How To Motivate Yourself When The Desire To Be Rich Is Gone

Motivation is the key to progress. And progress is my one word definition of happiness. This post will discuss how to motivate yourself when the desire to be rich is gone. Eventually, we'll all be rich enough or feel rich enough to stop hustling.

I spend a lot of time responding to comments, so I figure I might as well make some of them into full-fledged posts. I get tired of listening to my own story as I'm sure you do too, so this is a great way to break things up!

How To Motivate Yourself When The Desire To Be Rich Is Gone

Reader Gus writes in asking how to motivate yourself:

Hi Sam,

I love reading your blog and we have a reasonably similar work background so I thought you may be a good person to ask my question to.

My parents were immigrants and I grew up in a lower class area but went to a decent school. I never really had the ‘things' or houses my friends did, which in hindsight isn't particularly important but it did make me want to be rich. Not just comfortable, but rich.

So I did what any kid from a poor immigrant background would do. I studied hard, got good grades, went for and got into a good university, got good grades and then went into Investment Banking. I did three years in M&A before burning out and switched to buy side equities research which I've been doing for six years now. I'm married and recently had my first child and everything at home is good.

I've been pretty good at saving and investing the whole time I've been working. I have a small home paid off worth ~$650k and ~$500k in retirement and non-retirement investments with no debt. All in all not bad for someone in their early 30s (not amazing I know but not bad).

Money which was my sole driver for most of my life no longer motivates me because I'm comfortable and I'm not a particularly big spender anyway. Once you got to the point of comfortable, what did you do next? How did you motivate yourself to keep going?

I don't mind my job – don't love it…don't hate it. You know what equities research is like. It's mentally stimulating and interesting but basically I know my coverage universe back to front and reporting seasons have started to feel like ground hog day.

I make ~$250k p.a. pre tax, but I've pretty much capped out here and if I want to step up in role / wage I've got to move funds which is doable but challenging and I really don't have the “why” to do it just yet.

I thought perhaps working towards FIRE would be a good goal, but that's just money motivating me again and once I get to that point, what's next?

Thanks heaps for taking the time to read this.

Motivating Yourself To Keep Building Wealth

Hi Gus,

Thanks for your question. After about 10 years of aggressively saving and working post college, I started feeling the same way about money. Being rich is pointless if your mountain of cash has no purpose. Therefore, find a purpose bigger than yourself. As soon as you tie specific goals for your money, your money will become much more meaningful. With more meaning, comes more motivation.

Here are some common goals for your money to consider:

* Not having to work as much so you can spend more time with your child.

* Being able to comfortably pay for your child's education and help him out when he stumbles.

* Having the option to take a new job you love that doesn't pay well.

* Helping your parents and in-laws with financial matters.

* Spending your time on a cause or donating to a cause that has special meaning to you.

Increase Awareness About Wealth Inequity

Your motivation will also increase the more aware you are of what you have. For example, less than 5% of the population makes $250,000 a year or more. But for a 30-something year old, you're in the top 1% income earner for your age group. With this in mind, I would hold onto your $250,000 a year job until you can no longer take it, or until you've found something better to do.

It's very easy to get used to a comfortable lifestyle (hedonic adaptation), even if you've come from a humble background. Since nothing good lasts forever, you should take advantage of your situation until it's gone.

Hearing other people's stories of struggle and being aware of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness statistics will prevent you from taking your situation for granted. Count your blessings regularly.

My Motivation Comes From Finding Enjoyment

The main reason why I left my finance job was because I found writing online to be way more fun (found another purpose). Although it paid 70% – 90% less in the beginning, I didn't care because I loved everything about creating an online media business.

Hearing other people's perspectives is enjoyable. I also like helping people with their financial problems since we all have them. Keep on searching for something that gets you up every morning without an alarm clock!

My main motivation now is earning enough to take care of my family and being a good role model for my son and now daughter. I've never felt this much motivation before because everything I do is now no longer for me.

Always remember your WHY. If you never forget, you will have all the motivation in the world.

The Golden Circle - Start With Your WHY
The Golden Circle by author Simon Sinek.

Related posts on motivation:

Life After Financial Independence

Always Be The Underdog If You Want To Get Ahead

The Biggest Downside To Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

Solutions To Impossible Things

Overcoming The Downer Of No Longer Making Maximum Money

Readers, how do you motivate yourself if you have already achieved financial independence or you're no longer interested in becoming rich? What are other things besides money that motivate you?

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54 thoughts on “How To Motivate Yourself When The Desire To Be Rich Is Gone”

  1. “Ahh…..the downside of financial success. You realize when you get there that you are still the same person and instead of finding the happiness you thought was at the other end, you are strangely let down as you realize the journey was maybe the fun part.”

    Very well said. It seems to be more a case of planning for FI, but to not expect it as an end goal. What’s the point of waiting until late in life to finally enjoy yourself? I actually had to force myself to spend money on myself, since I was being so frugal I was missing out on a lot of things.

    I’m 31 (single), and don’t have what you’d consider FI, but I am doing a lot better than most of my peers. I just passed six figures for salary (114k) and half a million in NW, which I know may not seem like a lot to some people here, but it’s a lot to me, especially since I started making $18 an hour. Only because it’s the bay area I don’t have a mortgage and am still renting with roommates :|.

    But since I’m in a more comfortable position, I’ve tried to enjoy things more. I’m at the point where saving another 100k or earning another 25k doesn’t change my life at all. It’s a really weird feeling, like when I just had a 20k increase in salary and I didn’t really feel happier. I still save like crazy, but going from 400k in NW to 500k in NW was a non-event. Not like when I hit that first 100k.

    Total aside:
    I still have coworkers that are so happy when it’s payday, then give me an all judging look when I tell them the equivalent of “so what?”. Really, you’re in your late 30s and you still need to count on that paycheck coming in so you can spend money? Why I pretty much have to keep this all to myself. Why it is seen to many as a negative to be financially responsible?

  2. My motivation for money was to
    1. Pay off the student loan
    2. Buy a house
    3. Achieve FIRE but since my job is very stable and I really like what I do, I feel like I already achieved the financial stability. Plan to work another 20-30 years (I am in mid 30s)

    Now, my motivation for money is to
    1. Support my family financially. My parents are retired and I don’t want them to worry about money.
    2. Donate more money to those who in need. My best friend’s baby had a brain cancer, which ruined the whole family. I wanted to help out and I did but it wasn’t enough at all, not much at all.

    As always, thanks for the great post and I start out my day with visiting your blog.

  3. I’m not financially independent yet, but I’m further along than most. I’m almost 45 years old and I’m in a comfy job. I can stay here probably for the rest of my career, but I’m not learning or growing as much as I’d like. I feel like a lot of people around me feel the same and don’t want to start over somewhere else.

    So I lack the motivation at work and I’m to tired to follow my other freelance pursuits when I do get home. I feel like success sometimes can make you complacent when you get comfortable. I feel like sometimes I’m too frugal, when I have plenty in my bank account.

    What’s the point of the cash if its not going to be enjoyed?!

  4. saveinvestbecomefree

    Ahh…..the downside of financial success. You realize when you get there that you are still the same person and instead of finding the happiness you thought was at the other end, you are strangely let down as you realize the journey was maybe the fun part.

    I’m struggling with this as well. If you no longer NEED to work, you can do just about anything instead. The challenge is finding something that is personally engaging and motivating. It’s a lot harder than it sounds but those who manage it come out the other side much happier and even more fired up about each day they live. Unfortunately it’s a highly personal challenge so no one can tell you what will work.

    You could also simply trick yourself into another bigger financial goal but you’re just delaying the inevitable. You’ll end up with more money, again feeling empty as your financial goals are met.

    My advice is to keep working since you have a great income, are young, and don’t mind your job. But shift your focus from money to finding purpose and happiness. You can find many introspective tips and exercises on how to slowly discover this. Plus you’ll need to experiment a bit with life changes to find your new path. I’m in the middle of this so I can assure you it’s not easy or quick, but I have been getting happier and happier throughout the process so it seems to be working. Good luck!

  5. Great question and great answer! Mr. FAF and I don’t have too much to the point of not knowing what to do with money. But we often talk about what we would do when we have a lot. Thinking about using money beyond yourselves and your future is always a good motivator, especially for us.

  6. It’s an interesting question and one the very much applies to our situation today. In our case I’ve shifted my life to enjoying my job. I care quite a bit less then I use to about the next promotion. I’m still pushing pay raises hard, don’t get me wrong, but I use to be constantly trying to jump up the ladder as well. I wouldn’t say I’m becoming complacent and risk losing my job or anything, but at the same time I am more prioritizing family time and other things over climbing the corporate ladder. Money becomes less important and can almost be put on auto pilot beyond a certain point where you’ve mastered earning, saving, and investing.

  7. Hey Sam – I’m in a pretty similar boat (7 years of banking) so I’m getting to the point where I could keep working but starting to seriously think about pivoting to something more sustainable, kind of in the same way that you eventually left the industry to pursue your online business full time. Just trying to figure out what that’ll be!

  8. Interesting article, although my passive income exceeds my expense’s and has done for over 10 years I keep interested by
    Trying to be a better husband – we don’t have children.
    Put some effort in being a better friend
    Making a conscious attempt to be in the hear an now, enjoy what I’m doing right now.
    My wife and I like to explore one new country each year for a month or so.
    I still get a great deal of enjoyment when my dividends come in and investing the excess after living expense’s on more good dividend paying companies.
    Eventually we will fund some worthwhile cause, maybe put some time in as well.
    Having the freedom to choose the above is probably the greatest joy.

  9. I have a similar dilemma to Gus (the poster) and am simply trying to find my way out of the rat race. I’m not sure how much longer I want to continue pushing through political challenges at work, dealing with corporate nonsense, etc. I could find another job with a lower title and lower pay, but I’m not sure this is the right answer. I’m now on a journey to find happiness and satisfaction in what I do, while making enough to ensure my family is provided for, kids have college paid for, and we have a nice retirement. Since the right answer isn’t coming quickly, I continue to be thankful for what I have and work hard to ensure I don’t lose the opportunities I’ve been given.

      1. Good tips in that article. I’m fortunate that my wife’s teaching salary is approaching $75,000. I only need to make about $40,000 to cover our expenses once our house is paid off, although I’d prefer to make at least $90,000 (and be happy) so I can sleep better at night knowing that I’d be saving more for our future. I’d prefer to pursue something entrepreneurial if I’m going to take a pay cut as I’d like to be my own boss.

  10. Apathy Ends

    Money is still a motivator for us, but creating something/working for myself is more powerful than straight cash right now. Having a child cuts into a lot of my blogging/side hustle time, however – still trying to find the right balance and continue to make progress while working full time.

    Outside of more money and FI, spending more time with the family, outside and a job that I love would all work for me.

  11. “Your motivation will also increase the more aware you are of what you have.”

    YES! Nailed it!! When you’re in the 1% of anything, don’t ever waste that opportunity. Keep reaching and then give back and you’ll never feel empty again.

    If no that, try kids haha. Kids are a great motivator. That’s why you hear new dad’s hustling harder, pulling more hours etc. It sort of kicks you into reality and give you something to strive for.

  12. Thank you for sharing Sam. I follow Simon Sinek as well. The guy’s a great communicator. The WHY is important for sure. Not just organizations, but more-so for individuals. What’s the point, if it’s just for the money? Not a whole lot of incentive to being the richest man in the graveyard :/

  13. I have the same motivational problem for a while, but for a different reason …. I’m 51, already FI (have investment condos that generate $80K after tax income per year, plus ~$4M in stocks/options, and a primary home without mortgages). I’m still working as a software engineer with $300K/yr income and our expenses are ~$120K/yr. Being a first generation immigrant, I was very grateful of what I have, but the downside is I’m no longer as motivated so I started to look why….

    Originally I thought it’s because I no longer need the paychecks, but after a few years of research, I realized it’s not because of my financial independence, but really because other people’s lack of FI: The biggest revelation came to me a while ago when I realized most coworkers around me are still in the rat race. This is not the case when I joined the company 10+ years ago, when everyone has stock options and our net worth is tied with the company, we used to be more like a partnerships, now I look around and there’s only 1% of us left (who joined before IPO), 99% coworkers no longer have skin in the game, and even our company is located in Silicon Valley, it now feels like working for a east coast investment bank (which I did for 10 years and hated)…

    A lot of what motivate us to come to work is the comraderies, just ask anyone who served in the military, are they motivated by the low pay, the prospect of killing people, or the people they serve with? However, in our generation that kind of shared experience is long gone. After the fall of the soviet empire, there’s no longer an existential threat, globalization further alienate the elite and the working people, and what’s a society/work place without shared commitments toward each other? You get Dilbert! When you have baby boomers generations who from birth to retirement never have to sacrifice anything for anyone else, and outsource everything, it’s a miracle we can still have the kind of shared fates and bond created by the stock options doled out by startups, however ephemeral they last.

    These days I motivate myself by sponsoring a charity that provide free after school tutoring of math and English for the under-previlleged. If work or money no longer motivate you anymore, don’t blame yourself or your FI. Find subjects that are bigger than yourself and let them motivate you. I also highly recommend this book by Cornell Economist Robert H Frank “Passions within reason”:

    1. Good call on the importance of camaraderie and PROGRESS. You guys had your greatest progress in the beginning, and now that growth/progress has slowed. Despite your relatively large amount of wealth, it no longer feels meaningful.

      Therefore, do you plan to take the leap of faith and do something new? You’ve got the financial means! But walking away from $300k is tough.

      1. My wife and I do have a plan to retire when I’m 55 and when our son goes to college, then we’ll travel around the world (part-time). Since it’s only 4 years away, “something new” can also be something short :) Most of my coworkers who retired early in their 30s or 40s came back to work out of boredom. I’m still searching for “something new” though, and as long as I still have a job, we will just donate our income to charities.

      2. btw, Sam: here’s an idea for you – FI is easy, all you need is discipline (and luck), but RE is hard: very few people i know have successful early retirement, it’s not true people simply live happily ever after & it’ll be great if you can do a few blogs on this topic Thanks!!

          1. Wow your blog is spot on, thanks!! I don’t think i have anything more interesting to add, other than I’d emphasize seeking new meaning to continue working, can be vastly better for some people than simply retiring early without meaning, and maybe outline a few concrete examples how people find those new meanings, e.g. donating larger % income or volunteer for charities, etc..

  14. Your First Million

    Money is a great motivator, but on it’s own it often times is not a strong enough motivator to get someone to becoming ultra rich.

    I started off with money being my only motivator. It did get me to set goals, make a plan and take action… but I soon found that I needed more than just money to motivate me. I eventually found my purpose, which became so much more powerful as a motivator than just money on its own.

    Today money still motivates me. The difference is that it is a secondary motivator. Everyone is motivated by money to some degree… we all need money. But if you want to become successful beyond your wildest dreams, you need to find a bigger purpose behind your drive.

  15. The Luxe Strategist

    Honestly, the meaning is already beyond me. Making more money has never been my main motivator. I’m not FI or close to FI by any means, but I do feel like I need to provide for my mom, who doesn’t have nearly enough for retirement. I’d like to have her back, just in case.

    If I were Gus, I’d ask myself, “If I were to die tomorrow, what would I regret?”

    And then I’d try to align my purpose to mitigate those regrets.

    1. That’s a great question to ask. I need to ask myself that questions a little more often…… like maybe once a week or two, instead of once a quarter or two. Just don’t want to get too morbid.

      But yes, REGRET is a powerful motivator. I hate regret.

  16. For me, the main thing is QUALITY time with friends and family. At the end, that’s all that matters, I’ve enjoyed the most in the past with people around me and so based on that, I try to do things that involve family and friends because that is where the enjoyment lies and a lot of times, it doesn’t even involve money.

  17. I asked Sam the same question a couple years ago. How does a person stay motivated when they are comfortable with what they have? He responded with something like, what’s wrong with being comfortable?

    Lack of motivation is one of my rewards for achieving financial independence.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. “Lack of motivation is one of my rewards for achieving financial independence.”

      There’s a book called “How To Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto” by Tom Hodgkinson. There’s a lot (a lot!) I don’t like about it but I do think it is a useful counterweight to omnipresent torrent of lifehacks, side hustles, improve, more better faster we usually hear.

  18. I enjoy the piece but as the father of a 14 year old I would argue that spending time with your child is overrated. Think that’s often mutual. And having money to ease his life strikes me as handicapping him not helping him.

    Saving more to be able to help parents/inlaws is fraught with moral hazard as well.

      1. I like money. Money is good. I want more. I will always want more.
        Picture scrooge mcduck wallowing in his vault.

        I retired 8 years ago and value time even more than money now. But I still want more money. I can’t comprehend why anyone else wouldn’t.

          1. Retired at 46. Have about 2.4M. I have no target but would like more.

            Still our living expenses are modest and my wife still works part-time, mostly to get out of the house. Obamacare as messed up as it is has come in very handy. All sorts of govt benefits for those who can manage their MAGI.

            1. Do you see a conflict at retiring at 46 if you still want more money? 46 is relatively young. By managing your MAGI for health subsidies, it doesn’t seem like your actions are following through with your desires for more money. Why is this?

              * Start a new thread or respond to a previous comment of mine if you want to respond

  19. Save Splurge Deny Debt - Cameron

    Great take on this Sam,

    I agree in that the big motivator should always be the ‘why’ of a goal. In a former company, they called it the ‘Big G’. Find that something that makes you tick and go for it, whether money is that or not.

    In the end the money may only be a side factor in your goal. Once you have enough for yourself, imagine money as a tool that can achieve some great things. This may be a family legacy, side businesses/projects that can help others. Having more money can create those kinds of opportunities to pursue things you may not have been able to before.

    Hopefully one day fully passive income will be 100% of my income. I will still work and want money, but to create new opportunities for myself and others. The money itself won’t be the primary motivator, but the tool that fuels my goals.


  20. High Income Parents

    I used to be very motivated by money but eventually I reached a point that I had enough income. I’m not one of those people that needs a yacht or my own jet and flight crew.
    I’m not financially independent yet because I care about a lot of people and finance their lives, namely my wife and kids.
    That’s what motivates me now is providing for them and having enough for my family to have great experiences.
    If we needed to dial back our lifestyle even more I’m sure we could make it happen but instead of dialing things back right now to save extra, I’m trying to match my life up to what I want and work a little longer. Since I’ve matched up my job to my wants that makes it a lot easier.

    Tom @ HIP

  21. I think money will motivate me until I have enough money to buy the freedom to dream, and to discover. My job is not taxing – not all the time anyway. It pays well. In fact, a lot of the time it is actually interesting. But will that be enough if this is all that I did till I was old and grey? For me, the answer is no, so I am motivated to save as much as I can to reach the point where I can experiment more with my life and wander down roads simply because they look interesting even though I may have no idea where they will lead.

  22. Brad - Financial Coach

    My current motovation is time with the family and travel – often one and the same thing.

  23. Although we are far from reaching FIRE, money isn’t a motivator anymore for a year now. We’ve come to the conclusion that money is a ‘what’ and the ‘why’ is more important. We want to have more freedom in our opportunities and time without being dependent on a job too much. Therefore we still work towards setting up income streams, save & invest. On the other hand we already start doing things we love, like sharing our experience with others and continue to learn.

    I think the comfortable part of the question is not the real problem here, we are aiming to get into a comfortable position as soon as possible. But from there we want to have a certain feeling that the things we do/own have a certain value.

  24. Always be willing to take on a new challenge (or “Always say yes,” as readers of my blog might recall). There are challenges aplenty in this world: climbing (and skiing) a great mountain, helping tutor children in a new language, building something from scratch, starting a charity that serves a population you care about.

    The complacency urge is the greatest killer of wealth (in the broad sense, not just monetary) creation. Push yourself to learn something new and you will always find something that interests you.

  25. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    I’m FIREd so I also have the same problem. Money by itself is no longer the primary motivator.

    Having a purpose whether it makes money or not is REALLY important. Being frugal is like a fun and interesting hobby for me, but it also saves money. I also started a blog to help others FIRE like I did.

    I’m motivated to leave a moderate inheritance for my sons. I don’t want it to be too big (makes them lazy) or too small (what good is it).

    Other than that, I try to be grateful for my life because I know it’s way better than what most people have.

  26. Thank you for sharing such an inspirational article. I was once in this position a few years back. Motivation really matters – it makes all the difference. I came across an illustration similar to The Golden Circle above that helped called Ikigai, a word which means “a reason for being” in Japanese. Check it out to see how your goals, passion and profession can all fit together.

  27. Jack Catchem

    Love the emphasis on purpose. I see life as an open world game. It only has meaning if YOU inject the meaning. Establish your values, have your values drive your goals, and NEVER forget that there is more passion in the pursuit than in the possession.

    Lots of cops get burnt out quick. I still adore my job. I have my values and treasure them like a diamond Furby. I am a bit player in the lives of everyone else. That depresses many. I think it’s cool.

  28. That’s a tough question. It’s hard to answer because everyone is different. I’m financially comfortable and that’s enough for me. It really depends on your personality.
    I don’t feel the need to leave a big legacy to my kid. It’d be enough to give him a good education and start off with no debt. If there is anything left over, then that’s fine too. I’m not motivated enough to be rich. Life is comfortable and I love it.

  29. You nailed it Sam. Finding a purpose bigger than myself has motivated me to stay working on Friday and Saturday nights, working all day Sunday, and sticking to the grind 365 days a week.

    My WHY is to leave a legacy for the people who know me, to create multi-generational wealth for my kids and grandkids, and to inspire millions of people to be more and do more.

  30. Grant @ Life Prep Couple

    I have not reached financial independence so I can’t speak to that but I will relate it to health.

    In terms of physical strength I have no good reason to get any stronger than I already am. Being able to deadlift 500lbs rarely comes up in real life. However, I still get up at 4:00am 6 six days a week to try and get stronger. Why not workout just 30 minutes a 2-3 times a week and maintain? Addiction. I am simply addicted to the process and love it.

    I think a lot of the folks in the PF community are also addicted to making/saving money. They can’t help but keeping pushing forward and keeping growing their Net Worth. Motivation tends to be temporary addiction is permanent.

    1. So this analogy fits exactly wrt to earning money. I had a liquidity event that essentially took care of our financial needs and I continue to work not because I like the money, but what it represents. As a business owner, you’re constantly solving problems and I get a huge sense of accomplishment understanding, deconstructing, and then solving various business challenges.

      It’s like lifting – which I absolutely love – it’s that sense of accomplishment. Both when you finish the workout, where you get the instant gratification of having done work, and as you show progress and growth. In my late 30s, I’m FAR stronger than I was in my early 20s because the gym stopped being a chore and instead became a joy in my life.

      Imagine that same idea but with income generating “work.” :)

      1. Jim,
        I definitely resonate with that purpose you’re describing. I think about it just as “growth.” Growing physically. Growing mentally. Growing in my ability to empathize and help others. Growing as a parent.

        Without challenges and puzzles to solve, it would be a boring life for me. No growth.

        FIRE and other financial goals have growth right at the core. That’s one of the reasons I think so many people resonate with it – beyond just the freedom at the end of the rainbow. Having the audacious goal, striving, growing, and working is really who we are at our best.

        Love the answer to the question above, Sam! The Why-What-How Golden Circle is something I refer to often, too.

        1. Every few months I re-watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk for that reason – it’s a great simple analogy with big implications.

    2. Duncan's Dividends

      This is a perfect analogy that resonates with me and you beat me to the punch. I’m the same way I go to the gym everyday and while I can put up lots of weight I always wonder what else I can do because of the addiction to the thrill of being able to reach new heights. It’s totally equates that way in my brain to finances because I wonder if I can make this new goal by x date.

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