Inflation And Greed: The Biggest Wealth Destroyers For Families

After publishing my post on no longer being financially independent, several media outlets picked up the story and thousands of comments on their respective platforms ensued. The main criticism was that my expenses were way too high and that I am greedy. As a result, I thought it would be useful to discuss the impact greed and inflation have on my family's household budget.

It's true. Spending over $230,000 a year after tax is a lot of money. Our family of four could live on less just like I could stop eating donuts to regain my Bowflex body from high school. But we choose not to partly due to greed. I greedily want to live the best life I can afford for my family before I die.

I didn't study my ass off in college, get an MBA part-time for three years, spend 13 years working 60+ hours a week while saving 70% of my income to then live an average life. My goal is to live a rich life that has maximum freedom.

Due to our choice to live a certain way, we must pay the price. And that price means for one or both of us must go back to work or get consulting jobs after 9-12 years of freedom.

Actions have consequences. We must deal with them accordingly.

The Acceptance Of Greed As A Wealth Destroyer

Many of you, like me, have traveled the world, studied abroad, or lived abroad for years. As a result, you know how good we have it here in the United States.

We are one of the most abundant nations in the world. Here are some of our country's defining features:

  • Endless supply of running water
  • The world's highest obesity rate
  • Wifi everywhere
  • Massive national debt
  • One of the world's highest GDPs per capita
  • A relatively stable government
  • The strongest defense sector
  • Cutting-edge innovation
  • Laws that protect the rights of all people

America is one of the greatest countries in the world. However, after living in America for a while, we might start taking for granted how good we have it. The more we take something for granted, the greedier, lazier, and more entitled we sometimes become.

After you achieve a certain level of net worth, society will disapprove of you feeling any negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, stress, or pain. As a result, it's best to keep your negative emotions private to reduce further emotional fatigue.

Coming To America From Malaysia

I came to America in 1995 for high school after having spent four years at the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I saw both poverty and wealth daily.

One of my closest friends lived in a studio apartment with his sister, mother, and father. Their living arrangement consisted of bunk beds along three sides of a studio apartment. They ate their meals and played board games in the middle.

I still remember taking a trip up to the island of Penang where we visited a popular temple. Although I had been warned not to give any money to the beggars, I gave a coin to one. Instantly, I was swarmed by a couple dozen people who pulled at my clothes and arms also wanting money.

We lived in a comfortable government-provided house given that my parents worked for the U.S. Embassy. But seeing so much poverty was jarring. It also made me fear ending up poor, which made me study harder in school to give myself a better chance.

Seeing How The Rich Lived Was The Start Of My Greed

While living in Kuala Lumpur, I also saw how the rich lived. They drove Porsches to the Royal Selangor Golf Club and lived in nice homes in Kenny Hills or Damansara Heights. I vividly remember one evening having a Mercedes Benz SEL 250 with fur-covered seats pick me up to go to a party hosted by one of my dad's rich contacts. I was blown away by how the top 0.1% lived.

Having witnessed both poverty and wealth naturally made me want to choose the latter. I think most rational people would as well. But seeing how the rich lived is also dangerous. As this is how greed begins.

Wanting More Than The Basics Is Greedy: Some Examples

Living in a home larger than a studio apartment with four people is greedy because I saw my friend's family do just that. Although it was cramped, they made things work. How can we live in a three-bedroom home with two bathrooms when there are ~150 million homeless people in the world and up to 1.6 billion people who lack adequate housing? Greed.

For those without a genetic disorder, eating so much to the point where we have to regularly buy bigger clothes is greedy. There are close to 900 million people in the world who are malnourished. How can we disrespect them by eating more than we should when so many don't even have enough? Greed.

Owning a car when you can walk, bike, or take public transportation is greedy. Cars kill, cause injury, and pollute. But we look beyond the negatives because we are lazy or selfish for safety and convenience. If you do buy a car, nobody needs more than a used Honda Civic.

If you want biological kids or a fifth child, why? According to UNICEF, there are roughly 153 million orphans worldwide. Every day, an estimated 5,700 more children become orphans. Children are often relinquished due to war, natural disaster, poverty, disease, stigma, and medical needs. Why not adopt instead of having your own? There are some couples who decide to have many kids without considering adoption.

We could slash our budget by $100,000 by forsaking private Mandarin immersion school and saving for college. However, we highly value education. As a result, we must pay the price by working to pay for the cost. Otherwise, we'd just be complainers trying to freeload off others.

The Greed Of A Better Education

One of the most memorable things about attending a public high school was the amount of drugs and violence I witnessed. Personally, I got suspended once when a big guy pushed me over while I was tying my shoe. I punched him in the face and broke his glasses. He never messed with me again.

Luckily, I didn't get into any knife fights with the kids who brought weapons to school. But I did end up shoplifting with my tennis teammate, who was a senior and I, a freshman. Due to my greed for wanting nicer clothes, I accepted his influence. As a consequence, we got caught and were punished by our parents.

During senior year I also was punished for prank-calling people like the Jerky Boys did on the radio. Oh yeah, when I was a freshman, one guy even introduced me to LSD tabs and pot. This was my experience attending McLean High School, considered one of the better public schools in Northern Virginia.

Now as an adult looking back, I realize I got in a lot of trouble partly due to the school environment I was in. My parents didn't get back from work until after 5:30pm pm so I hung out with my peers. By the time my parents got home from work, they were often too tired to hang out. I don't blame them.

Obesity rates by country

A Better School May Have Helped

If I had gone to a better school, maybe I wouldn't have gotten suspended and gotten in trouble with the law. Maybe my Spanish and Mandarin would be fluent as well. Maybe I would have had a better career with no need to retire early because I loved my work. We'll never know for sure.

But I have a second chance with my children.

I am lucky enough to have earned and saved enough money to pay for a private Mandarin immersion school, I figured why not at least try with my son. Perhaps our daughter will enjoy the experience as well starting in September 2024.

It's nice to at least try things once. If things don't work out, we always have the option of changing schools and saving.

I changed schools every two-to-four years growing up due to my parent's line of work. It forced me to learn how to socialize as the new kid.

The Desire To Minimize Violence

The greed of desiring the best education possible is also accompanied by the fear of violence against my children. The most amount of violence I’ve ever experienced so far has been during public school, including college.

After being a high school tennis coach for three years as part of my investigation to see whether private school is worth it, my observation is the more involved parents are in their kids' lives, the less violence there is at school. Due to the cost of tuition, there is more buy-in from their parents.

In a study conducted by the Cato Institute, researchers found that about 94% of school shootings that occurred in the United States from 2000 to 2018 occurred in public schools, while only about 6% occurred in private schools.

If you have money and are worried about the safety of your kids, you might also be willing to pay for private grade school tuition too. Of course, every public school is rated differently. Hopefully you can find a well-rated one that is safe, which would be ideal.

The Best Way To Combat Greed

If you want to reduce your greed, then the best way is to be cognizant of the suffering of others. The more you can understand how people less fortunate than you live, the more you can control greed from making you spend more than you really need.

Unfortunately, many of us get used to our circumstances and have a propensity to want more over time. This is the problem I currently face.

Originally, in 2012, my wife and I were content with living on a fruit farm in Hawaii on $80,000 in passive income. Then we had kids starting in 2017. If only we could better control our desires, we could better control our suffering.

When you live in a capitalist country like America, it's hard not to want more. And when you see others have more or spend more than you, you might assume they are greedy. Hence, another solution to beating back greed is to move to the countryside or a slower-paced, less wealthy country.

My desire to combat greed is also one of my main motivators for writing so much for free on Financial Samurai. It feels great to help people gain more financial courage and solve financial problems. This site will never have a paywall.

Inflation Hurts Families The Most

Now that we've talked about how greed destroys a family's wealth by wanting more than the basics, let's take a look at inflation's impact.

Take a look at this wonderful inflation chart. What do you notice?

Inflation of various goods and services and college from 2000 to 2023

If you have kids, inflation is the biggest destroyer of a family's wealth. Single people without kids can sidestep the most egregious items above.

It is almost impossible to retire early or stay retired with young kids given the rapidly increasing costs to raise them. Having kids is like playing the FIRE game on extreme hard mode.

Surprise! Kids Are Expensive

If you have kids, you will want to buy a bigger house than a studio apartment. One bedroom for the parents and one bedroom for the child is a desired minimum. But you might get greedy and want a third or fourth bedroom for guests or an office to work from home.

If you have kids, an economy car may not be good enough given you care about safety. Larger cars tend to cost more. Anybody driving in the city will know that it doesn't matter how safe of a driver you are, there are plenty of reckless drivers who will smash you. Can you imagine your kid getting hurt in a car accident because you wanted to save money on a car but could have afforded more?

If you have kids, you will naturally have to pay more for food and beverages. You could bulk purchase a bunch of processed food from Costco to save money. But you may also want to spend more on healthier foods to minimize disease in the future.

If you have kids, your healthcare costs will go up because the premium is based on the number of people in your family. If both of you have retired early, then you will have to pay for unsubsidized healthcare insurance. Our family pays $2,300 a month.

If you have kids, you'll face the burden of saving and paying for college tuition and fees. After aggressively saving in my 529 plan for almost seven years, I'm not confident I'll have enough saved up when my son goes to college in 2036. It’s no wonder hundreds of thousands of people have such large student debt burdens that it’s become a political issue.

Take Seriously The Responsibility Of Parenthood

There's a good saying for men, “Having kids doesn't make you a father; raising them does.”

I understand why some parents decide to not raise their children. Being a parent requires a tremendous amount of patience, endurance, nurturing, and kindness. I also understand why some parents shake their babies to death or leave them at the doorsteps to an orphanage.

Raising children is hard. Do whatever it takes to take care of your family!

However, actions have consequences. If we decide to create life, we must stick around to nurture our children until they are adults. Otherwise, it’s unfair to the child who never asked to be born.

The cost of raising children isn't just about the money either. It's also the burden society has to bear for experiencing gun violence, auto thefts, robberies, mugging, rapes, and murders.

If you get a chance, ask your assailant next time how was their childhood and where were their parents? Chances are high they didn't have parents who took the responsibility of raising their kids seriously.

Do The Best That You Can, Then Be At Peace

One of my biggest fears as a parent is raising children who become burdens to society. Instead of giving more than they take, they take more than they give.

Parents can't control the outcomes of their children. However, we can do our best to plan for the future by saving more, investing more, teaching more, and spending more time with our children. If we truly do our best, then even if our kids turn out to be menaces, there was simply nothing more we could do.

If you don't have kids or have adult kids, try to have compassion for parents of young children trying to do the best they can. It's not easy saving for retirement, saving for college, balancing work and childcare, and trying to live a good life.

Inflation hits families the most. Then when you add on the desire of wanting more for your children than you had growing up, it's easy to see how a family's costs can balloon.

If you want to be richer and more free, don't have children! But if you want children or it's too late, you'll have to work very hard to provide for them. You will also have to face the many dilemmas on how much you are willing to pay for their well-being.

I have my guides for private school tuition, how much to spend on a house, and how much to spend on a car. But it's up to you to decide what's best for your family and then adjust if you’ve made a mistake.

The Solutions To Combating Inflation For Families

Defeating inflation is straightforward, but not easy. Due to greed and our many unnecessary desires, it's hard to keep expenses down forever.

The best way for families to combat inflation is to save and invest regularly for as long as possible. History has shown the S&P 500 outpaces inflation by about 7% – 8% on average a year. History has also shown the real estate market outpaces inflation by a more moderate 1-2.5% a year. But with leverage, real estate investors can do well.

Once you can get neutral real estate by owning your primary residence, affording a family gets easier. Your costs are largely fixed if you pay cash or take out a mortgage, while inflation helps inflate away the real cost of debt.

In addition, inflation acts as a tailwind for your home's value over time. Focus on building that down payment if you plan to have a family and know where you want to live for at least five years.

Investing in the S&P 500 is free and easy. You can buy an S&P 500 ETF like SPY and dollar-cost average as much as you can with each paycheck. Preferably, you at least contribute up to the maximum 401(k) company match and then invest what's left over. After 10 years, you will be surprised at how much you accumulate.

Raising a family in a big city will still cost a lot. The temptation to spend more on your children will always be there. But if you follow my suggestions, raising children will be more manageable.

Thanks for all the feedback on my proposed budget. I’m going to work on being less greedy by cutting expenses, bringing in a new active income stream, and investing more.

Reader Questions

Do you think inflation hurts families the most? How much does greed play a factor in the cost of raising children? Do you think it's greedy to want to provide the best life possible for your family even though millions of people have less? How are you combating inflation and greed?

One piece of great feedback from a reader: “Greed is wanting/demanding more than you have EARNED.” This is so true. “Earned” is the missing word.

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74 thoughts on “Inflation And Greed: The Biggest Wealth Destroyers For Families”

  1. Finance Ronin

    When I was 40, I got greedy and wanted to spend more time with my young kids. When I got laid off with a severance package (not a golden parachute), I decided to not pursue another full-time job. My wife’s salary covered our expenses but not really move us forward financially. In the same year, I started my kids in private school because I greedily wanted them to have a better education. Also that year, I bought an investment property which was cash flow negative. I consulted part-time for a few years but stopped that as well. I drastically increased my expenses while drastically lowering my income.

    Over the next decade, I grew my real estate empire and managed my stock portfolio. My kids’ tuitions also shot through the roof (their in high school now). I no longer earned an income other than my real estate which doesn’t produce any taxable income after deductions. I’m now wealthier than ever but that wasn’t the goal. It started with wanting to spend more time with my kids–mission accomplished.

    If I lived by your definition of Financial Independence, I don’t think I could be doing what I’m doing. But despite my relatively low income (passive or otherwise) compared to my expenses, I have more wealth than I could ever spend, so I’m not going back to work for the money. If I found something I was passionate about, that’s a different story. When my wife stops working, I’ll just sell some investments or refi some properties for cash if I need to.

    1. That’s great your wealth has grown despite cutting your income. I forgot how old are you now.

      Having a working wife earn enough to cover all household expenses is a blessing, especially if she enjoys her work. What does she do?

      I have been unable to convince my wife to return to work or do part-time consulting and it’s been almost nine years since she left her day job in 2015. But she is staying productive with editing, my posts and podcasts, and, of course, most importantly, being a great mom.

      I do have a one-year plan though that I’m excited to enact. There’s just so much excitement going on here in San Francisco with the start of world that I’m excited to explore it again.

      1. Finance Ronin

        We are in our early 50s, and I’ve been trying to convince my wife to retire for the last 10 years. She works for a HMO as a director. She’s definitely coasting/stagnant in her career, but she likes the steady paycheck and health benefits. Even though the impact of our real estate dwarfs her paycheck, she is dead set against helping with the real estate–occasionally a contentious topic at our household. I think there is a lesson there for you about convincing your wife to return to work.

        I am excited for you about your new house. It’s great that you can spend money on something that will bring you joy. I have no desire to upgrade beyond our modest house. Our only “splurge” is our kids’ private educations which does not bring me joy. I enjoy traveling, but I figured out 10 years ago that the limiting factors were time and health, not money.

        1. Cool, so to clarify, the lesson is to encourage my wife to go back to work because she will enjoy the steady paycheck and healthcare benefits?

          I hear you on time and health. I feel both very acutely now. I have at least this one last year and made a grind. But it’s going to take 3 to 5 years to get back to you when I had I think.

  2. Dear Sam,

    No parent should feel guilty for making what they think is the best decision for their family and their children. No one knows what your family needs more than you.

    And for the record, I did ask my kid if she wanted more time with me or more money to have the nice things in our lives. She said both. Kids, like adults, want more. Humans by nature want more. That’s a natural human instinct. That is why we have what we have as a society — plumbing, heating, planes, electricity, clothes, computers, antibiotics, hospitals, and more. Greed (and its sibling ambition) is a feature, not a bug.

    Besides, you should spend the money to make memories with the people you love while you have the good health and fortune to do so. Life is short.

    Stay the course!
    -Kim

  3. Inflation hurts most when you don’t own assets. A family that owns significant assets, particularly with leverage is benefitted. Greed obviously reduces wealth because anyone can outstanding their income if they choose.

    As the father of a young family and not owning a home or tons of stocks during Covid inflation, it was an uphill battle. Especially since I had to change careers and take a pay cut when we chose to move cross country to be near family.
    We lived in an RV to save money, but it took a toll on our physical and mental health. Wanting more and a better life was the imputus to make the needed changes. I worked overtime, got a difficult certification, got a 2nd (parttime) job with better benefits and finally switched employers for a shorter commute. It felt like inflation was 100% to blame. But I’ve since figured out that career change, life stage, and inflation were all about equal to blame.

  4. Sam, I don’t believe that you fall into any of the categories below. You’re held harmless.

    1. Greed – demanding that your student loans be paid off by someone other than yourself.) You must have forgotten that you were the one who signed the loan form.)
    2. Greed – Spending more than you have as income. (pssst – government, sound familiar? Yes, but it’s what the voters demand.)
    3. Greed – demanding reparations by someone who has never been a slave, to be paid by someone who has never owned a slave. (Hey, we just deserve it.)
    4. Greed – relying on other’s inventions and discoveries, without doing or making any yourself, i.e. contributing to the betterment of all mankind. (This stuff just magically appears in my kitchen.)
    5. Greed – why is my welfare check 2 days late today? (See #2 above)

    1. We paid reparations to the Japanese in concentration camps and Germans pay reparations to the Jewish people for the holocaust, so it’s not that uncommon. This country was founded on the backs of slaves and we all get to enjoy the benefits of their hard work. Paying reparations is paying a small tax the slavery which this country was founded on.

      1. You must not be from around here. I’m pretty sure that our country was founded on the backs of white Europeans, disgruntled with their lot under the various kingdoms and mistreatment on that continent. We all get to benefit from THEIR (the white European’s) hard work, and the work of others after them. Slavery was a small part of the wealth eventually built up here over the centuries.

        The war reparations (ours to the Japanese and the Germans to the Jews) were made to actual survivors. Not to those dead for centuries. To be clear – you are certainly welcome to make your own reparations to former slaves – that’s your right, here in the U.S. If you have not done so on your own, why not? Show us your deeds to back up the words you write.

        Goodness knows that there have been trillions spent on welfare programs over the last 60 years – yet our tax money hasn’t been able to make a dent. Is anyone appreciative of this monetary handout? No. Why is that? Because working gives a purpose to life, and makes you free from depending on the kindness of others. Expect any reparations to have the same effect on the behavior of former slaves – that is, no lasting benefit.

  5. I believe greed like many negative words is something to hind behind when a person realizes they are not living up to their own potential. I can think of a whole litany of words that are used to accomplish that task. They can dismiss you in a heartbeat by calling you greedy and other labels. It’s easier to dismiss you than challenge their self to the next level.

    The economy is different for everyone, each of us has to decide what’s best for you and your family. I would’ve loved to stay home over the years and go to every sports event that my kids were involved in. I had to travel as a sales representative for my company and I believe over the years I was well compensated for it.

    Because I was compensated well it created a lot of opportunities for my family, I live in Ohio. My two daughters got the opportunity to go to San Diego State University to play lacrosse and study engineering there. They did not get full rides. Fairly low scholarships, but my wife and I were able to give them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Running the numbers, We spent with tuition, Books, housing, travel to and from California to Ohio, etc. etc. around $300,000. Wait! What! $300,000, and that is why we did not take fancy vacations and have a summer home in the smoky mountains.

    I am also a firm believer of not becoming a burden to my kids in my old age, or to society in general. I believe that it is my responsibility to Educate my kids, and cover the cost of that, and to provide for my retirement.

    i’m 66 now and I’m going to retire at the end of this year. It’s time for me to hang up the workday world. The best part of my retirement is seeing my kids , that are now in their late 20s and early 30s prosper, have not asked me for a single dollar in 10 years. Because they are educated and equipped to go get their own money.

    Go do what you believe is the right thing for your family and circumstances.

    One final thought;

    If you want your kids to be dishwashers, go be a dishwasher, if you want your kids to be the president of the United States, go be president, a.k.a. the Bush, Kennedy, or Adams family.
    Your kids emulate what you do, more is caught than taught.

  6. Sam what you describe is not being greedy. Wanting more than the basics is not greedy. Greed is wanting/demanding more than you have EARNED.

    If you want a rich life with free time and you are willing to do more to get more, that not greed it is ambition or productive worthy goal setting. In a free trade system a person’s desire for more requires that person provide a better product or service to others. You can get what you want only by helping others get what they want.

    People or businesses in a free market system who try to abuse employees or customers will not succeed in the long run. The system of free trade (Capitalism) in which everyone uses thier best judgement to willingly trade their money for a product or service results in this do more to get more or do less to get less balance.

      1. Dear Sam,

        Greed is a symptom, not a root cause in and of itself. You have fallen into the trap of materialism that is an all pervasive force in today’s society. You are not a bad man for wanting to provide for your family and yourself and for desiring a comfortable life. However, endlessly pursuing wealth and financial goals will never lead to any sort of real, enduring happiness or contentment in life. It becomes a massive trap as we accumulate more wealth and our desire and attachment to luxury grows even more. Ask yourself the question , at what point will you be happy with your financial state? 10 million? 50 million? No matter how much wealth we earn, we will always want more unless there is something else to ground us in life. The end goal itself cannot be wealth, money or material pursuit but something else. You have been on a path or mission of financial independence since 2009, and in a twist of irony you sacrificed that independence and freedom that you so desperately wanted in order to purchase a nicer home and ended up back to the beginning of your journey in a sense. If you are being honest with yourself that should say something very profound to you.

        Psychologically, human beings need a sense of purpose, goal and life direction that transcends our own egos and selfish desires.

        I know in my life that the moments of greatest tension and discomfort have always been areas of the greatest growth and learning. Maybe there is something you are missing here and may benefit from re-thinking your approach to things?

        1. Thank you. What do you suggest I do?

          And how were you able to overcome materialism to lead a simple life? I’d love to know more about your budget, your family, and where you are on your FI journey.

          I stopped pursuing lots of capital accumulation when I left my job in 2012. However, the pressure to provide for my family has caused me to seek work again.

          Thanks

          1. Well I don’t want to sound like I have everything in life figured out because I don’t. We are all human beings in a process of learning and growth.

            I have 2 children and a wife and am in my 30s. We live on the west coast in a suburban area. Our monthly budget is about $8k/mo, and we live comfortably with everything we need.

            For me, my spirituality and faith grounds me. I know that my purpose in life is to learn, grow, serve others and contribute to the betterment of the world. There are some guiding principles I live my life by, and I see my wealth or money only as a tool or means in the service of a higher goal rather than the goal itself. Because my wife and I are completely aligned in our values, she does not pressure me for a higher lifestyle.

            This has created a lot of inner contentment and peace for me. I don’t need or desire a nicer car or home even though I could afford one if I wanted. I spend a great deal of time in community related work with my wife and friends where we try to bring others of diverse backgrounds together to help build a better world.

            1. Sounds good to me! Inner contentment and peace are wonderful.

              My problem is that I worry too much about a difficult future for my children, so I’m always planning ahead and running a two tract timeline: one in the present, and one in the future with planning.

              Growing up overseas scarred me due to the amount of poverty I witnessed. So it drives me to save, invest, and work hard so we don’t fall into poverty. My rough-and-tumble experience in high school, and then the ultra competitive nature of working in an investment banking opened my eyes up to how difficult it is to get ahead in this world. So I plan accordingly.

              A good example of this is my post, 529 plan is not enough, we must save more. I aim to save $750,000 by the year 2036 because I don’t think my son will be able to get scholarships and he may not choose the more practical route of going to community college or public college. Some people think I’m nuts for saving so much, but I ran the math and said the scenario, and that’s what it will cost.

              Sometimes I wish I were like other parents to don’t sweat it and just go with the flow. That would bring about more inner peace.

  7. Hi Sam

    I am not sure this is about greed. I look at your journey as a recognition that you have accomplished what you set out to do, and can now make a change. You have:
    1. Spent time with your kids while they were very young. Now they are attending school, and your role is changing.
    2. Proven yourself with your blog. It is the best one out there. You have written an outstanding book, and have another on the way. You have nothing to prove.
    So, you have reached an inflection point.
    I really think that the purchase of the new home is almost beside the point. Yes, the purchase cost your passive income—but mentally you are ready for a change anyway, and ready to work part or full time. The only thing I worry about is whether you have fully considered any downsides (financial or otherwise) to the home purchase. If you have, and can live with any worst case that comes with it, there is nothing to be concerned about.

    All the best,

    Barry

  8. all the people saying those negative comments are just jealous. you dont have to stay home 24/7 with you children. they will be FINE. they are better off having you as a role model on how to live life VS the judgmental people who are probably living off the system, hoping the government takes care of them.

    Your children had you home for a significant amount of time and im sure they will cherish those memories. i wonder if those same people would judge a single parent who worked 3 jobs, that they were stealing time from their kids?!? STFU to those people!

  9. Sam,

    Ouch indeed! That response by Sara was harsh. Social media can be brutal and I give you a lot of credit for sharing all that you do, putting up with the haters, and seemingly not overreacting to it. So I wanted to say that I really appreciated that post, because it was humble, and as a reader, it’s helpful to hear about missteps from FIRE experts.

    I also happen to think that Sara is wrong, and my guess is that she isn’t a parent. As a dad of elementary school aged kids, I’m very optimistic that when my kids are old enough to hear about my financial decisions, they will conclude that, regardless of the outcomes, they were entirely based on what I thought was best for them. And the same goes for you and your kids, based how committed you seem to raising them by what you write in your posts. Yes, it can be shocking to hear how expensive it is to live in SF ($40k annually for private school! I almost couldn’t believe that!), and not everyone would choose to upsize in the way that you did. But calling it selfish is wrong because it wasn’t about you, it was about raising your children for the next decade. And calling it wrong was also… wrong, because no one knows your kids as well as you, and all kids and families are different. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in life on even on the path to financial freedom.

    JM

  10. Notice how the industries with the most government regulation and involvement are also the most expensive. Weird! (SARCASM).

    1. I’d like so much that my drinkable water comes from a river where industries dump their toxic chemical waste (SARCASM).

  11. Dear Sam,
    Interesting topic, it sounds like you are questioning your lifestyle. I am a bit older than you, an immigrant to the US who got an MBA and went all in the financial chase. Yes having children will cost money in the US, my personal burden was getting my greencard as I had to negotiate constantly what I made when I had work permits. But I got to the point where I was in the 6 digit. Having been raised under financial strain, I too saved a large chunk of what I made but I also understood that luxury consumerism is just a higher form of marketing and possessing. Sure I bought myself a couple of things I truly longed for but I always gave myself a day or two to think before a big item purchase to ponder “How is this going to make my life better ?” Because once you start pulling in serious money the world can feel like a huge oyster. I was lucky to participate in a study about Happiness which really helped grow out of “lifestyle chasing ” and “comparison or status buying”. The happiest people in this world are not defined by their wealth. Simply because of habituation. Up to covering expenses and vacations , more money makes you happy. But once basics are covered, more money does not change how happy you are. Since 2017, I have purchased 10 pieces of clothing/shoes and live out of my previous purchases. I save all that money and donate part of it to charities I am involved with. I live off of my investment. I moved away from NYC and now take my vacation in Greece or Italy where the cost of rental is so much lower that what you spend on yours. What I mean is think about Intent. Why do you feel your kids need a $80K / year schooling? Why do you need to be in SF? Check your budget in detail. I cut mine down to a third once I realized I was paying bills I DID NOT question.

  12. This is the biggest joke in history. Sam is considered greedy?, while Elon asks for 50 BILLION+ which is only stopped by a judge.

      1. I believe compensation should be capped regardless of returns. If not, then all Fed chairmans should have trillions as they are far more influential in generating returns.

        1. Wait a minute. You mean the Federal Reserve, the one responsible for keeping our currency worth something? The one that since it’s founding in 1913, has seen a 96% DECREASE in the value of the U.S. dollar? That Fed? The one that is currently a net drag on our economy because of the manipulations they have been doing with bond rates over just the last 4 years?

          Maybe you should tell your boss that your pay ought to be capped at some limit as well. That will be an added incentive for you to perform better. Quit trying to limit the rewards that inventors are rightly entitled to.

          There is no return on government operations – they take money from ME, then give it to whomever they want to. I just hope that the U.S. military has the expertise to keep invaders from killing a few millions of our citizens.

  13. I don’t think your budget is too abnormal. We also try to manage with 420K but have three kids. 100K in 529. ( Kids go to public schools since they’re top school in California) . 20K for 3 kids private lesson ( violin, piano, math , programming) . 100 K in 401K ( before and after tax contributions since you can convert after tax contributions to Roth 401K as in-plan conversion) 20K in food since we buy organic. What’s left is for income tax, property tax, house and car maintenance, clothes , shoes for kids, utilities. We drive modest cars and usually keep more than 10 years. We staycations mostly except for visiting families. So we actually don’t have much money left by the end of the year and must continue to work. No passive income here.

    1. Thanks for sharing Susan. May I ask whether you feel comfortable with your income and budget or perhaps a little stressed with nothing much left over? Are you too happy at your jobs and can see yourselves working for many more years to come? If so, that is a great blessing because somewhere around 70% of the employees are disengaged from work.

      1. I’m not stressed financially since our house is paid off, we have sizable 401Ks and especially we’re blessed that we both love working and will work until our health doesn’t allow us to continue. So we will always earn income one way or another. What stress me out is how to do our best raising our kids. And not working also stressed me out.

  14. Ben Douglas

    Dear Sam

    I have been a loyal reader and supporter of Financial Samurai for many years. I purchased Buy This Not That, to support you and your family because of the great things you have written and done for so many through the years. I know that receiving an education is very important to you and your wife. After preschool, why not home school your kiddos? My wife and I homeschooled our three boys. Two received full academic scholarships from two separate colleges and I feel certain my youngest will receive an offer as well. We took some of the most incredible vacations. We weren’t beholden to the public or private mandates for attendance. It’s certainly not easy, but the time I had with my kids as a dad who travels the world for a living was priceless. I humbly submit that there’s no greater sacrifice you could ever give them than giving your time to teach them the things that are most important and valuable from their parents. I truly believe it was worth the effort.

    Respectfully,

    Ben

    1. Hi Ben, nice to hear from you and thanks for picking up a copy of the BTNT. If you don’t mind leaving a quick review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it.

      I have strongly considered homeschooling. We did for 18 months during the pandemic for our son. He learned much quicker and a lot more than he does at school.

      I think one of the honest answers is that I am tired. I’m also greedy and Want more of my freedom back to do what I want after being a stay at home dad for almost 7 years. I also see the benefits of being in a language, school and making friends and being part of a community. It’s been really nice going to the occasional dad’s night out drinking whiskey, or just watching a football game.

      One of my plans is to do long travel with the kids so they could see the world before they are adults. And if we do that, then we will homeschool them so we can have more flexibility.

      Can you share how you managed to work and home school at the same time? Thanks.

  15. I have been a reader of your blog for many years, and I must acknowledge the increasing figures you mentioned along the years have almost gotten me to unsubscribe to your posts ( saving 750k usds for you kids’ college…) feeling somewhat gradually disconnected to the reality of your San Francisco’s middle class family struggles, who could not be more remote from so many people reading your poss in other parts of the world, as you further delve into your bubble.

    This post stands out a bit, in a good way in my opinion, as you seem to reconnect with your life in Kuala Lumpur, where you are mixed with people fighting to live by decent standards (families sharing small flats etc). I hope you never lose that connection, while still going to play tennis in the Bay area…

    You started from nothing, worked hard, and got where you are, multi-millionaire. I read your blog hoping you keep telling us what choices we should make from going from the former to the latter, not just entertaining how to maintain the latter…

    My two cents…

    1. No problem. I hope my lower passive income and sharing my concerns about providing for a family is more suitable now.

      The math is scary about how much college could cost in 2036-2038, when my kids attend. We will likely get no grants or scholarships given their identity and intellect. So we must save as much as possible.

      How are you saving for retirement and for your children’s college education? Do you feel the pressure to provide as well? If not, I’d love to know how you’ve been able to be more at ease about this ultra competitive and expensive world.

      Thanks

      1. Hi Sam,

        I was tickled to read about your parent’s work with the gov’t and growing up in NOVA. I’m doing similar work as your parents and have lived overseas for 15 years. I have a teenager and we live in NOVA and would love it if they considered W&M as their college, as I initially grew up near there. I’m far from making it to your level of middle-class but aspire to to find ways to increase my wealth for financial freedom. Keep up the great posts!

  16. Inflation is a net positive for high income earners like yourself, regardless of kids, assuming the high income earner receives raises equal to inflation. For example:

    Probably falling behind:
    80K salary + 18% raise since ‘21 (on par with CPI) = $94,400
    +$9,400 for increased cost of goods

    Probably coming out ahead:
    140K + 18% raise since ‘21 (on par with CPI) = $165,200
    +$26,200 for increased cost of goods

    Probably really coming out ahead:
    280K + 18% raise since ‘21 (on par with CPI) = $$330,400
    +$53,400 for increased cost of goods

    Etc.

      1. I mean, you have FS and I’m sure your rates to promote and advertise have increased consistent with inflation, no? Also, your rental income and consultation fees have increased with inflation, no? I realize that you don’t get it the traditional W2 way.

  17. She who must be Obeyed

    Thoughtful, excellent discussion, Sam. I disagree that you’re greedy. Rather, I think that most of the country doesn’t realize how expensive it is to live in SF or NYC. I live in Chicago and it’s still no picnic. These days the crime is so out of control people are driving into/within the city rather than take public transportation. It’s all about personal safety.

    Keep being the man of integrity that you’ve always been. You will continue to be successful and a credit to your family. God bless you, sir.

  18. Sam, An observation: The folks that are arguing about greed are no less greedy than you. If fact they are speaking from the same side of the same coin which is their own ego. The Utopia, they are proposing is some future time/place which always leads to violence in the interim and Utopia is never achieved. Think communism in the past century or any other cult one can think of. Be a little more thick skinned (tolerant) Work on you own level of consciousness, make money or not, buy a big house or give it all away just don’t become identified with your choices. Otherwise you will be painted in to an unconscious corner which is very unhealthy.

    1. Wise words. Thanks.

      I wonder if the green criticism is basically anybody who spends more than they do is greedy.

      The comments in the other media sites are fascinating. And also often times entertaining. A lot of political fever, and unrest.

  19. I recently had dinner with a couple here in Mexico. Their eldest daughter, her husband, and their four children ranging from in age from 5 to 12. The first thing I noticed was that none of the children had a cell phone in their face. I asked and discovered that all of the children were being home schooled and no, none of them had cell phones. Even thought the parents had cell phones, the children did not ask their parents to borrow them. They had no television at home but did have a projector for those times when the family would watch something together. I was intrigued and asked if the children had friends their ages. The mother explained that there is a group of like minded parents and all of their children spend time together. They even have weekly days where they meet at a park or the library. The family lives in an upper middle class neighborhood. I was honestly surprised that families like this still exist. The children played together among themselves, read books, and the eldest even washed the dishes. They truly seemed much more content than the children I meet who have all of the latest gadgets.
    The definition of greed and quality of life really needs to be adjusted in today’s world. Maybe simplicity is really the best family dynamic and the one that creates the most happiness. I do question though how the children will adapt to the real world once they leave the bubble they currently live in.

  20. While I don’t always agree with your perspectives, I have to give you respect for being forthcoming with all of the moves and outcomes – the good and the bad – for us all to learn from and have a conversation around. I’m a long time reader. A few perspectives on the article and your journey:

    When it comes to money matters, it is all about choices. I’m struggling the labeling of greed or entitlement – greed because I see greed as a bottomless pit and I don’t see you with that mental mindset. When you talk about the time and effort you put in school and work … that seems like an entitlement argument. If someone worked 80 hours a week through your school and consulting/investment days would they be more or less entitled to the financial status you achieved? Most everyone works and many work more than 40 hours a week, multiple jobs, or have multiple income earners in the household.

    But I digress; it comes down to choices – needs, wants, distinguishing between the two and what role your own choices and mental models have on your financial state. I think you have mostly thought this through on your own terms and determined that someone going back to work is the right answer (given your priorities) than to do anything about the spending situation. You have made your value judgements. What can feel odd to a lot of your readers is perceived lack of choice – or maybe their lack of your specific choices – as they relate your experiences to their own.

    I have my needs covered and many of my wants as well. I am comfortable and on track to on-time or marginally early retirement. My wife and I have lived like students in the past, had two kids and some lifestyle creep, but structurally make sure that our retirement is sound, we can weather a lost job or unexpected calamity, and just enjoy life. I read your story and want to cheer and want to support someone who is rejecting commercialism and the trappings of debt for freedom, but there are a whole lot of spending decisions that I would just make differently. Two sides of the budgeting equation. There are only a few folks in the world where the income part can approach infinity, but the spending side can for anyone. It’s incumbent upon each of us that it doesn’t.

    Again, I appreciate your willingness to share with everyone. Whatever disappointment you may have about having you or your wife go back to work, I would try and let that go. You are a thoughtful individual who is living according to your values. Your values around family life, quality of life, and what kind of father you want to be by providing for your children are all being lived out in public. Being true to that is more important than any negative feedback you may get about having to re-enter the workforce. All the best to you.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Brett.

      I wanted to embrace the criticism of being called greedy and take a deeper Look into why I am greedy for wanting to live an above average lifestyle.

      It is cathartic to go back in time, and to understand why we think the way we do and how our childhood upbringing has affected us as adults.

      This reflection also makes me more cognizant of the importance of being a good father to my children today. Because their memories over the next 11 years, they shape their lives for the next 70 years.

  21. Why do I find it so satisfying when the left eat their own…?

    You earned everything….you’re getting.

    Ironic….isn’t it?

    1. Yeah, it’s been a crazy good run with San Francisco real estate and tech stocks since graduating in 1999. I can’t believe how lucky the run has been, which is why I’m trying to help others achieve more financial security as well.

      But we’ve also got to prepare for changes and downturns as well.

  22. I think most of your life you were envy of the rich, of what they had and the education they could provide for their kids. like Charlie Munger said “The world is not driven by greed, it’s driven by envy”. But I once thought like you.

    1. You could be right.

      But I wonder how that reconciles with me giving up a well-paying finance job at the age of 34. If I was really that envious, wouldn’t I just continue to try to make as much money as possible to buy all those things that rich people have and climb that corporate ladder?

      It’s easy to talk about how people should pay more taxes when you don’t pay more taxes like Warren Buffett talks about, or how envy drives the world when you are a billionaire.

      But I will say that one of the saddest things about Charlie Munger is he died with over $3 billion. What a waste of energy and time to hoard so much money when so many people are suffering.

      If you can share how you conquered greed and envy, I’d love to hear it. Thanks

      1. I became a perfect human with time. I feel no envy or greed. I only observe what others feel.

        I want billions of dollars like Charlie and am trying to get it.

  23. I’ve never seen a episode of American Greed about a person who worked hard, saved, set goals and made enough money honestly to provide a better life for his family. I think a better title for this article is, “The pursuit of happiness and the impact of inflation.”

    If greed is wanting a better life with more opportunities for your children then I’m as greedy as it gets!

  24. Sam, I feel compelled to comment on this post. I have been reading your column for several years. I have responded to your surveys but never commented before. I have purchased and read your book ”

    Buy This, Not That

    Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom.” I consistently recommend both of them to pretty much anyone who will listen and who has an interest in bettering themselves.

    I was blessed to be able to retire early after a fulfilling professional career and developing a system in my 20s that I then implemented for myself for 35 years that allowed me to do this. I have since taught these principles to my children and others via a local adult education program. It is not a FIRE program, but a “go slow and steady approach.”

    I am in the process of developing my website and hope to go live in the next few months to blog about financial, professional, and personal goals so that people can learn how to live their dreams and their best life. If you ever read the book “Halftime” by Bob Buford, you will understand why I am doing this. I will also offer virtual, online, and in-person courses to teach these concepts to others who are interested. Interestingly, I grew up in Northern Virginia where you went to school and I enjoy your stories about there.

    Here is the bottom line. I am a bit older than you (65) but enjoy your advice and find it to be very good. I wish more people would follow you and take your advice. It would be good for them and our country. Regarding the negative input you sometimes get, and especially regarding this post and the other one, I recommend ignoring them all. Perhaps even considering those comments a badge of honor.

    Putting yourself out there like you do makes you vulnerable and the haters and jealous individuals in this country seem to be infected with these traits and love nothing more than to anonymously tear others down. Especially those like you who work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor and enjoy all the benefits this country offers.

    You are an inspiration to many, even older people like me. Ignore all of them and carry on. I’m sure it is lonely sometimes, thinking you are not being heard but you are. Please keep up the excellent work and I’ll keep recommending your work to everyone I can. Feel free to reach out to me if you desire and I’d enjoy the opportunity to talk to you.

  25. Otherwise, it’s unfair to the child who ever asked to be born.

    I think you have a typo, Sam.
    Should be never*
    Love your articles and have been reading them since 2009. I also have 2 kids who are the same age as yours.

    1. Good typo catch. Please keep them coming whenever you see them. Thanks!

      Reading since 2009 is awesome! I hope you’ve made great progress on your financial journey.

      Time goes by too quick. We have to make the most of it.

      1. Thanks to you, Sam, i’ve built my portfolio to 7 figs. I hope to maybe run into you at the Academy of Science or SF Zoo one day to personally thank you for your great website. Keep the awesome articles coming!

  26. OK Sam, great article and very insightful! Since you chose to psychoanalyze yourself I will chime in on psychology.

    Greed is an insatiable desire for more wealth and power. I don’t think your issue is greed. Sounds like you are driven by fear. You don’t want you or your family to be poor. That drives you to increase your wealth. Take a deep breath, you will never be poor. Mission accomplished! That deep childhood instilled fear still lives, but you don’t need to allow it to drive you.

    It wasn’t long ago that you were determined to enter a “de-accumulation” phase. What did that last? 3 months? That wasn’t cause you are greedy, but that old fear kicked in!

    It may sound like semantics, but I think you are selling yourself short by calling it greed. You are very aware that you are blessed, you seek to help folks, and I don’t see you using wealth to exercise power over others.

    Keep up the good work. All of us have gifts and talents. Once of your is to make money. The questions is how will your use it? How you answer that question will go a long way to finding your peace.

  27. I chose to buy the McMansion in cash too for cheap and moved to a cheaper state but it’s also a safe area full of rich MAGA. They pay a lot of school taxes in my district. We are known as a “good school district,” which basically means white. Seems like SF is very diverse and a lot of crime so I don’t blame you for choosing private school. You want the big Mcmansion and private schools so you’re going to have to go back to work. SF is like DC and DMV area. Sure, you get more shops and cafes but you also get a lot of crime, carjackings and bad schools. The crimes and fentanyl deaths are spreading to Loudoun County,one of the wealthiest counties in the US. My family and friends are still in Fairfax County and I know of 2 teens who have died from ODs there.

    The economy has been great for me..I got the high yield bank accounts and CDs so inflation has not hurt me. Stocks could drop 40% and I’ll just shrug my shoulders. Feels like a Recession coming. People have nothing to buy and layoffs are picking up. I have nothing to buy. I went buckwild buying Barefoot Dreams, Uggs, Nikes, etc last month. So inflation may go down but stocks will plummet.

  28. The statistic regarding school shootings (94% at public school) is missing a key component. As your reference study notes, about 91% of K-12 students attend public school. So, even though private school kids are statistically less likely to be subject to a school shooting, it’s not as significant as your 94% vs 6% statistic implies.

      1. Of course it does, it means private schools are at best 30% safer in this regard. Meanwhile, by moving from California to New Hampshire or Idaho you can immediately get a 90% increase in school shooting safety! And return to F.I. just like that!

        But there’s a million variables that go into each of these decisions, not just one headline “school shooting risk!” For example, a school bus is about 10x safer than a car. So if you have to drive your kid to private school rather than bus them to public school, that right there is probably a net safety loss. And of course there are quality of life decisions – are you and your family happier where you live, even if it’s infinitesimally more dangerous?

        This is all sort of a tangent off your main points (which I agree with), but if you think private school is the right choice for your family, power to you! There’s no need to rationalize it by considering one 30% decrease in an astronomically unlikely situation, given that you’re also impacting other subtle risk factors in myriad ways.

        1. Gotcha. At this moment, I’m happy to pay up for a 30% increase in safety and the teaching of a second language.

          As an investor and author of Buy This Not That, I enjoy looking at risk-reward ratios. We always justify our decisions.

          Maybe my feelings will change over time. Let’s see!

  29. Once again, excellent article, Sam! After raising three kids and starting retirement down in a few years, I agree with the greed associated with trying to decide how much is enough in retirement. Really all I want in retirement is to have the means to do what I want to do when I want to do it.

    Having live overseas for 5 years in the military, I don’t feel the need for extravagant travel, but I want to be able to visit grandkids (God-willing we get some!) whenever the mood strikes. I’m actually looking forward to downsizing out of our 4 bedroom house! Inflation, though, has made everywhere we’ve looked at downsizing to a very expensive proposition.

    We just bought a lot in FL, but the cost of a new house there is even rivaling our cost of living here in the “expensive” northeast! I feel like I have enough saved for retirement, but fear a generational black swan event due to the ballooning national debt taking away all that we worked hard to save.

    And the ever growing socialistic attitude of the country makes me worry that my money can easily be redistributed as “our” money since everyone needs instant gratification and very few have any savings. I hope my outlook is pessimistic since I spent 21 years in the US Air Force defending this great nation, but looking at the current state of the Union honestly scares me a little…. Ok, a lot…

    1. Hi Greg – Thank you for your service! I salute you.

      I think the older we get, the more bad stuff we see. So it’s only rational to be more paranoid about black swan events. Goodness knows, we’ve seen a lot of them since I started working in 1999.

  30. I definitely feel the weight of inflation. Right now where I feel it most is with food, housing, and healthcare. For example, grocery bills have gotten nuts. I try and get as much organic where I can, but I’ve had to cut back here and there. It’s just crazy how much food costs now. I remember when you could get a lot of groceries for $100 to feed 3-4 people. To do that now you really have to just get the basic essentials and even still trying to do that for $100 isn’t easy. Now I tend to fill up my cart as I go around the store and then put at least 3-5 items back before I checkout to help cut down on the bill. It still easily will run $200-300 depending on if I’ve run out of things like olive oil, honey, maple syrup, meats, etc. Prices are nuts.

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