When is Enough, Enough?

Fear v Greed

When is enough, enough? Would we even know "enough" if we reached it? The answer, of course, depends on the subject: I’ve exercised enough when I’ve hit my daily 15-minute goal; I’ve bought enough groceries when all of the items on my list are crossed off; I’ve had enough ice cream when I’ve eaten more than my 8-year-old son. So what about money? When do you have enough money? Is it possible to never have enough? Isn’t that greed?

There can be many reasons why someone would wish to acquire more wealth than they need. Some reasons may be obscene and clearly motivated by greed. However, the desire for more money is often fueled by some type of fear. I have met many people who want to act as a safety net for their adult children, for instance. While I would never tell someone that they should not support their family, I would also encourage them to visualize how they would help them, and to what extent. In other words, set some realistic goals to gain a clearer picture of what enough looks like for you.

Another type of fear is centered around people’s desire to avoid being a burden to their adult children. Here again, setting goals will be helpful, as well as stress testing them. Let’s say you are confident about the fact that you have saved enough money, so long as X, Y or Z do not happen. How much more would you have to save so that you would be ok if X, Y, or Z happened? With financial planning, a good advisor can model for these unforeseen circumstances.

There are many folks out there with the fear of running out of money. And some of them we might be quick to judge as being greedy, as they may appear to have amassed enough wealth already in our view. The problem lies in making assumptions. We can never really know how someone else feels about anything. Sure, someone can share with us how they feel, but at the end of the day, we cannot get into the skin of the other person. We must approach every person who is fearful with empathy. There are many out there who have enough, but are so afraid that they will never realize it. That is the work of a prudent financial advisor; removing the fear and determining what is enough.