The problem with wanting “more”

Light blobsPhoto courtesy of Tim

“I wish I had more money.”

I hear this at discussion groups, coaching sessions, and even just conversations with friends. I can’t help but remember that commercial from my childhood for a trade school, with Sally Struthers as spokesperson: “Do you want to make more money? Of course, we all do.

But do we really?

Yes, I’m going to push back on the idea of “more money”. And not for some minimalist, live-simply-so-others-may-simply-live woo-woo inclination.

It’s because it’s a goal you can never achieve.

Goals

Goals are vital to our satisfaction as individuals. I don’t believe that we can just get up, sit on the porch, gaze out on the world, and then go to bed at night. We need to be working toward something. This is true whether you’re 20 or 80.

Without goals, people go off the rails. You can see this around you, often in the context of people who relied on jobs for their goals who then spent time not working. You can also see it in people who retired from work, and haven’t figured out what to do instead. It can be heartbreaking.

While I believe that we need to have goals, we need to have goals that are achievable. It’s one thing to have a goal to swim the English Channel, but it’s quite another thing to have a goal to jump the English Channel.

You could train and train and train forever, and never achieve your goal. I don’t think that’s going to provide you with much satisfaction either.

Because of this, goals need to also be specific. If a goal isn’t specific, how will you know when you’ve achieved it, or if it’s even possible to achieve?

Non-specifically mo’ money, non-specifically mo’ problems

Which brings me to the subject of “more money”.

I don’t like that phrase at all. It fails the good goal test because it’s neither specific nor actionable.

Say you make $50,000 a year, and want to make “more money”. And say you accomplish something, a new job, a raise at work, a big sale. Now you make $60,000 a year.

Your goal still says that you want “more money”. So according to your goal, you’ve accomplished nothing.

Say you want to have more money out of what you make. So you cut expenses, cancel unnecessary bills, and live an increasingly monastic lifestyle.

But your goal still says that the you want to have “more money”. So according to your goal, you’ve still accomplished nothing.

This can go on forever, keeping people running on the hamster wheel forever, always chasing that elusive-but-unattainable goal.

You don’t want that, and neither do I.

How much more?

Whenever someone says that they want more money, I always ask them, “how much more money?”

That usually stops people. “I don’t know. Just more I guess,” is the usual response.

The same thing happens when someone says that they spend too much money on restaurants, and I ask them, “how much is too much?

You can do better than that. But it will take a little work. But here’s a plan that can help:

  1. Determine your current lifestyle. This involves things like knowing your budget inside and out, how much you spend on everything. Assuming you’ve been doing this every month like I always say, you’ll be ahead of the game, but if not, now is a good time to start.
  2. Determine what comprises your desired lifestyle. Don’t waste your time with overwater bungalows and drinks by the beach with umbrellas. Yes, you can have that if you really want it, but try to think a little broader. What do you want to be able to do in your life? Think specifics.
  3. Determine what that lifestyle is likely to cost. This is a difficult one, but it can be done. Unless your desired lifestyle involves looking like Richard Branson, it’s probably much less than you think.
  4. Figure out how far you are away from this goal. This one should be easy after all this work.

Once you’ve done all this, you’ve got yourself a goal here. And more importantly, you’ve got a lot more insight into what’s important to you.

That’s much better than just “wanting more money”.

Of course, we all do.

Or maybe, we don’t.

But enough about me. What do you want “more” of?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on March 20, 2017