How Much Money Is ‘Enough’? This Simple Thought Experiment Gives You an Exact Number to Aim For

Jessica Stillman
4 min readFeb 3, 2021

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Have you ever read those articles where some extremely well-off family details their budget and then bemoans that they’re barely getting by?

It’s ridiculous that anyone could complain about raking in $350,000 a year, and it’s clear many of these folks are wildly out of touch with how privileged they are. But while these families may be extreme (and annoying), they aren’t alone. It’s not just the wealthy who fall into the trap of earning more only to spend more and feel just as dissatisfied.

How do you get off this treadmill?

The answer is not to compare yourself with others (Jeff Bezos will always be there to make you feel bad), or to blindly try to keep making more (there will always be some shiny, new thing to covet). The answer is to take a hard look at your own financial realities and aspirations and come up with a goal number. How much money is enough for you?

The science of money and happiness

That number will be different for everyone, depending on your circumstances and values, but science is trying to help you decide. Researchers are currently embroiled in intense debate about whether there is a cut off point above which additional income stops having…

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Jessica Stillman

Top Inc.com columnist/ Editor/ Ghostwriter. Book lover. Travel fiend. Nap enthusiast. https://jessicastillman.com/