wrong with not having kids,..”

      Not everyone thinks that way. For me personally not having kids would have been the greatest calamity in life. I’d much rather have kids and zero net worth than being FIRED with no kids — by far.

    2. Yes. You have a point. I don’t want to overly emphasize kids b/c I realize some can’t have kids, haven’t found the right person, might feel they can’t afford kids etc. It would be insensitive of me to overemphasize kids.

      But kids definitely extend your investment horizon.

    3. Not all of us can have kids for various reasons. I might add that the world is over populated but that veers off from my main point. While I personally do not have kids, I have siblings and nieces and nephews who I care about just as you do your own children. The point is, you don’t have to have children to understand how important it is to leave them in a better place. That includes my interest in your children receiving a healthy education and environment to grow and prosper. We are all in this together. And while many of you have succeeded financially beyond my wildest dreams, good luck with your pittance if you think you and you alone can fix the daunting challenges ahead. I can hardly breathe this morning from the smoke filled air in San Francisco. Climate change is not a hoax.

      1. Cheer up

        A wonderful future awaits…

        I wish I could push a button and transfer myself and my family 100 years into the future.

        Cancer as well as most other other medical
        ailments would disappear, quite likely the very process of aging itself would likely be not only decided but also tampered with and defeated leading to who knows what king of unimaginable life expectancies (talking about the 4% rule being problematic!). World average per capita income at 4% average world growth would be $750,000 per year, and in leading countries likely much higher, money that is not only plentiful but could also buy for small sums things that today are unavailable at any price (yet undiscovered).

        Yet some people see a dark future… go figure.

  29. Ms.Conviviality

    My husband makes me feel like I’ve hit the lottery! We’ve been together for ten years now and he makes me laugh everyday. I’d say that laughter is the ultimate display of happiness!

  30. Things that make me feel rich:

    1. Clean water to drink.
    2. Food security, grocery stores with full shelves, and a gazzillion types of Cheerios cereal.
    3. Clean, pressurized hot water for my morning shower.
    4. A toilet with a bowl AND a seat.
    5. A large capacity modern sewage system infrastructure that sufficiently handles waste products. Being able to flush away used toilet paper is priceless.
    6. Adequate, readily accessible personal transportation.
    7. Newly added due to COVID-19: A toilet with a lid and having a readily available supply of toilet paper supply.
    8. My new gee-whiz high tech front loading washer and dryer – with pedestals! – and a nifty steam function that gets the wrinkles out of our shirts like magic. They sit just steps away, so no trips to the laundromat for me.
    9. My new rat-free “Mercedes Benz” HVAC system, ductwork, and attic insulation.
    10. My Tempur-Pedic mattress that cradles these old bones, allowing for a restful night’s sleep.
    11. My powered Relax-the-Back zero gravity chair that stretches out my back after mornings spent working in the yard.
    12. A significant other that still loves me after more than four decades of married life.
    13. Two offspring in their late 30’s who don’t ask me for money.

    1. Haha, awesome list! Now look into a Toto washlet. Your life will be changed, FOREVER!

      4 decades of marriage is amazing. Congrats to you! But an even bigger congrats that your kids don’t still ask you for money in their 30s. Phew!

      1. David L Blum

        Anyone who doesn’t realize the joy of the Toto washlet is really missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. People spend over $1000 on a good mattress but less than $20 on a seat and you use both of them everyday of your life. haha go figure!

  31. Your comment about knowing how much love children bring and would have started earlier really hit home. We are 31 with a 1 year old and trying for number 2. We have been together 10+ years and for most of our lives considered ourselves DINK’s. I now wish we had started earlier and eschew our previous joking about never having children.

    Perhaps there could be a post targeted towards young high earners who think having kids will ruin their finances!

    Thanks for the great content Sam

  32. Really enjoyed this post because it didn’t just promote the typical “work/life balance” BS.

    This is more like work/life integration describing how to live the lifestyle you want while enjoying the work you do.

    Thanks for writing Sam!

    1. Appreciate you reading. It feels good to integrate work and life to do what you want. I remember trying to just become friends with clients to make going out with them more fun. It didn’t feel like work after a while. Same thing with trying to save money on meals by trying to ask more clients out. A win-win!

  33. re: “Perhaps if you acted kinder and aren’t as easily angered by things you read on the internet, you would have more friends.”

    You are SO funny! But it is also so true. ;)

    1. Ah, you caught that :)

      I really do enjoy some of the reactions. It’s just interesting b/c I don’t go off in the comments section if I disagree with something. I’m just like “hmm, OK…” try and mull it over and move on.

  34. Freedom and autonomy are big influences to feeling rich without necessarily having a lot of wealth. I remember feeling on top of the world once I graduated and was out on my own. I wasn’t rich by numbers but I was rich in spirit, independence and happy to make my own path instead of my parents.

    Thanks for the uplifting post! You always have such positivity, happy and fun ways to approach life and finances!

  35. Thanks for the reminder to be appreciative of what we have. Too many times we get caught up in comparisons and wanting more.

    I wish people who were losing their minds when you suggested a new safe withdrawal rate shared their background and where they are on their financial journey.

    It really seems like the people who are angriest are the ones who are struggling the most. But the people who are older or who are actually retired understand what you’re saying.

    1. Rachel,

      I’m 50 and have zero debt. None whatsoever.

      My wife and I have jobs with pensions. I’ll collect mine in 5 years, $7,100 per month plus paid for medical for my wife and I. And for dependents up till 26 yoa.

      Hers will be less and in ten years she’ll collect about $5,000 per month.

      With that being said, my wife and I still maxed out all our accounts for decades. And as result we have 2.4M in index funds.

      If I didn’t have pensions to fall back on, or if pensions get cut, I’ll have my portfolio.

      That’s where we are at our stage in life so I’m not angry or upset that Sam wrecked my retirement, but I feel that .5% is overly pessimistic and 4% optimistic.

      Nobody can predict the future but to imply 200X expenses to be safe might work if your going to retire at 25.

      I believe a balanced portfolio will allow for a 3% SWR. Unless you believe in the death of equities.

      Sams claim was reminiscent of Suze Ormans claim years ago that you need I believe it was 5M to retire.

      I believe his article triggered many because it felt as if he penned this knowing it would generate controversy to benefit his blog.

      I hope this isn’t why he did so but part of me believes it was. It seems FS isn’t content with what he has and is striving to earn more to accommodate living in his HCOL area.

      And that’s fine. But to produce what appears to be to some financial porn, isn’t cool.

      It takes away from all the other great articles he’s written.

        1. I just bought 5 electric scooters for the family. Cost $3500.00. We ride at dusk and get ice cream. We have fun and that was not much money for me. The point is I don’t need a $60,000 truck. Scooters and ice cream are enough for me.

          1. I charge Lime scooter and we get to scoot around for free. ;)
            It’s a lot of fun.
            I think 0.5% is too pessimistic for regular people. However, if you want to build generational wealth, that’s a pretty good target.

      1. Not only do you have a pension, you have pensionS. And large ones at that.

        You already won the game. Congratulations.

      2. Do you really feel short changed by his comment?

        Looking at your potential financial situation with two pensions and a relatively large index fund account of $2.4M.

        Looking back in FS articles and the value of the pension calculations you are looking at something with the equivalent of the following:

        $7,100 (12) = $85,200; ($85,200/.0255)(1) = $3,341,176

        Plus your wife’s

        $5,000 (12) = $60,000; ($60,000/.0255)(1) = $2,352,941.18

        $3,341,176 + 2,352,941 = $5,694,117

        So with those pensions it’s almost as if you already have over $5.6M in your bank to kick off those (future) monthly payments. Add that to your other $2.4M (and I assume growing) funds, and you are not too far away from the $11M mark. Add in SS for both you and your wife, and you are even closer. I don’t even know how to quantify the value of medical covered for life on top of it all.

        I don’t think in your situation you should worry about the 4% or the .5% SWR or Suzie’s gauge for that matter, as you are already there. The double pension + Medical paid for + long term savings + SS = Freedom.

        I would also think that given this is a financial blog most people coming to it and reading would likely evaluate their situation and how it applies within the provided guidelines. It’s hard to say one formula would work for every case, so I don’t see an issue in FS’ assessment. Nothing wrong with raising the bar.

        1. No, I don’t feel shortchanged or upset at all with his post because I know how truly blessed we are to have these pensions.

          I am aware that in today’s low interest rate environment, our pensions are the equivalent of having millions of dollars that would be needed to generate that type of income.

          That fact was never lost on me or the value of our pensions.

          I wasn’t commenting on our situation as it really doesn’t apply to us but for those that it does apply to.

          I believe that with a balanced portfolio of say 50/50 or 60/40 a retiree could most likely have a 3% SWR.

          However, I do agree with Sam on leaving a legacy. So to that extent, I can understand a lower SWR if leaving an inheritance is a consideration.

          Of course one must balance his or her needs against that decision so that retirement doesn’t become an austere existence.

          I want my kids to be productive and to be to able to stand on their own two feet. I would just like to add a safety net.

          Sometimes life throws us curve balls like unemployment or a medical issue, and I hope a safety net would allow them to move past those issues without much hardship.

          I recognize that too much help could hinder their abilities to reach their own full potential or be poor stewards of their own money.

          The key is finding the right balance and approach for allowing an inheritance to do what it is I and Sam intend it to do.

          And, that is to help future generations in a meaningful way, so that it isn’t squandered on wasteful spending.

      3. “Financial Porn” gave me a chuckle. IMO, Sam is starting to pick up some of the shock tactics that made Orman, Ramsey, MMM and others famous. I see MarketWatch wrote up his 4% rule is dead blog today. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this. In fact, if it this tactic works to raise awareness and popularity of the blog, Sam should keep doing it. I would.

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