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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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20 Comments
Ted
February 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Very difficult to comment since most of the comments here are based on ignorance and reflect substantial ideological bias. The primary seeds of the 2008 economic collapse were laid by the Community Renewal Act. Large banks were required by the government to make loans to people that clearly couldn't afford them (aka subprime loans). In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "backed" these loans allowing mortgage lenders to issue mortgages they knew would not stand on their own. That then escalated with banks "packaging" the loans for resale to investment banks to get them off their books.

Ultimately, people should be able to decide what career path the want (as long as they are qualified, etc. In Sam's case, he is a hypocrite. Let's see, I made $5M in bonuses so I guess I can do whatever I want. Most people don't have that option.

Basically, the ultimate melt down was Federal government initiated, although you will never hear them admit that. And no, it wasn't Bush's fault, it was Bill Clinton and all the cretins (e.g. Dodd and Frank) that thought the gravy train would last forever. Greenspan was a key participant and even (eventually) admitted same.

Jonathan Kelly
February 10, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Everyone on this globe must decide individually what their purpose is in being here. If you make more money than anyone else and you end up like King Midas with all the gold but you are all alone, what is your end point? What have you accomplished? Life on planet earth is only a phase, not the end game. It brings to mind a quote--"death is the black backing on a mirror that helps us to see clearly."

Jack
February 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm

"Make hay while the sun Shines"!
Good Luck!!!!!!!

Jom
February 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Oh please, I think alot of what is talked about today about money is same old that has been happening for years. The bottom line there is always going to be someone out of work, less money, etc than someone else. I am doing just as good today with Obama in office as I was when Reagan was in office.

Geoff
February 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Hey Mike and Al ,
Enough of the Demo talking points... the proof is in the pudding ... It was demo policies that forced the banks to give money away through easy loans for mortgages people couldn't and wouldn't afford... thus the freddie and fannie loan debacles. Obama is into his sixth year... please don't tell me you are both still blaming Bush. Obama owns this wretched economy. Obamacare is a debacle. Costing jobs. Read the CBO report. Worst president ever! Hands down. Thank God that the Republican controlled house can slow his wrecking ball down. We'll be blessed if we can survive til 2016.

Carole
February 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Al

You hit it on the head. Hoorah for your post!

Al
February 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hey Geoff; In case YOU haven't been paying attention, a lot of folks have made a lot of money during, and because of this "Rotten" Obama economy. The wealth gap between the "One" percent and the "99" percent has never been greater. And the "Democratic regime" to which you refer has been stymied by the racist Tea Party-controlled congress that opposes anything and everything the president does, or tries to do. They constantly tout their "Better plan" but they never reveal what the plan is. They remind me of the story of the dog and the Hay - the dog doesn't want to eat the hay, but he won't let the horse have it. The current republican congressional majority, and many of their supporters don't want Obama to succeed and will do anything including shutting down the government, to make sure he doesn't because it might result in another Black American president someday. Remember Jackie Robinson?

Michael
February 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Hey Geoff,

Can you remember who crashed the economy? 'Twas the banking industry, and had little to do with politics, other than economic power connotes political power. "Democratic regime"? Isn't that an oxymoron? Can you please explain exactly what policies of the administration have excluded anyone? As technology is increasingly employed, less people are employed; it is a fact, like we need air to breathe. That said, the whole notion of work will have to be reexamined in the face of too little work for too many people.

Scott
February 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hey Geoff! Nice post.

Geoff
February 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Hey Judy... In case you haven't noticed most young people can't find jobs in this rotten Obama economy. Most people are trying to survive on part time jobs or multiple jobs to just make ends meet. Meanwhile stupid articles of no relevance like this one play into the template that working for a living is out of style. Why don't you report on how the policies of this Democratic regime are destroying the hope of the American dream in the minds of the youth of today!

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