When Rich People Do Stupid Things

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That's the title of Vanguard founder John Bogle's fantastic book about measuring what counts in life.

The title, as Bogle explains, comes from a conversation between Kurt Vonnegut and novelist Joseph Heller, who are enjoying a party hosted by a billionaire hedge fund manager. Vonnegut points out that their wealthy host had made more money in one day than Heller ever made from his novel Catch-22. Heller responds: "Yes, but I have something he will never have: enough."

I thought about this line over the past week after two business stories, neither of them new, re-entered the media's spotlight.

The first is news that former McKinsey boss Rajat Gupta is being charged with insider trading.

If you're unaware of Gupta's story, here's the background: He was born in Calcutta to a journalist father and school teacher mother, both of whom died in his teens. He received an engineering degree from India's exceedingly competitive IIT school, moved to America, scored an MBA from Harvard, and in 1973 joined the McKinsey Co., one of the world's most prestigious consulting firms. He was named McKinsey's managing director -- the equivalent of CEO -- in 1994, a position he held until 2003. McKinsey isn't a public company, so we have no idea how much Gupta earned during his tenure. One has to assume, however, that he's worth, tens, probably hundreds, of millions of dollars.

He was successful. Rich. Respected. He had achieved more than most can dream of against incredible obstacles.

So what does he do in his golden years?

On the inside
After retiring from McKinsey, Gupta joined the board of directors of several organizations, including Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) , Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , and American Airlines (NYSE: AMR  ) . Public filings show he made as much as $2 million annually for his board work, which usually entails attending a few meetings a year.

Fast-forward to September 2008. As the financial system teetered on collapse, Goldman's board was summoned for a conference call to discuss Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-B  ) potential $5 billion lifeline investment. This was intensely secret information. And you have to remember how insane this week was. People really didn't know whether banks, including Goldman, would make it to the next day. Berkshire's investment was huge for Goldman. Anyway, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gupta disconnected from the board's meeting and immediately called billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam from the same phone. Less than a minute later, Rajaratnam bought 175,000 Goldman shares. The SEC doesn't say what the two discussed on the call. You can guess. Rajaratnam netted nearly a $1 million profit the next day after the public learned of Berkshire's investment.

This is just one example of several. There were more meetings, more calls, more profits. The list goes on and on. The SEC claims Gupta's tips led to $17 million in gains for Rajaratnam. All of it insider trading, all of it very illegal.

Assuming the allegations are true (he denies the charges), Gupta could be in a heap of trouble. He'll probably be on the hook for millions in legal bills. His reputation is utterly shot. This from a guy who could have, and should have, spent retirement basking in his success while drinking a Corona on the beach.

Made off
The next story I've been thinking of comes from a recent New York Magazine interview with Bernie Madoff. You don't need an introduction. You know what he did.

What shocked me from the interview is the revelation that Madoff earned as much as $100 million a year from the legitimate part of his business -- market making -- before his Ponzi scheme ever began.

Think about that. Adjusted for inflation, Madoff was making the equivalent of $550,000 per day from legitimate sources. The guy was rolling. He had everything. Tons of money. Several homes. A family who adored him. Peers who idolized him -- the epitome of success. Yet he apparently wanted more so badly that it was worth tearing the throats out of his friends and family, spending the rest of his life in prison, and even sparking the death of his son, who committed suicide in December. It's spectacularly confusing.

Explain it to me
To a certain extent, theft -- white collar or otherwise -- makes sense for those who are truly desperate. Warren Buffett once noted that, despite his commitment to ethics, he wouldn't rule out holding up a store if he were broke, had two sick kids at home, and an empty kitchen. You do what you gotta do. It's why there's a correlation between poverty and crime.

But to quote Buffett again, who once ridiculed a different group of defunct financiers: "To make money they didn't have and didn't need, they risked what they did have and did need. And that's foolish. It is just plain foolish. If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just does not make any sense."

When people like Gupta and Madoff, who were already rich beyond belief, steal from others (indirectly or literally), you have to ask: What is the motive? Is it power? Maybe, but both already had layers of power before they misbehaved. Maybe they feel above the law? Could be, although Madoff mentioned before his arrest that, "In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules." Maybe they're just clinical sociopaths? Perhaps, but I'm not convinced it's that simple.

There's something else. For some reason, these people don't feel like they have enough. Many, many of us don't, even when we should. Why, I don't know. I'll ask for your help in a second.

Here's what we do know. In the field of positive psychology, the study of what motivates people and makes us happy, researchers are mostly in agreement: Money isn't the key to happiness. What really gives people meaning and happiness is a combination of four things: Control over what they're doing, progress in what they're pursuing, being connected with others, and being part of something they enjoy that's bigger than themselves.

Keep that in mind, and I want to ask you: What is enough? How much is enough money? How much is enough success? There's no right answer; everyone's different. Just share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Procter & Gamble. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Procter & Gamble is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (137) | Recommend This Article (305)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 12:22 PM, mkriegel wrote:

    Best article I've read in a long, long time.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 1:01 PM, cmfhousel wrote:

    mkriegel, thanks!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 2:15 PM, cgscouten wrote:

    Pleasure to read something original, insightful and well-written! Somehow it seems that integrity has left the building - finance and firms where financial people and principles have replaced traditional values of honesty, truthfulness and respect foir others (ok, the Golden Rule). Two values that at first seem shared - dedication and loyalty - apear pointed in different directions for financal and non-financial types. Dedication for the non-financial person usually means striving to improve the firm's long-term health. That means profits + people + products (goods or services. Driven by finance, dedication means profit at the cost of all else. Likewise for loyalty. Loyalty to nothing but profit may lead to success against that goal, but a pyrrhic vistory in life. Desctruction of self-esteem in such a victory may be what drives the criminal behavior you point out.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 4:55 PM, TMFTypeoh wrote:

    I've asked myself this question many, many times.

    What is enough?

    To me, enough, defined as a dollar amount, is $10 million.

    You could easily live a lavish, but not super extravagant lifestyle off of the dividends/interest (easily), have a few nice homes, invest for pleasure, give to whatever.

    "social" enough is simply having 4 very close friends, 20 close but not too close friends, and a hundred or so acquaintances.

    "family" enough is a spouse who loves you for who you are, and kids who feel the same way.

    "career" enough, is being able to look forward to whatever you are going to do every day, and surround yourself with people who you enjoy, yet challenge you, daily.

    Anything beyond the above, and your tipping the fulfillment scale too far to the right.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:00 PM, patrails wrote:

    Money can't buy love, money can't buy happyness, but money can buy freedom.

    It is curious that all the wealthy people you mentioned didn't think to spend their money on freedom.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:00 PM, GreenPhotog wrote:

    A great read, thanks. The Four Things which give People Meaning and Happiness should be posted on billboards so people have to read them regularly.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:06 PM, racchole wrote:

    I second that this is the best article I've read in a long time, and not just from Fools, but from all the worthless websites that I visit.

    These people clearly do not see the bigger picture, that being anything more than what is going on for them. This type of foolishness comes from a lack of perspective and awareness of life, the world, and the inners of themselves. People who have a wider ranger of experiences are lucky because they generally have further developed perspectives on every day life. These millionaires have clearly missed out on something, and its probably different for each of them. They all made bad decisions for different reasons, and only they can find the answer because its inside their heads. Doctors can help with that. I'd like to see a psychoanalytic interview with Madoff to discover what f'ed him up so badly.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:16 PM, bigdogs29 wrote:

    Sounds like the KOCH brothers..when is enough, enough? Till you decimate a whole class of america? Everyone is in agreemant that the middle class is under attack. Don't they...?

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:18 PM, Bobjitsu wrote:

    Wow, the best article I've ever read on here, seriously.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 5:50 PM, jordandrahota1 wrote:

    Very good article, a perspective many have forgotten. I think we are all in this site for the same reasons, money, but not to use it all the same way. Some to get as rich as possible and never find enough, and others to get to the point where they can find the enough realm and live happily off it.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:04 PM, rkumar1000 wrote:

    Indeed a great article. I also like the comments written by typeoh above, about how much is enough.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:38 PM, MajorBob04 wrote:

    First, excellent article! As others have already stated - but worth repeating - one of the best articles I've read in a long, long time.

    Should be required reading for anyone with a net worth in the top 5% of any country . . .

    I don't agree with the part of Buffett's comment (robbing a store), but I agree with his perspective that it's foolish to risk important things for unimportant things.

    To me, this article begs the question: "What's important"? and "Why are we all trying to invest to make more money?"

    @Typeoh: great perspective on what's "enough"!

    I will keep this article and Typeoh's comments in front of me every day. Now it's time to go spend time with my family and friends. I've spent ENOUGH time on this computer!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:44 PM, mythshakr wrote:

    For me $1.25M.

    The question is, will $1.25M come first or my 65th birthday? Then, either way, I will walk away from all this competitive BS that I absolutely detest and do the things I have waited 40+ years to do. Money is a means to an end and freedom from the day-to-day banality of profession and business is the end.

    I so look forward to doing nothing but watching sunrises and sunsets, 2 in a row or 50, without a concern about things not done in the interim. To watch snow fall and wind blow without a care as to its effects. And yes, even just to watch water boil, just to see if a watched pot does eventually boil, and watch paint dry. That's "enough" for me.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:44 PM, Ax7777 wrote:

    Excellent article. I currently live and work in a country where many, many people have no electricity or running water in their houses. They walk to work or use public transportation. No savings; jobs come and go. 46% unemployment. And many, many of these folks are simply happy and content with their lives. I look in the mirror and see nothing but stress -- gotta do something about that!!!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:46 PM, beechtree1 wrote:

    Bring into the school curriculum courses on how to build a fulfilling life that makes you feel secure,

    valued, capable... all those sentiments that would

    fill a human being with self-esteem.

    Self-esteem helps release one's potential, helps

    make you think about others, make you want to

    share. And if you're lucky, and you hit the jackpot,

    you put all your money in a charitable foundation,

    you work to save the word, and you go about dressed from head to toe in gloriously exquisite

    GLORY. Alleluia.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 6:55 PM, Johnwzee wrote:

    "Enough?" the ability to help all my grandkids get a college education. Enough to fly first class any time to visit friends and family.

    Enough to be able to pay for Medical bills without worry. Enough to really support some of my favorite charities. Enough to have those that I have helped say "He will be missed" after I'm gone.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 7:00 PM, valkery wrote:

    I was happy when I was young and broke with two little kids to take care of. My husband and I were both younger and had better health.

    Back then, my parents were still alive and I was around my two sons all the time, stayed at home to take care of them, and got to do more hobbies and I did not have to spend too much time bookkeeping.

    Now I spend more time bookkeeping trying to keep track of the assets and I don't particularly like to do bookkeeping and tax returns are a major pain to do now.

    But, I do have a job I really enjoy but it is not in a very high paying industry and my husband still works so we are able to save some now and then.

    I am happy with the financial set up we have now, but if I could make more money, I would like to be able to do it so I could donate a big wad to charity after I leave this earth. And of course the bigger the wad, the more potential good might come of it.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 7:03 PM, maestrotvagabond wrote:

    Thanks for posting such an interesting article.

    I think it's a great question that you pose. It's not one that's easy to pin down in terms of a dollar sign, because I think that few people get to the place in a society which values "more" where they can say. "No thanks, I'm good." It's a hunger without a stomach to tell you it's full.

    I think there's a large philosophical argument to be made here that is connected to John Stewart Mill's discussion of freedom. Although he was talking about freedom, I think it would be fair to make an analogous argument about wealth. Perhaps your wealth is enough when your accumulation of wealth means that others cannot get by.

    It is outrageous to give tax cuts to the wealthiest percentile in our country while demanding that the sliding middle class gives back a slice of their already small piece of the pie. Their wealth has come on the backs of those who are just scraping by, and I presume Mill would agree that that's quite enough indeed.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 7:22 PM, noobtery wrote:

    Best TMF

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 7:48 PM, trish28117 wrote:

    I'm a big fan of TMF "philoshopher" --well written and well worth reading.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 7:51 PM, trish28117 wrote:

    Sorry,I meant philosopher..

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 8:08 PM, Kiffit wrote:

    I don't think there are any deep philosophical issues here; just some rather ordinary psychology. Once one has made more than enough money to meet all ones possessional fantasies, the exercise becomes like a game of monopoly, or a video game. It is an abstraction and a virtual reality experience for the player, but very absorbing. It can swallow the player into a metanormality where ordinary touchstones of real behavior do not matter.

    All that matters is the game and if that means playing with rules-on-steroids, that makes it all the more interesting and challenging.

    Adolph Eichmann put it rather succinctly when referring to his own extraordinary crimes when he said, "A hundred deaths are a catastrophe, a million are a statistic".

    What is interesting about this kind of mega-criminality is that once the perpetrators are removed from their institutional context, whether it be as family people, micro-community members, or the subjects of court action that hold them to account, they are so very 'ordinary'; the loving husband, the nice neighbor next door, the man who was just obeying orders, or doing things that seemed so clever and enterprising at the time.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 9:26 PM, dlomax77 wrote:

    Great article, Morgan, but you're missing the factor that every financial writer has ignored. Getting away with a crime is a compelling motivator for some people, regardless of how much they already have.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 9:50 PM, t0bes wrote:

    Excellent article. It's difficult to decide when you have enough, but unbelievable how the likes of Madoff hadn't worked that out!

    We aren't rich but I have a lot more now than I did a few years ago. It's no longer paycheck to paycheck, but I also have a bigger mortgage, another car, kids who will need to go to college and so on.

    With those commitments It wouldn't take much of a glitch to send things back the other way.

    So although I feel like I'm on a runaway train I can't think about getting off for many years yet.

    All too easy to get swept along and miss the journey though. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 9:59 PM, BruceHBi wrote:

    I've sometimes asked myself a variation on that question "how much is enough?": How much would you have to steal, or otherwise take illegally, to make it worth giving up your entire life as you know it [which I always assume would happen sooner or later] and not live a financially destitute life? It pleases me to know I will never have the opportunity to steal that much. It also pleases me to know how much my life as I experience it is worth to me.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 10:23 PM, tkingsley1002 wrote:

    Fantastic article!

    I wonder if it Is really a question of "enough" or is that they move so far past "enough" that they think they are above everyone else and can do no wrong - even if it is illegal!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 10:30 PM, johnpaskell wrote:

    Great article. For me, it was just enough actual dollars (and enough total net worth) to take the pressure off, which allowed me to have peace, serenity, happiness and enjoy the world and people around me. Striving for more than that is a waste, but that's me.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 10:38 PM, Alfredodos wrote:

    Health is wealth and laying in a prison cell with potential lonely "bunk mates" doesn't sound too healthy!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 10:43 PM, mchev08 wrote:

    Terrific article.

    The need for extreme wealth is a behavioral disorder.

    Similar to over -eating, sex addicts and power mongers --all to compensate for other inadequacies or lack.

    In some people, an obsessive compulsive order takes over rational thought and the brain goes on "auto pilot" without check. Most of these activities are done in secrecy.

    As an obese, politically prominent wealthy person with a sexual addiction, I can verify this.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 11:35 PM, NSIdaho wrote:


    You've written a lot of great articles, but congrats on this one. Not just for what you wrote but also for the great responses you elicited. It's a nice reminder that TMF is not just about the money.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 11:39 PM, ahuelsbeck wrote:

    Thank you Housel! Great Article!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 12:59 AM, rv3lynn wrote:

    Wow man. You sure touched a chord with this one.

    For me, I never needed to be rich, I just wanted to be free.

    Financial freedom helps you to be free, but is not the end all to be all.

    Great write!!!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 1:40 AM, foolisle wrote:

    How about a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 4:05 AM, alaninkl wrote:

    a great article..

    but too bad..the world is wired this way...i would say majority of the human race is looking for better life...more than before..and to be different from the past....

    once you're different you'll will repeat the same process...


    2. more

    3. be different...

    us human are doomed.....and there's nothing we can do about it... try asking all the top 100 richest people in the world to donate all their money to feed the poor who doesnt even have clear water to drink...

    maybe foolisle is right....a relationship with christ....maybe he should come now as mentiioned in revelation....judgement day...

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 4:23 AM, Raambo20 wrote:

    Very very nice article, I have often pondered the same question myself on many an occasion. This article really got me thinking about it even more however, and I thank you for that.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 7:25 AM, drillerjim101 wrote:

    One of the greatest secrets of life is learning the art of true contentment, whether rich or poor. And I count myself most blessed having lived a life of both.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:07 AM, uaku wrote:

    Its tough to find how much is enough. No matter what electronic number you have in the bank, it can never bring happiness if you don't know what makes you happy.

    For me I want to have $100 in my pocket so that I can take care of some daily needs and a good book to read on my recliner or watch a good movie on TV. When I am doing that I am really contented and what number is in my bank account does not even occur to me. If I can do this for rest of my life then I can think I found out what happiness means.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:24 AM, JaneBond wrote:

    What I have found out about some of these guys, including Maddoff, is that they wanted to be esteemed as great philanthropists by whatever group they wanted to assoicate themselves with. In Maddoff's case, and those at the top of his pyramid scheme, crossing the line of integrity and stealing other people's money (not their own) through elaborate schemes and or insider trading was simply a noble lie, in their minds. Those they considered worthy benefited, those who were just in it "for the money" whose station in life was just to invest and save enough to take care of their own needs, got what was coming to them (to these "great" minds, anyway.

    Nothing new ,really,, these feudal lords of the universe.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:49 AM, mcbridefutures wrote:

    Being part of something thats bigger than themselves. Solomon wrote several thousand years ago - Life is futile. There is no long lasting happiness or satisfaction in this world. Never has been and never will be. Many go from one goal to another until they have no more goals bigger than the last and they turn to things that may destroy them. Many may not believe or understand that we all have souls and our only satisfaction will come from seeing Christ face to face.

    Foolisle I appreciate you saying what you have and when people see that happiness cannot be found in our own pursuits but in a true relationship with Christ.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 9:22 AM, schoenyman wrote:

    Great atrticle. Another word your don't hear is content, as with being content with the things that you have. What a concept.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 10:02 AM, RLR0528 wrote:

    Very thought-provoking artice, thanks.

    Reminds me of a saying I once read somewhere: "Money won't buy you love (read:happiness), but it'll rent you some nifty companions."!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 10:10 AM, Tinu wrote:

    I have always believed that people who are 'over rich' are addicts. They are driven by the same forces that cause others to grossly over eat and take drugs beyond their ability to maintain control of their lives. Why we let person so out of control rule our country is the mystery to me.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 10:51 AM, valabee wrote:

    Very thought provoking. I wonder if I'll know it when I get there?

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 11:10 AM, rdebo wrote:

    Bravo on the article. I beleive the average person always wants more. Its the Game. Thats why we invest or work more or longer than we should. For some we need the extra money, for others its thats extra sense of security. Like my friend says, "the more I have the more I think I need."

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 11:28 AM, beechtree1 wrote:

    Dear kiffit, you seem to equate extraordinarily wealthy people with criminals. I think you're terribly

    wrong in such an assumption. In order to accumulate extraordinary riches you need time. You need to stay the course and have the mental and physical

    stamina and passion in order to do so. A relatively

    clear conscious helps with the mental fortitude, the

    adrenaline that comes about with success kind of snowballs the passion and physical stamina.

    It happens gradually and you adapt yourself to it. The psychology changes. Your motives for continuing change. Ask the likes of Bill Gates to tell you what happens at the point when you decide to save the world. I'm not there yet.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 1:18 PM, luckynie wrote:

    I assume some of you have enough already; perhaps your house is paid off, you have enough savings in the bank to get you through rough times for 3-10 years, a good job, investments, 401K savings, health, etc., but yet you might still want more. I have some of these things already, but not all of them and not enough either. If I lose my job I don't have enough savings to keep my house for more than 3-4 months--I'm young so I have many years to go before I feel I have enough to be able to sleep at night without worries. I don't worry as much today because I can pay my obligations and try not to have many. But then again, I remind myself that am in a better place compared to others, but this can be taken away if I were to lose my job. As someone pointed out, the key here is to know when enough is enough. All I want is to be able to sleep at night without worries: Being debt free, having 10-15 year of gross income in savings, a 10-15 gross income in a 401K account, a paid house, a job that I enjoy doing, living in a free society, and being illness free, I think that's enough for me.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 1:20 PM, Allen168 wrote:

    People have Money, and the four combination of happiness, the next thing they have to do is be above the law

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 1:29 PM, dkoontz wrote:

    We measure the wrong things in life. Like measuring GDP - wrong measure (and a poor measure at that).

    Try educating your self on what to measure - Happiness.

    Don't think it can not be done - it is being done. We could measure it better - sure. But who was it that said: Be careful what you measure, one will surely find it; be careful what you reward, one will surely get it. What happens if one measures National Happiness?

    What happens if we learn to *game* the National Happiness measure?

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 1:34 PM, luckynie wrote:

    Does it make you happy to have a pile of bills and no money to pay them? Unfortunately, money does not make one happy, but it sure helps.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 2:00 PM, blackjakk wrote:

    Why do people eat more than they need?

    Why do people stuff themselves and become so fat that they cannot walk on their own and need to be wheeled around.

    These are examples of obesity in the financial sense. They just can't stop eating.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 2:11 PM, sanran7 wrote:

    Great article and confirms something I heard long ago that many highly successful people will subconsciously derail their own success because they either don't enjoy what they are doing in life or feel they don't deserve the success they have achieved. Many Hollywood celebrities have fallen into this self-destructive behavior and many "Wall Street" celebrities do the same. The issue is not "what is enough" stuff, but how the person views "success". Ultimately, the constant pursuit of "stuff" will never satisfy since there's no way to own everything ... once you realize that God owns it all, then you see the folly of trying to "own the universe". It's not about us, it's about God, and God accepts us as we are through Jesus Christ.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 3:29 PM, Thaeger wrote:

    There is a school of thought that says greed is merely a subset of fear--specifically, the fear of one day not having enough. Think of someone who has experienced famine, or for whom food was a very irregular luxury (ie, a prisoner of war). Even in times of plenty, they might hoard food, because they will always remember--and always fear--those times where they were did not have enough of it.

    And society is relentless in its reminders of what happens if we do not have enough wealth. We try to ignore them--for instance, instinctively avoiding eye contact with the homeless, pushing them out of our sight and minds. Yet these reminders are always lurking in the shadows of our thoughts, and thus we are driven by this fear of one day not having enough. Enough to raise a family, to pay for medicine, for food, and shelter. Enough to keep us from becoming just another nameless, faceless castoff of society, in spite of all our efforts and hard work.

    And one must remember that, as fear itself is hardly rational, neither is the greed spawned within its dark bowels. Thus the more wealth we have, the more we fear its loss, and the more we are driven to seek ever greater layers of insulating wealth and power to provide us that elusive, perhaps illusory, sense of security.

    Perhaps then, the only way to have 'enough' is to have nothing that you fear the loss of to begin with?

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 3:44 PM, sydisquid wrote:

    Hubris is what it is called.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 3:48 PM, steveG1967 wrote:

    In all fairness, money does not measure intelligence or wisdom. Often money is only a measure of your willingness to pursue it.

    My grandfather was not wealthy, he remains the smartest person I ever knew.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 3:55 PM, martianrealist wrote:

    How much is enough money?

    Not sure if I am in the minority, but I personally consider myself to have enough right now. I am not rich by any measure but I am probably better off than 90% of my fellow Americans. My wife and I combined make a little over 200K and we are in our early 30s. If we both lost our jobs today, we probably could pay our mortgage and bills and get by for about 2 years. That's all the savings we have. We live in a reasonable 4 bedroom house and drive a Toyota Corolla and Honda Accord respectively (2 and 6 years old).

    I spend exactly 0% of my time thinking about how to get ahead at my work place, what "stuff" to buy next, whether to remodel my kitchen or upgrade my car, what my friends and relatives own or buy or how I am doing in comparison to others. I compete only against myself and my sense of achievement comes by measuring how I did compared to myself yesterday.

    So, in short, all I would wish for, is to maintain the same income for the rest of my career, adjusted for inflation. I may never be "rich" in the traditional sense of the term but if someone were to conduct a comprehensive unbiased survey, I would figure in the top 0.1% of the most content and happiest people on this planet and would be ranked ahead of most millionaires :-)

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 3:55 PM, Yhael wrote:

    Love the article!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 4:18 PM, PoorBloke wrote:

    But isn't this the same as an adrenalin craving or a similar need?

    Winona Ryder's shoplifting?

    Charlie Sheen's philandering?

    When you have struggled against incredible odds through life to get "enough",and then realise that you do finally have "enough" then maybe you seek more and different challenges.

    Spending the rest of your life sipping beers on a beach isn't a future that most people would enjoy for more than a month or two, and particularly people like the ones cited in the article.

    Their values are warped, but I can understand the need for a new drug to keep them stimulated. which In their cases is breaking the law.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 5:09 PM, patlamb41 wrote:

    t can be an addiction like drugs,sex,alcohol etc. When I was a child I remmember thinking I just wanted enough to get by. What does a 10-12 year old know about life? As I grew older I forgot what thought as a child, because I started making money.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 5:23 PM, minionr wrote:

    I always told my kids: food, clothing shelter love. Once you have those the rest is gravy.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 6:34 PM, vesseman wrote:

    I have been unemployed since September, corporate mismanagement, political and economic cycles.

    This has never happened to me before.

    It is good to see the criminally greedy, get theirs.

    Maybe these people should not be rewarded so greatly. Possibly they would be more level headed.

    Good stewards are greatly appreciated.

    Enough is to survive the hardship, maintaining without losing and get back to work!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 7:55 PM, zoopsia63 wrote:

    I am retired now, and I truly miss my former life as a court reporter. Every day of my 45 years was a continuous learning experience. I miss my daily contacts with many of the best attorneys in the U.S., miss the challenge of verbatim reporting of complex medical depositions. My career was enough to satisfy me. Money is only a means to an end. It is enough to be happy and content. It is enough to help others to be happy and content. I was and continue to be truly blessed.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:10 PM, txposse wrote:

    I see that people of great wealth believe they are no longer accountable to the rules that bind the rest of us. I see desperate acts committed by the lowest socio- economic group to the highest levels of government. I myself have been a victim of robbery from wealthy millionaires to my poorest family members. The effects are devastating to the producers in the community. I believe our country is more at risk at this time for acts of communism not terrorism. Every man needs to guard himself.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:17 PM, GreenPhotog wrote:

    Happiness is riding a stock higher making money off consumers buying- you pick: clothes, software, autos, etc.- stuff which really doesn't matter in the final analysis.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 8:32 PM, AlphaVolume wrote:

    great article. just as in anything in life, balance is crucial in investing and wealth.

    Money will never make you happy. but not having money will make you unhappy.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 9:47 PM, Aislabie wrote:

    I am certain that this is nothing to do with more money - this is just about winning.

    Some people can't help being competitive about all things at all times and it is a particularly admired trait in the US.

    "Nice guys finish last" is a phrase that could only have come from the US. The drive to succeed has carried the US a long way, but it has its dark side.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 10:00 PM, Chemsoldier88 wrote:

    Money doesn't buy happiness... really? Have you ever seen a homeless person skip? No. Have you ever seen a person on a jetski frown? No.

    Great article though, seriously.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 1:57 AM, inkstainedwretch wrote:

    "Have you ever seen a homeless person skip?"

    Yes, but I'm fairly certain there was some pharmaceutical intervention.

    "No. Have you ever seen a person on a jet ski frown? No."

    Counter question: have you ever seen sober person ride a jetski? Well, there you go.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 8:52 AM, dadb2 wrote:

    Enough? Id have to say enough health to enjoy family, friends and life in general. People who focus on just making money or power are missing some of the fine things life has to offer , case in point, I held my grandson last night till he fell asleep snuggled tightly to my chest (priceless). Thanks for the great article and keep up the good work.

    PS Just be thankfull for what you do have and remember to be generous to others in need.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 9:52 AM, bouillabaisse wrote:

    The article is refreshing. After working in different roles, being jaded about the pursuit of American dream, achieving most yet yearning for more, I feel a strong sense of accomplishment, considering little success and having "enough" of health, wealth, freedom of doing what you can do and much better than homeless and fresh-from-boat refugees 30 years ago. Enough, smilar to youth, is a state of mind, one can make it whatever it is enjoyable and comfortable as one wishes. The trick is it does take some wisdom to make a balanced chocie, so that it is not too mundane or lofty. Thanks again for providing "enough" sustainability for a few days worth before reality of harsh life besieges again!

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 11:50 AM, predfern wrote:

    Money means security, freedom from want, luxury and refinement. Make friends with money and you will always have it. You can never have enough. My High School American History teacher used to say that people can't stand prosperity.

    God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17)

    I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10)

    Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 12:17 PM, KingOfPizza wrote:

    We're biologically driven to always pursue more, especially men. As few as 10,000 years ago, it was practically impossible to have an excess of wealth - if one did, it probably was a bit of left over meat or vegetables that only lasted a few weeks. Wealth was fleeting and required a constant effort to obtain more, lest one get caught without enough and perish.

    All of us are still driven to constantly strive for more wealth. The difference is that we've become an educated, civilized society where we understand the source of our urges and can choose to ignore them.

    Except some of us can't. I'd wager that most highly successful people don't know when enough is enough; their drive for more is never-ending and it sometimes backfires dramatically.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 12:47 PM, Rowlando100 wrote:

    Good Article! How do you calculate when you have enough?

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 12:47 PM, ChemBaby wrote:

    About 10 million means I could quit my job! That would be my price of freedom and mental and physical health.

    First, I would repair and remodel my house and little farm.

    Then I would divide my time making short travels seeing the beautiful things in this world with growing gardens and raising critters to share with others. (in other words, raise food to sell off the farm)

    It would give me much pleasure to make donations to improve the welfare of others by donating to boys and girls clubs, 4-H, Lions, scholarships, tipping big, donating to charity drives for families of medical emergencies, church relief projects, donations in lieu of flowers etc... Lots of little donations that don't go to the executives who run charities.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 1:33 PM, seerwise wrote:

    I read a story by Leo Tolstoy when I was probably 10 years old. I recommend everyone read this very well written story as it will remind you what greed does each time you forget. The title of the story is

    "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

    It tells the story of a man who comes across a place in Eastern Russia with very attractive vistas. He asked a local if he could get some land there and was told he could have all the land he could encircle between sunrise and sunset, free, but he must get back to his starting point before the sun sets.So the man sets out the next morning and to summarize, because of his greed at covering more acreage, he has to start running at the end and just as he reaches the end he has a heart attack and drops dead. They dug a six ft by two ft ditch to bury him.

    So how much land does a man need?

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 1:59 PM, truman1987 wrote:

    It's never enough. People who think they will be satisfied once they hit 1 or even 10 millionare kidding themselves. Once they get there, they will want more. I always wanted to be worth a million, when it happened, it was no big thrill.

    My daughter came in 50th in a regional race, the top 7 went to nationals and although she had a fantastic race and I was proud of her hard work, I found myself wishing that she was in that top group. But then I thought about it and I realized that maybe the top 3 at nationals would have a shot at running among the elite in college and maybe every couple of years or so one of those runners would make the Olympics and maybe once in 20 years one of them would win a gold medal. And I thought, no matter how good my daughter was, it would never be good enough. I took a deep breath and I was kind of glad that she didn't finish in the top 7.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 2:14 PM, carso295 wrote:

    I read an opinion article in the Washington Post a few days ago and have to write an argument essay on it. The article was called "Why Smart People do Dumb Things?" This is a dumb question. Their are several things that can qualify as intelligence from kinesthetic intelligence that athletes have to moral intelligence that Mother Teresa had, to political or social intelligence that ex-president Ronald Reagan had. Their is also financial intelligence. This list could go on. Most people can have a few of these but can not have all of them because all of these things have to be learned and no one has time to learn them all. Moral intelligence is not something that is very important for most until its to late to correct and learn. Their are no atheists in a fox hole and their are no god fearing men when they think they can get away with murder.

    I think that people might act more responsible if everyone lived to be 500 yrs old because prison sentences would be harder and far less people would smoke and treat their own bodies and friends like disposables because everyone would have more time to reflect on all the things they feel regret for and the feeling of regret builds character. I know I am just as guilty as everyone else in the right situations.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 3:01 PM, Lawyist wrote:

    Yes, great article!

    My mother used to say "He's got more money than sense," about people who did stupid things. And I always used to wonder, how much is that?

    I guess we now have some guidance.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 3:46 PM, Tygered wrote:

    Well, I have heard somewhere that we should pray for our daily bread. I take that to mean, we should have enough "bread" (money to you youngsters out there) to buy the things we need. That is about as much as I have and I'm pretty happy. I have a roof over my head, food on my plate, gas for the car and some money for beer and movies. What more do you really need?

    Ok, I have enough to do some day trading and that gives me all the excitement I need. LOL.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 4:05 PM, fooloz wrote:

    If the US had a more reliable security net, like other western countries, so when the hurricane, the earthquake, the flood, the cancer, the disease or any other uncontrollable event hits it would not wipe you out, and might help control the urge that whatever you have is never enough.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 6:57 PM, jimmy4040 wrote:

    I would pose an alternate explanation. It's not what is enough, but how do you turn off "drive".

    The consistent factor in those who "succeed" in life (whatever their chosen field) is drive.

    However it is the ultimate two edged sword in that there is no off button.

    A classic example is Ty Cobb. Perhap the most driven ballplayer ever, he was according to many measures an extraordinarily successful person, but in that of the values of being human, not. Yet, he had no capacity to stop being that person.

    I met Whitey Witt many years ago, a contemporary of both Babe Ruth and Cobb. He said that the difference between them was that Ruth could enjoy his success but Cobb never could. He said that most ballplayers who went 2-5 would think they had a good day, but that Cobb would stew over the 3 times he made an out.

    Why do Warren Buffet or Kirk Kerkorian still make deals? Because that's their first thought in the morning, and their last thought at night, who they are as a person. It's all about drive!

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 10:12 PM, PeterGriffin77 wrote:

    Well it's obvious that "enough" for one is not "enough" for another. In the case of the aforementioned defendent and Madoff, I think to them, everything in their professional career is a zero sum game ... similar to what Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko explained in the movie "Wall Street".

    90% of their lives are spent trying to "make a buck" on a daily basis. This is either for them, their Corporations, shareholders, whomever.

    When opportunities come along for a "sure bet", I just don't think many of them can resist. Just too tempting and too easy (to make the $). The repercussions don't even enter their logic, as there isn't any.

    In other words, it's very much operating from the "id" and "ego" with a heavy emphasis on the "id" in the heat of the moment.

    I'd bet the majority of Wall Street "players" violate insider trading laws regularly, however only a small percentage actually get caught.

    Just the nature of the beast.

    Anyway, my .02.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2011, at 11:28 PM, CLUELESSINLUXEM wrote:

    I appreciate the honesty of a man such as Warren Buffet saying that were he to find himself flat broke and with a pair oa screaming kids and empty larder,that he would consider raiding a shop.My question is,should the situation arise,does he not have enough friends ,wealthy or otherwise to help him out or put up a stake for him to start over.Remember Jimmy Stewart in "a Wonderful Life"Amans value is directly conected to his values,and if those are wanting then friends will be hard to come by.So Mr.Buffet,don't do anything stupid and you won't ever have to raid the shop.I've said ENOUGH.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 3:05 AM, Scott911 wrote:

    When asked by a youngster what one should do to become a success, Warren Buffett gave a seldom publicized response: "I think anybody who is loved by those whom he wishes to be loved by is a success." I agree. That is enough.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 5:21 AM, YoungFool37 wrote:


    I've done the math, and I believe that is the number at which passive income from relatively safe capital investment surpasses the level beyond which my quality of life improves in only negligible ways. Obviously such a number floats freely in a given instant based on the state of the economy.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 6:46 AM, dillon53 wrote:

    When "enough" is not enough, it becomes an obsession to add and add and add, or a thrill to prove oneself, or angst to eventually run out of money. I believe it is a sickness as much as the flu or cancer. And, perhaps, it could be that the amount of Dollars made is not the issue, rather to have produced something more.

    I have an uncle who started with nothing, gambled and won millions, then came to his sister's invitation 3 hours late. His excuse, while showing her his just attained additional gambling winning of approx. $250K, was the trip to the casino. Meanwhile, the cake's whipping creme had melted, the baby to be shown for the first time was kranky, and everybody had grown very upset.

    I know he loves his older sister, my mother. But he loves himself the most. Knowing she has no financial security to speak of, he never gave her a single penny. He lives in Australia now, by himself, and has lost his wife, child, sister, mother-- his entire family over his greed.

    Why? Why? Why?

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 7:14 AM, coatails wrote:

    wow, as a new member (less than one year) i'm shocked and happy to see how many comments your article generated. seems all have thoughts on the subject and choose to post them.

    for me well i'm retired, soon to be a widower, and about to change my life. with less than half of what you say madoff earned in a day i will spend the rest of my life, fishing, fly fishing, reading, playing poker, riding my motorcycle in the mountains and just relaxing while investing via the stock picks provided here. a simple life with limited stress. my investing goals are simple out run what little i spend and leave some, but not too much, for my two grown daughters.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 7:43 AM, andyzhu wrote:


  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 9:15 AM, north9nj wrote:

    40 years ago i was in the navy seabees. i made about $50 a week. i was in guam. i was tan and 150 lbs with a shock of thick blonde hair. i worked hard and played hard. i had enough! now $50 was what i made a hour before i retired. between me and you i'd like to be that tan skinny kid with $50 bucks in his pocket and the world by the balls. (that blonde hair is long gone.)

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 11:15 AM, jPfizzle88 wrote:

    Dear Lord, please give me exactly what I need to survive. If I have too much, I will become proud, and I will discredit the Lord for the blessings that I have received. If I have too little, I will become angry, and question Your power.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 12:32 PM, mtf00l wrote:

    I've answered this on other blogs before...

    $1.5 billion

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 12:37 PM, ilovesumm wrote:

    shoot em if they steal more than 5 million and take all their money + from wives.

    madoff hurt more people than a murderer,

    why not capital punishment ?

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 12:37 PM, sethdye01 wrote:

    This was a good article, good job Morgan. If your standard of living is modest, then a decent return is more than enough.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 12:57 PM, TMFCatB wrote:

    Love it, north9nj.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 1:52 PM, Nightsite wrote:

    Thanks for such a great column Morgan. And so many great responses (expecially typeoh).

    It may be that those mentioned did not just suddenly become criminals, but rather started on that slippery slope by constantly trying new and never before conceived techniques. It could be difficult to pinpoint just where they stepped over the border. They are both highly driven type A personalities probably not driven by wealth. To quote a line from the TV show "Maverick" --

    "Money's just a way of keeping score."

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 3:00 PM, badnicolez wrote:

    Fantastic article!

    I think many people would be shocked to their very core by what some of us consider "enough." They don't realize that all their stuff prevents them from ever having peace or freedom.

    You can't be at peace when you're too worried about your stuff. You can't have freedom when you're a slave to income you need just to acquire more stuff. And where does all that "stuff" ultimately end up? In the trash (worst-case), given to charity (best-case), or sold for a fraction of the cost on Craigslist or at a yard sale, all the while sucking up valuable (and limited) resources along the way.

    I earn, save and invest money to purchase my freedom so I can simplify my life and have more peace and someday soon. Peace and freedom are "enough" for me.

    I feel very fortunate to have learned that less is more and smaller is better early enough in my life that it has been easy to convert from consumer to investor.

    I now savor my comfy old clothes, my well-worn furniture and my beat-up but reliable old cars, knowing all of these things are contributing to my future freedom every day.

    @fooloz: are you really trying to say that if the US had more/better welfare, public housing, government health care and food stamps, these two turds would not have done what they did?!

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 4:37 PM, Duke5343 wrote:

    Not so sure i agreee with the 4 steps to get to be so greedy- a wise man told me it is EGO, people are driven by their egos like some thieves steal just for the thrill

    The greedy ego driven do not understand the difference between Money & Wealth

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 5:14 PM, masterN17 wrote:

    Dear Morgan,

    You are now officially my favorite Fool writer.

    Dear other writers,

    I still love you, don't worry.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 7:52 PM, herky46q wrote:

    I have more than enough with an average American income. The trouble is always having to think about how to balance spending, saving and donating.

    Ultimately, how much money or things you have won't matter. If you don't have a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, you don't have anything.

    "Seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 7:55 PM, DDHv wrote:

    Neither my wife & I have earned over 20K/year, but have no debt, and enjoy life. Enough for us included "investing" in ways to keep costs down. Now that we are retired, we are donating about a quarter and investing about a quarter, especially when we can still see a way to keep costs down more.

    Have you heard the one about the poor man who had his rich friend stay over night with him? As he ushered him to where he was to sleep, he said, "If you need anything, anything at all, let me know, and I'll show you how to get along without it." ;-))

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 8:07 PM, beniwood wrote:

    The quantity "enough" appears to be relative. One of the biggest problems is that people who have what we can all agree is "a whole lot" surround themselves with others who also have "a whole lot," or maybe just a bit more, and by comparison they feel inadequate. Here is an interesting article from the Atlantic:

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 8:29 PM, marlene12244 wrote:

    Great article. it took me one quarter of a million dollars to figure this out. It stems from a deep deprivation. Probably on his mother's knee or lack thereof.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 8:38 PM, soycapital wrote:

    Posted above my desk:

    Watch your thoughts;they become words. Watch your words:they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2011, at 9:21 PM, foolees wrote:

    Just like investing, it is important to understand the fundamentals. A dictionary search of the word "enough" reveals other difficult concepts, like "desire", "want", and "need". Further analysis is required...but worth it.

    As a follower of Jesus Christ, I turn to the Biblical book of Proverbs which teaches me to ask for neither poverty nor riches. Only enough food that is my portion, so that I will not be full and deny God saying, "Who is the LORD?"....and yet enough so that I will not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.

    Us Fools may enjoy additional analysis:

    First Timothy 6 offers: Great Gain = Godliness + Contentment.

    Psalms 1 offers: Success in Everything = Avoiding certain places + delighting

    in God's law.

    LIke others, I must learn to be content in whatever circumstance I am in.

    Fool On...

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2011, at 1:26 PM, foolishbythebay wrote:

    Having worked for several of the uber-wealthy over my career I have pondered this very question on MANY occasions. I sit back and pity my bosses that have been worth $50 to $500 million - it is never enough. It is always "the next deal" and a constant drive for more - even being willing to "bend" the rules to get more. All of them have been divorced - most of their children are in therapy - because their priorities are completely out of whack. Once you make the dollar then the stress is keeping it and leveraging it to make the next one. I would not refer to any of them as "happy." True happiness = contentment.

    On the other hand, my husband and I have been married 25 years, by this country's standards we don't have a lot financially, but we are pretty comfortable and we have been able to travel some. We have a wonderful, well-adjusted and happy 21 year old son. The bible doesn't say money is the root of evil - it says "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil" I have seen so many people sacrifice the important things for that love. It also tells us how to be happy - Matthew 5:3 says "happy are those conscious of their spiritual need." Our creator knows our makeup and he explains to us how to be happy. Studying the bible helps us now and can preserve us in the future.

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2011, at 3:07 PM, Paulistano wrote:

    Interesting article. I think that deep down this kind of inexplicable greed has something to do with security.

    The Indian guy seems to have come from a modest background as did Madoff whom I read got a helping hand from his father-in-law when he started out in business. Even when they started coining money they couldn´t get enough to give them a sense of security.

    I would like to raise another point which I hope will not be seen as a criticism of my dear wife (or anybody else´s dear wife) but I come from a working class background and married a middle class woman.

    Although my wife has never once told me that she expected a certain living standard I was always aware that I had to aim at a level well above that I would have needed had I married a working class woman. Had I failed to do so then I would have let my wife down socially and am sure our marriage would have failed.

    Perhaps these two were also trying to impress their wives, parents-in-law and other relatives and friends.

    Chercher la femme!

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2011, at 4:53 PM, bd99 wrote:

    I don't remember who made the comment "money is just a measure of how well you do what you do". Maybe it was Warren Buffet.

    Was there enough science for Einstein? A limit to the compassion that Mother Theresa could offer? Were there too many paintings by Piccaso?

    None of these people got rich but they certainly pushed the limits of what they believed and wanted. They functioned at the extreeme of productivity in their field.

    Maybe financial success is similar, when you become successful at an activity, a human or animal or single cell must push the limit - evolve - become bigger, more powerful. That would be like the force of natural selection.

    If you become successful at greed, your DNA tells you to push the limit. If you succeed you breed and change the course of the species with you at the top. If you fail you are swept into oblivion.

    Ha! I shouldn't have smoked that stuff.

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2011, at 8:32 PM, dathompson wrote:

    This article is many orders of magnitude above any MF article of recent memory. A wonderful read and a very pleasant surprise.

    I have a quote on my trading workstation that help sme stay sane:

    "It's better to safe a 1,000 times than to be killed once."

    I saw that on a mountain climbing poster and figured it applied equally well to trading/investing ... and to life.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2011, at 5:28 PM, jberlat wrote:

    Thank god my house is paid for before I turned 45. We max out our retirements and save even more. We still get to travel and have a nice life. I am hoping when we are in our 60's we can spend $60,000 a year running around the world seeing things not possible when you have to work for a living.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2011, at 8:24 PM, abhijitmehta wrote:

    Greed in general is a cry for respect may be even dignity or perhaps a plea saying "acknowledge me by understanding me"(understanding is not agreeing).

    Freud said we are motivated by "will to pleasure".

    Alfred Alder theorised we are motivated by "will to power".

    Viktor Frankl proposed we are motivated by "will to meaning".

    However, I have observed that are deepest, darkest, scariest desire, is the desire to be understood.

    Again, understanding is not agreeing. Understanding is acknowledging the humanity in us with all our short comings.

    Have a great day !!!

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2011, at 11:51 PM, cmfhousel wrote:

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone. Glad this piece seems to have clicked with a few of you. Couldn't make me happier!


  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2011, at 8:28 AM, earlygirlretiree wrote:

    Money is a means to an end - to live well, eat well, love well, debt free so you don't have to worry. Typeoh's $10 Million would be excessive to me. I can do it for much, much less. Simplify and find that "enough" lifts a great burden from your shoulders that you didn't even know you were carrying around!

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2011, at 11:37 AM, Mary953 wrote:

    Morgan, your article is brilliant. I have spent much time reading the thought provoking responses which range from silly to sage. The thought I would add is that this is a question of whether you control your money (assets) or whether they control you.

    My enough is as follows:

    God and Christ - because I cannot handle dealing with the universe on my own. I need them daily.

    My family and the love they provide - they are a blessing beyond measure and no amount of money would take the place of even one. Madoff has my pity.

    Good health to enjoy my blessings.

    Good friends to be close by.

    We are looking at a retirement that is now quite close, so your question and our checklist of "to-dos" for retirement are actually a good question and answer.

    The rest of the checklist for retirement "enough":

    A paid for home in good repair and a couple of new cars so that as we retire, we can do so with a reasonable hope that no major money crisis will disrupt that.

    Long Term health insurance to take care of major medical needs in the distant future.

    Enough money that we can live off of the dividends/interest and pension and then leave an education fund for the grandkids.

    The chance to travel - a lot.

    A job that lets me continue to work a bit in an area I love, one that lets me help others. For me, genealogy is my fun hobby/job. I am already there on this one and on most of the others.

    I have reached enough. I am blessed and grateful. .

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2011, at 2:11 PM, DACircles wrote:

    Great article. I believe people do this type thing because they are not happy or fulfilled. It is the game and the way they keep score is in dollars. It is pure and simple competition and they will do whatever they need to do to win and damn the consequences.

    I have always lived in areas of the country with rather low cost of livings. I know that when I hit the point in my career 20 years ago when I was making about 75k a year, money no longer was a huge concern. All the trappings of daily life were easily covered, home, cars, vacations, dinners out, etc. Material possessions have never been a big deal. Family and time with them was always much more important then more possessions. Am I happy? yes. That is how I score in my game of life. Love, respect, ethics, compassion and good friends. You can't buy any of that by stealing and you may very well lose them all. I like the rules in my game better.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 2:29 PM, Marnoff wrote:

    Excellent, excellent article.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 2:34 PM, maddiehad wrote:

    I think the Madoffs and hedge fund mgrs of the world have totally bought into the concept that "things" make you happy and give you status in the eyes of your peers and those lesser down the social ladder. They discount all those "assets" that really make a person happy: close friends, family, etc. Maybe because they already have those and don't appreciate their value. Did you see how many Rolexes Madoff had that were auctioned off to pay his creditors?? Quite a few - with diamond, gold, platinum, you name it. Who in god's name needs more than 1 watch to tell time?? It's all a status thing, which I believe is a part of man's nature that needs to be tamed. What would make me happy, money-wise? A consistent $80,000/year after taxes. That would give me the freedom to do what I want ("control over what I'm doing"); the ability to help my family and friends when they need it; give to the three charities I support; and continue stress-free with my goals. Sounds paltry to someone like Madoff. . . but then again, I don't need more than one watch!

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 2:38 PM, billysnap wrote:

    With all due respect.

    Its only the poor that say Money isn't everything.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 3:22 PM, steveelcpo wrote:

    To me, "enough" is the ability to live comfortably, be able to pay my bills, spend time with my daughter, do some traveling every now and then, and live happily.

    The comments are also amazing. Presumably, these are all people who have enjoyed some measure of success, yet still manage to maintain a perspective. I like Mary953's comments, among many others.

    Its a question of priorities. To some, the goal of accumulating more and more and impressing your peers is more important than all the things that are really important.

    It's interesting to note that the issues raised in this article, perhaps the best I've ever read on Fool, are covered in four of the 10 commandments.

    For people like Madoff, Gupta, and their ilk, their god is money (1st commandment).

    They serve their god (2nd commandment).

    They steal to make more money (8th commandment).

    They covet what they don't have (10th commandment).

    How many lives have they ruined?

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 3:45 PM, PaFrogboss wrote:

    The key to happiness is to WANT what you HAVE!

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 4:28 PM, WhidbeyIsland wrote:

    For me right now enough is not being in the path of a tsunami.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 4:59 PM, investolator wrote:

    I have always theorized that Madoff did not intend to do a Ponzi scheme. I theorize that one quarter he did not do as well for his clients as he and they expected. So he decided to lie about his results and make them look better than they were. He figured that he would make more money the next few quarters and use the excess to cover his lies. But he continued to not do as well as expected and increased his lies until he was trapped into being a Ponzi person and had no way out of continuing to lie unless he admitted his guilt.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 6:05 PM, WeAlsoWalk wrote:

    Many many times I have felt like I was right where I wanted to be and had plenty, except....

    The except was important though, and usually it was that one of the four things you discussed was missing. Most often the lack was of control of what was happening. I am no control freak, but, well for example, a while back I lived in a chicken coop and made maybe $100 a year. Oh, I was scraping by and ate what was available, even road kill and fern shoots. The problem then was not that there was not enough, but that I felt like I was in that position by someone else's will, not my own. I was excluded and had no purpose. I had a great education and every reason to believe I ought to have a well paid position, not millions of dollars, but respectable. But still it was not the lack of money, but the horrible feeling of dependence and unbelonging. It seemed to me it would have been ok if everyone else was in that position too, but they were all doing great--only I was not.

    Another time I had a good job as a research scientist, I felt in control of my life, and progress was being made toward my goals, and my wife was treating me right. I was not well paid, but it was enough. In fact, it was at that point that my boss asked me what it was that I wanted and I told him that I pretty much had what I wanted. I said I did want my wife back. (Yes, she was treating me right, but I was one of those males that did not like the idea of his wife working, and that was what I meant. I wanted her back from the grips of Intel.) I can tell you that almost immediately upon saying that I had what I wanted, I lost everything, including the wife, and that was where I felt I no longer had control of life. I felt like the universe was thinking for me and that having what you want makes the universe believe you will stop striving, so the universe corrected that for me and I was no longer satisfied. It did not make me strive though. In fact it became so hopeless that I was just in shellshock. But you are right. The money is not the entire answer. You need some to live properly in most places here in the USA, but it is not the factor that satisfies. I think your four points are very correct: Control over what I am doing, progress in what I am pursuing, being connected with others, and being part of something I enjoy. But not when it gets too much bigger than me, because that is where I do not have enough control over what I am doing. Whatever it is doing is one thing, but what I am doing and what I am being credited with doing and credited with saying, that I want a say about.

    Bill Isakson



  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 6:17 PM, drborst wrote:

    Morgan, I know I'm late to the party here but a thought came to mind...

    I hope you don't decide that you have enough. I hope you need the paycheck you get for writing these articles for a long time.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 8:06 PM, fooltimejob wrote:

    When you have friends and family that stick with you through thick and thin, a God who loves you enough to give up His Son, and the freedom we have to live our lives to bless others, that to me is more than enough. Thanks for the thought-provoking article and the insightful responses of your readers.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 8:12 PM, ukfml wrote:

    So many have written for millenia on this and yet it is refreshingly new. It is something we all struggle with. .All of these above are so necessary - feeling important and respected and needed by family and friends, having loving relationships, a control over our destiny, having money to be able to enjoy the so many delectable and scrumptous offerings of life, to be able to pay for food, clothing and shelter and perhaps more. The trick or mastery iit appears is not shirk away from wanting but eventually to choose what shows up and bless it. In a relative universe we always compare ourselves to others and the desire to want more and more is probably more acute on Wall St given the extreme wealth that individuals possess. We each define enough for ourselves and then when we reach it, we look at our friends or someone else that may have more than us, and then we want more. Wall street thrives on "growth" and rewards it even when it is that same growth than may ultimately destroy the environment. We want the fanciest cars, smartphone, always on internet, etc etc. yet we do not need it. The difference is between needs and wants. There is no end ot our wants, but what we need is very little. A famous guru once said, the less you desire the happier you shall be. Tough words to live by in our society.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2011, at 10:15 PM, santivan wrote:

    I enjoyed reading ' when rich people do stupid things' .

    My belief is that one doesn't need millions to fulfill the basic necessities and live a fairly satisfying life. So the vital asumption is to know and abide by the concept and meaning of the word 'enough'

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2011, at 6:21 AM, virgolibra wrote:

    Great article.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2011, at 4:32 PM, RRobertsmith wrote:


    does anyone read these? (Not the article the comments?!)

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2011, at 10:30 PM, esotericevets wrote:

    Too many of us are 500 pound pigs longing to be 1000 pound pigs.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 5:42 PM, RUKIDME wrote:

    COP for 20 years and their are those who believe they are to smart to get caught. They also have a very high opinion of their intelligence and victim's lack of any.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2011, at 10:09 PM, Nordikelt wrote:

    On one point I will disagree. The idea that money can not buy happiness is not always true. For those who live below the poverty line, I believe that money which can secure food, shelter, clothing, and health care does indeed create a happier life. Beyond that line, however, I agree, there is little correlation between money and happiness.

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2011, at 7:59 AM, JDaniel404 wrote:

    "Enough" is not a dollar amount, that's the highest truth. It's hard for us humans to believe. Research has shown that whatever yearly salary people make, they report that they would be satisfied, if only it were 10% higher. It takes great personal work and reflection to overcome this human tendancy to get stuck in the acquisition of more and more.

    But isn't that what investing is all about? Or is it? This is why I like the fool. An article like this helps us balance our natural tendency to chase the horizon of enough, with our responsibility to community and to our own personal (can I say it here? ) karma.

    Put this article together with the readers

    comment I saw today elsewhere on the fool site about the sugar and chemical content of the McDonalds "healthy" oatmeal, and there you have the impetus for actual responsible investing. We really are all connected.

    Thanks Fool for giving us the biggest picture.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2011, at 12:17 PM, kingrk wrote:

    First great Article and lively responses, forgive me if I repeat an opinion--didn't read em all.

    While money can't directly buy happiness it can help because money can provide more options as a friend once told me. The amount really depends on the quality of life one desires. For me 1.25 million is enough to live comfortably (one of my financial goals).

    On the other hand for me success is being happy. And, happiness is state of mind defined by the individual (often through accomplishments in life). I've found myself thinking of this more and more as I close on retirement. But I do think being a successful parent will be part of my happiness.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2011, at 4:38 PM, upitt84 wrote:

    Probably the best article I have read on this site. The answer to your question is simple, without Christ in your life nothing in this world is ever enough.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2011, at 4:14 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Absolutely great article, and something that is rarely discussed. And what a great discussion it has sparked!

    It is human nature to seek ever higher goals; the feeling is that if you are not growing, you are dying. Being aware of yourself and your own mind can help you to overcome that natural inclination. Take the time to really appreciate your day and your life; if you are too busy chasing after the future, you'll never enjoy the present.

    I will admit to being a little surprised by all the Christ chatter, this being a site that is built on the application of reason and rationality. What fulfillment do you Christians find in life that you cannot find without your beliefs? I'm genuinely curious here, it was quite a surprise to me to see Christ popping up so often in the comments.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2011, at 12:32 AM, esotericevets wrote:

    djdynamicnc : Why Christ?

    pirsigs, Dynamic seems to presuppose godly power without God. The basis of much of what we use is physics on a "miraculous" scale that is ununderstandable. The universe can fit within a pinpoint and man can come up with this idea. Why not see god as a jumper cable between entropy and nirvana ?One possible pathway in life follows: 1 one believes in Christ (our local god);2 one sees coincidences;3one then realizes there is god;4 whatever befalls one is a part of gods plan; 5 the coincidences do become quite spectacular (miracles?);6 one has a full life and who knows, maybe 7 some sort of after life. It beats living as a zero sum advocate or some other sort of wastrel. Christ is a good god model. Viewed by an outsider, religion is strange, but practiced well it can fill a lot of gaps.

    Your query about why so many people mention Christ in the comments section is a tough question to answer and as RRobertsmith asked above "does anyone read these...comments...?

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2011, at 5:36 PM, SusanGee wrote:

    Great question. I kind of agreed with your 4 things that make people happy but my work as

    an investment rep years ago showed me a different side of some investors. I had this one group of clients who would look at a 10% return for the year and be very satisfied. But I'd have a few who "heard that their friend made 12%" that year and they would be pretty unhappy. Oddly, the next year we didn't do so well and they only made about 8% for the year. I dreaded meeting with the second group because I thought they'd really give it to me. But that year, their friend barely broke even. So even with the lesser return, they were happy because they beat their friend.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2011, at 8:14 PM, wiserandolder wrote:

    I actually scanned thru all the responses after reading the thoughtful article. Many provide the motivation from winning the game at all cost, feeling and acting above the law, invincible, master of the universe, insatiable greed...etc.

    Permit me to offer another perspective. Remember the two men came from the "emerging world" decades ago and rather modest background. People from the West may never know what Gupta truly experienced to be an orphan (and penniless?) at an early age. The journey to the West might be filled with indelible trauma and hardship.

    There is a Chinese saying, "if you have seen ghost once, you will forever be fearful of the dark". I also recall a colleague who was a survivor of concentration camp. So after every company provided lunch at work, he would always take some extra food back to his office (in case he might not see food again).

    The psychological trauma and its powerful emotions stay with a person for life, can distort a person's judgement, unless vented/released via years of therapy or insight gained from other sources.

    So Gupta may be forever in search of a true sense of SECURITY like the "Flying Dutchman" and will forever have a hard time to appreciate enough is enough.

    Lastly, I see the two men as "kindred spirits" minorities, naturalized immigrants who feel a special brotherly bond for each other no matter how "integrated" they seem in the western world. Naturally that's not to be offered as an excuse.

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