10 Reasons I’ve Purposely Chosen Not to Be Rich

happiness and money

Most people I know want to be rich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this goal, and I can certainly see why many people would want to attain it. I think that’s why people find it a little shocking when I tell them that I have no desire to become rich. In fact, I have made a conscious choice not to become rich and I’m happy with my decision.

Why the hell would anyone purposely choose not to be rich? It seems like such an antithesis of everything it means to be an American, but I stand by my choice. In all reality, it was an easy one to make. Whether others agree or disagree with it is a matter of opinion, but I have sound reasons why the choice I’ve made is right for me. Although my reasoning might not ultimately mean the same is true for you, I hope that reading why I have purposely chosen not to become rich might give you some good food for thought.

It’s important to make clear that in choosing not to be rich, I have not chosen to be poor. If I felt that I couldn’t do the things that matter to me most, I would certainly find a way to increase my income. It simply means that I have chosen to forego a growing bank account for things that I feel are more important than more money. Here are some of the reason that I have chosen not to be rich.

I value time more than money

I value my time much more than I value the money I can make with my time. In other words, it makes little sense for me to spend time making more money than I need to. I value the time to do the things I want to do much more than I could earn if I spent that time making more money. Sine I value the time much more, as long as I have enough money to do those things, my time is more valuable than the money I could earn.

What I do is more important than what I have

I love what I do. It might not pay a lot of money, but it pays enough for me to do the things I want to do. I could probably make a lot more money if I spent my time doing something else that pays more, but doing what I like is much more important to me than the amount I make. I have no problem sacrificing the purchase of “things” since there are very few things that I need to be able to do what I truly enjoy doing. Having made the choice that free time is more valuable to me than money, it means that I won’t be rich. I have no problem with that.

I value experiences over things

I don’t own a lot of stuff. It’s not that I can’t afford it, but simply because it’s not something that appeals to me all that much. I value the experience of spending time with friends and family, as well as traveling and exploring new places far more than anything I could buy. While money is certainly important as a tool to be able to do many of the experiences I enjoy, the truth is that they tend to be far less expensive than buying things. This means that I can do the things that I want to do most for far less than most people need to buy the things that they want.

More money won’t make me happier

I make enough money to do the things that make me happiest. If I made more money, I might be able to do more things than I do now (although that would be at a cost of lost time doing other things), but I know that it wouldn’t make me any happier than I am now. I once read an article that happiness is found at approximately $75,000 a year where a family has enough to meet all their needs with a little extra to do what they like. Once these basics are met, it’s not how much more money you have, but your attitude which determines you happiness. I earn enough to meet all my basic needs and I know that being rich wouldn’t make me any happier.

Money is a tool, not a score

While some people look at the amount of money they have as a score to compare against others, I have never felt the need to do that. That’s not to say that people who have earned a lot of money aren’t impressive. They are because it takes a lot of time and effort to make a lot of money, just as it takes a lot of time and effort to become a quality artist or to gain a mastery of any other skill. These are all impressive in their own right. For me, however, money is simply a tool to be used to do the things I enjoy most. Since it’s merely a tool, there is no need for me to have more of it than I need to accomplish the things that I want to do. Now, I would certainly take more of it if offered to me, but since I value my time (as mentioned above) far more than I do the money itself, it’s not worth my time to earn more than I have to.

I value my freedom

Another reason that I have chosen not to be rich is that I value my freedom. I like to be able to do what I want without needing to discuss with anyone else those decisions. My current job allows me to earn enough while being my own boss. The freedom to be able to make my own decisions when it comes to work and play is far more valuable to me than to earn more, but lose that freedom.

I can live on very little

Over the years, I have done a number of challenges where I wasn’t allowed to spend a lot of money. What I discovered was that even with very little money, if I could creatively figure out ways to meet my needs, I was perfectly happy. These taught me that the money, beyond meeting my basic needs, wasn’t a necessary factor for me as so many people seem to think that it is for them. I have simply learned over time that I really don’t need a lot of money to do the things that are most important to me.

Personal finance is personal

I learned long ago that when it comes to finances, it really does come down to personal choices. I don’t own a house even though I could afford to buy one because I would much rather travel to see friends and family on a regular basis while also traveling to see national parks than to sit in a home-office everyday to do my work on the computer. It’s not a decision that everyone would make, but it’s a decision that makes financial sense for me. In the same way, choosing not to be rich because I would rather spend my time doing other things than make money is the financially smart move for me.

Most give far too much credit to money

My personal opinion is that society as a whole places far too much importance on money as a whole. This makes perfect sense since the society in large part is based on consumerism. If consumerism is the ultimate goal, then being rich is important. But just because that’s what society says is important, that doesn’t necessarily make it so. Consumerism is only important if that is what you feel is important. I don’t. And since I don’t, money (and being rich) have far less value to me than it would to someone who buys into the consumerism society.

I have enough

What it all comes down to is that I have enough. In fact, I have more than enough to do the things I enjoy doing most. Given the choice of spending more time earning money when I already have enough money to do the things I love to do, I would much rather spend that time doing those things that I love. This seems pretty simple and logical to me, but I know there are a lot of people who seem to disagree. They believe that if I have the opportunity to earn more, I should, even if that means spending more time doing it. I disagree with them.

So the question becomes, could I become rich while still retaining all of the reasons that I don’t feel the need to be rich. I think the answer is yes. While it certainly isn’t an active goal of mine, there are definitely examples where people’s passions (the things they would have done anyway without any pay) have turned into a lot of money, and maybe mine will as well. That being said, however, I’ll still be just as happy if it doesn’t happen.

(Photo courtesy of Gio-S.p.o.t.s.)

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23 Responses to 10 Reasons I’ve Purposely Chosen Not to Be Rich

  1. Denise Armeson says:

    I hope that you don’t mind a personal question, where or how did you acquire your values? I feel similarily to you and people in my family judge me, especially for not owning a house. Somehow my lack of home ownership is a moral failure. I don’t do drugs , have never been incarcerated, taken care and raised my three children without sponging off others. I am always curious on why having money is associated with being a hard worker and therefore better than someone else with less money. Hard work is no guareentee of making pots of money. I admire people who work hard and achieve their goals regsurdless of the amount of money it makes them.

  2. jeffrey says:

    My values have developed over time — mainly from simply taking the time to really look at the things that make me happy and what I enjoy doing. once you figure those things out, the rest is a lot easier to work out because you always have a direction where you know you want to head. There will always be people that judge, especially if it doesn’t fit the standard norm. Just remember that personal finance is personal, and as long as what you decide to do doesn’t hurt you financially, there really is no reason for others to judge.

  3. deanlevy says:

    You’re an idiot if you don’t want to be rich and even more so if you have the opportunity to be rich and choose not to be. If you were rich, then you could quit all work and spend all your time doing these things you say are important to you, so your reasoning is crap. I can’t believe that you are actually allowed to give financial advice since this is the most absurd article I have ever read.

  4. jeffrey says:

    heh — While money may be all important to you, it isn’t for everyone. That happens to include me. While you may think that financial advice is limited to how to make money, that’s certainly not the case in my opinion. if you think my advice is “absurd,” you may want to take the time to read what the dying regrets are for most people: http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2012/02/04/109190_top-5-dying-regrets-why-i-wont-have-them.html

  5. Matthew Lee says:

    Good for you. I think the core of this is not allowing others to define you.

    Everyone is entitled to their own journey. And often the joy is in the journey and not the destination.

  6. imarunner says:

    interest outlook on money, jeffrey. i would totally love to be rich, but not for selfish gain. i would be able to help so many who may just be a few thousand dollars away from ending it all. i would teach them how to manage money. i would be able to leave large tips to a struggling student, waitress or waiter. there is so much GOOD that can be done with money if it’s used right. i love giving and WHENEVER i receive money, bonus i share it with those i love without thinking. i can buy a friend lunch. i can give someone gas money who’s down to their last dollar. my friend’s son was in a horrible accident and she’s hurting for money for his care. i wish i could give her thousands of dollars for her son’s recovery. i can’t, but i do share with her what i have and will continue to do so. money is not evil – the love of money for selfish gain can be – but i swear if i EVER become rich, my goal would be to help others, teach others and lighten their load if even for a few weeks. money IS not more important than people, but i’m all for using it to help people.

  7. You’re right about money simply being a tool. Too many people get focused on money as the end-all be-all and forget that it is useless unless you’re using it. Rather than focusing on making as much money as possible, identify how much you need to live the lifestyle you want and relax once you get to that point. That will prevent you from working for the sake of working and let you enjoy life.

  8. jeffrey says:

    I think that’s one of the things that a lot of people forget about with personal finance. it’s definitely not one size fits all, especially since financial goals vary so much.

  9. jeffrey says:

    The thing is that to become rich you must devote a lot of time and effort and there still isn’t a guarantee — and that time and effort means giving up time to other things while you are building that money. I simply am not willing to give up that time that I value.

  10. jeffrey says:

    I think this is a large problem in society as a whole. People simply have not taken the time to really think about what they want and default to making as much money as they can in hopes that will help reveal what they want. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way…

  11. Imarunner says:

    Oh I didn’t say how I would become rich but I would love to be rich. Not everyone comes by riches from hard work. I would never say never, first let me hear what’s involved, legally. If I inherited money that made me rich I wouldn’t say no thank you. 😉 I’m not purposely avoiding to be rich and neither am I working to be. I’m content with what little I have. Rich is relative. Is it the same as I don’t want to be smart because it requires too much time? Everything requires time, being balanced is more wise.

  12. Gailete says:

    Jeffrey it is great that you have the choice! So many poor people never seem to get to the point where they can make the choice. People may think that they are lazy, but I think for many they just have no clue how to rise above their circumstances. Not so that they can be rich, but so that they can have what they need.

    I don’t want to be rich or poor, which is actually a Biblical principle, as being poor can make you do things that aren’t morally right like stealing, and being too rich can make a person haughty and forget those in need. As long as I have enough, I’m content. I have everything I need. I never felt like I had a choice of being rich though as I grew up poor with family values that seemed to be earn just barely enough so you can get by, which can be gut wrenching to deal with day after day and year after year. Over the past ten years my values have changed to the point that I want a little extra tucked away for emergencies and a lot more tucked away for when we can no longer support ourselves :).

  13. Gary Seven says:

    Most of the values of money come from the bible from the people i know. Thats how they aquire their values.Its not working hard its working smart.
    Most small business owners do not work 40 hour weeks. It is almost 24/7 and you have to wear a lot of hats. Its is no guarantee!
    Thats why peole pray and seek the bible. Making money is easy if you go the bible way. “SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM AND ALL THINGS WILL BE GIVEN UNTO YOU”
    “You will not see the righteous begging for bread”
    “If a man does not work he should not eat”
    These are all bible quotes and can offend many of a lesser god.
    When you read the Parable of the Talents then what liberal socialist who want economic equality but it offends the Churchians.
    Those who believe in the Constitution that All men are created equal “Endowed by Their Creator” not Obama & the socialist etc are also offended too

  14. ben says:

    This is a tough situation to stay true to considering societal view that it’s important to make money. I give you credit for being true to yourself.

  15. Paul says:

    This is a great topic but being rich means different things to different people. How much money do you have? How many hours do you work? How much do you make? You must have found a balance you like but I have no idea if I am rich or poor relative to you.

  16. Roger says:

    Interesting and thought provoking article. I had much the same philosophy 40 or 50 years ago. Alas, life and responsibility catch up to you. I could and did live out of a backpack traveling around practicing my profession (archaeology). Great life and filled with wonder and discovery. Also, a tough life working under severe conditions (heat and cold, hostile governments, angry local folks, etc.)and being away from family for sometimes months at a time. So many birthdays and important events missed (births, deaths, weddings and so on). Time passes and body ages. Health care, a permanent roof, comfort, etc. become more immediate issues. Sufficient retirement funds are a necessity for any quality of life. Social Security isn’t enough so you need plenty more. You fear that money will run out before you run out of life. Do I regret all those years of adventure and wild times? Absolutely not! Do I regret not having been a lot more provident? Absolutely! There’s a balance in there somewhere. Achieving a good life is much more complicated than deciding whether or not you want to become rich. Much more important is affording both what you want now and laying the foundations for a comfortable future.

  17. jeffrey says:

    I believe that putting away money for retirement is part of an overall financial plan and something that I do.

  18. Roger says:

    Good. You’re likely to become rather wealthy if not just plain rich! Money might not make people happy but it prevents a lot of problems that can make them miserable.

  19. Molly says:

    Kudos Jeffrey. I feel this article is a great endorsement for your money saving advice. The goal is not to get rich, but to live well and responsibly. It takes a lot of courage to state this attitude, and I believe many of us feel the same way, but don’t voice it publicly.

  20. Molly says:

    Right, Paul. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor relative to the author. The question is: are you as satisfied with your life and lifestyle as the writer is?

  21. AEir says:


    Might this be a lifestyle appropriate at one stage of life but not at another?

    I wonder because after having a child, I can’t imagine that digital “nomancy” would be feasible. I could just be unimaginative! :)

    The tiny house movement might be a good middle ground to occupy. It’s at neither one extreme nor another when you consider you own a home yet have the freedom to move. It’s also a very green, minimalist lifestyle.


  22. AEir says:

    I have to add…coming from a family that was obsessed with money, I have NO desire to ever be wealthy. I find it immoral and unhelpful when it comes to building a loving family. I’m sure inherited wealth would be a different story…but what on earth are we teaching our children? Sit on a pile of money you don’t need while others struggle needlessly? Either way, I don’t see how rational, caring beings can justify excess wealth.

    My two cents.

  23. jeffrey says:

    I do not plan on having children.

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