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How much money is too much?

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Monday, February 10, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

Ever feel like your possessions own you and that the corporate ladder has become a journey to nowhere? Two young men, who by most measurements would be considered successful, decided "having it all" wasn't enough. They each ditched their high-paying careers to embark on a different, very personal journey.

How much money is enough? Two young men explain why they ditched the pursuit of wealth.

How much money is enough? Two young men explain why they ditched the pursuit of wealth.

Sam Polk, a trader on Wall Street who earned more than $5 million in bonuses in eight years, walked away at age 30. A few years later, he's the head of a nonprofit he founded called Groceryships that assists low-income families challenged by obesity.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Polk describes his former obsession with money as another of his addictions, which included drugs and alcohol. "I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted."

He notes that he earned more in a year than his mother, a nurse practitioner, earned during her entire career, and blames the widening gap between rich and poor on the wealth addictions of Wall Street. "Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class," he wrote.

But his decision to leave his career was mostly a personal one. While he noticed the outsized gap between the salaries on Wall Street and those on Main Street, he realized there was always someone making more and his own addiction would never be satisfied.

The power of living with less

In his late 20s, Joshua Fields Millburn discovered minimalism and now, at age 32, he counsels others on how to live with less. He's written a book, "Everything that Remains," in which he describes abandoning a six-figure salary and 80-hour work week, selling most of his possessions and paying off $100,000 in debt.

He and a partner also founded a website, The Minimalists, to advise others on how to reduce their dependency on possessions and make room for the things that really matter to them.

In an interview with Business Insider, Millburn said, "I had wrapped up my identity in my career and status, but started to realize that it wasn't in line with my beliefs." He now lives in a small town in Montana and has lost 80 pounds. "Once I shed the superfluous things I owned," he said, "it led to other parts of my life: my health, relationships, work."

Many people are able to keep work and life in balance and don't feel the need to take such drastic steps, but the stories of these two can be a reminder that money isn't everything.

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Riitche Rich
February 11, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Really...these article are ALWAYS aimed the "wallstreet" types...yet say NOTHING of Hollywood Movie star that makes $20 million a movie...Or about the Football players signing bonus is more than most people will make in a lifetime. Please tell me there is a difference.

You are where you are in life because of decisions you've made- Too bad that journalism degree doesn't make you a 1%er-

February 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

If all this were true then why are the 3 richest counties in the USA surrounding Washington DC

Mary Quinn
February 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I would like to compliment Judy Martel for the article. I think it is written very well.

Genghis Khan
February 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

@Louise: People are not GIVING to help their fellow man - a noble deed. They're having it TAKEN by gunpoint.

If you don't understand that distinction, then clearly you don't see the difference between a woman being wined and dined as a part of a man's desire for an amorous interlude... and his holding a knife to her throat for the same end goal.

February 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Most people never ask themselves "How much money do I need to be comfortable". Comfort being a roof over your head, food in the cupboard/freezer, a vehicle, being debt-free, adequate savings for emergencies, affordable healthcare, and a vacation if desired. Having multiple mansions, luxury cars, expensive clothes/jewelry, etc. are merely status symbols and an addiction to those things. Being rich and in bad health is no fun. Being rich with no one to enjoy it with is boring. People should strive to be comfortable with the simple things in life that do not require mega-bucks.

Frank Grasha
February 11, 2014 at 12:08 pm

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the contest of seeing who can make the most money . But it is an addiction same as drugs etc . No one needs two yacts and ten expensive cars and a multi million dollar home These are excesses, People live very comfortably on $100,000.00 A year gross. And helping others get a leg up by not hogging it all .But i feel there may still be hope for this world and country as some addicts are seeing that shareing the wealth is a better contest. Frank

February 11, 2014 at 11:50 am

This article is Comcast's way of promoting the latest liberal mantra that you really do not have to work anymore just to get health care insurance, just quit working and get free Obamacare.
They fail to point out that someone has to pay for these "free" things. Stop thinking that if someone is wealthy they are evil, they are not.

February 10, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Not everyone wants a job that gives them a huge amount of money. It's insulting to say that if you aren't making a lot of money you are lazy. Ridiculous, firefighters don't work hard?, police, teachers, particularly in at risk school districts, many farmworkers, farmers, environmental lawyers, nurses, emergency room doctors, housekeepers, animal control, Red Cross. What would your world be like without those people? What if the only thing that motivated anyone was making big bucks? What a disturbing and dysfunctional world it would be. So get over it, and appreciate the variety of people and values that exist. And stop gripping about forking out a little extra to keep these people in decent health and able to have a roof over their head!!!!

February 10, 2014 at 8:09 pm

What a shocker that NBC/Universal-owned Comcast continues to look down on those who work for a living and create jobs and opportunities for others. How about some articles on the perils of living off of the government dole?

February 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm

The problem with the question seems to be this. Most of the people who ask the question pretend that "money isn't everything; it isn't the most important thing in life" until they end up flat broke. There is something to be said for a balance between greed and just plain laziness. A lot of people simply don't want to do the work that it takes to be able to have nice things, so they put down those that enjoy the contest.