This Weekend I’m Wondering…

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Would you rather work harder, earn more and be able to spend more or work less, earn less and live more simply?

Who’s richer in the end (assuming, either way, you earn enough to comfortably pay your bills)?

Or, is there some middle ground?

Let’s discuss…

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30 responses

30 responses to “This Weekend I’m Wondering…”

  1. […] This Weekend I’m Wondering… – Would you rather work harder, earn more and be able to spend more or work less, earn less and live more simply? Who’s richer in the end (assuming, either way, you earn enough to comfortably pay your bills)? … […]

  2. Jonathan,
    Unfortunately, the economy isn’t sitting still long enough for option number two to make much sense.

  3. Todd Smith says:

    Thanks, Jonathan. This has been my debate for my whole life. I remember studying about simple cultures in anthropology, and I lived with a native, subsistence, farming village in Costa Rica for couple of months. What struck me most when I was young was the sense of affluence that these cultures had. With just a few days of work per month, they had all their needs met.

    I was also a monk for a few years in an ashram in North Carolina. I had no money but my needs were met, and there was plenty of time for meditation.

    Now I compare my life as a busy photographer with so many divergent responsibilities to those simple ways of being. I enjoy the constant learning that any business demands, and I like the growing sense of accomplishment. I enjoy connecting through the internet. But I often ask myself if I am really accomplishing anything of value in the end.

    I am working hard, but why? Is it just to gratify my ego? Or am I challenging myself to step out of what’s easy and learn what I really need to learn to be self-sufficient and confident in the world?

    Would I be happier working a simple job instead of running my own business? I don’t know. Or am I opening the possibility for greater happiness by building a business around what I love. At this point I don’t know.

    I don’t have answers here, but I totally identify with your question. Thank you for asking it. I’ll be interested to hear what others write.

  4. I definitely lean towards working less, earning less and living more simply – but only by comparison 😉

    I want to be successful and have enough money but I don’t crave riches.

    To be honest though – I’m not sure yet what is ‘enough money’.

  5. If this was one of those quantitative comparison questions from the SAT, I’d say: D) there is not enough information to determine the answer.

    One huge variable is how much you like your work. Also, it depends on how much more work and how much more money we’re talking about.

    I think it might be a good idea to work hard, earn more, but also spend less early in life. Later in life, lean towards working less because you’ve saved up some money just in case.

  6. Ed Buckley says:

    Great question.

    I’d say work less and live more simply, but then I realize that I am working the hardest I have ever done in my life, trying to start a business, juggle family responsibilities and find the time to focus on my health too……and I feel more energized than I have ever done.

  7. Rhea says:

    I love the idea of living simply. But I also like earning a certain amount of money because money represents security. I HAVE been successful in reducing the amount of stuff in my life. I am trying to pare down my belongings and just have the stuff I really want. It’s been wonderful. I feel much more free.

  8. Eric Deeter says:

    I can’t remember the quote, but someone asked a very wealthy person how much money was enough. He said, “Just a little bit more.” This year I’ve been readjusting my priorities. I don’t want wealth to live a life of leisure. I want to have a positive impact on people.

  9. Hi Jonathan – Wouldn’t the answer depend on your definition of wealth? There’s that semi-famous Emerson quote that redefines success in human terms, and I think I’d have to go with a similar one, e.g., wealth resides in the realm of relationships, rather than lucre. When you look at it that way, there’s no contest.

  10. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Arthur – Or…the economy isn’t sitting still long enough or option 1 to make sense. S’all a matter of perspective

    @ Todd – Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s always eye-opening when the annual surveys of the happiness nations in the world come out and the top ten often include simple island nations, like Vanuatu, which 2 years ago was ranked as having the happiest, most satisfied lives.

    @ Kelly – great question, how much money is enough? And, is there really a number or does that number change based on how satisfied you are with other aspects of your life and livelihood

    @ Hunter – Busted, you got me. No doubt, I asked the question in a way that was, um, intentionally missing certain information. Makes different people fill in the gaps differently and opens up lots of different points of view

    @ Ed – No doubt, I feel the same. I work very hard, but I love what I do, so to me, that’s not a negative. I don’t want to work less (provided I can honor my commitment to constantly play with those who mean most to me, too)

    @ Rhea – It is amazing how even a basic round of simplification can make you feel lighter.

    @ Eric – Thanks for sharing that quote, really brings home the point

    @ Betsy – The answer would absolutely depend on how you define wealth or being rich. To me, the fundamental currency is not so much money, but like Emerson said, relationships and the opportunity to do what fills you up.

    So, let me pose a bit of refinement to the question…

    What might happen if you worked hard, earned a lot, loved what you did…and lived more simply?

  11. Justin says:

    I think it’s better to work less, earn less, and live life more simply. I think you can still accomplish a lot following this path and have a happy life, as you won’t be terribly busy.

  12. Good question!

    Personally I consider myself lucky, as I do not have to make a choice either way. I am able to take every day as it comes and put into it as much or as little work as I please, which makes me feel grateful and live my life with gratitude.

  13. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Justin – There’s definitely something to be said about the relationship between simplicity, fewer choices and happiness

    @ viola – now, that’s a nice place to be in.

  14. Jonathan, in my opinion, minimalists live better. Here are two simple examples of mine:

    Jim’s a guy who wants progress in his career so that he has more money. He gets a raise so he has more money to spend. He starts to spend it. He spends it. So now he needs more money the next month so that he can buy more things. And this cycle never ends.

    Pete earns some nice money, knows and tracks his expenses. He always buys what he needs so he never needs more money than he earns. He’s happy and grateful for what he has.

    So in the end, Pete’s richer.

  15. Rob McGuire says:

    Without a doubt, less money and a simpler life. I’ve lived life on both ends and was generally happier with the simpler lifestyle.

  16. Depends…I was all ready to say “simple!” and then I wondered if the simple lifestyle included cruises to Cozumel.

    I absolutely adore tropical beaches, and though I no longer live in Florida, I try to touch base with gorgeous azure waters at least once a year.

    So my answer is Simple, as long as vacations are included. I don’t want my life to be so simple that I am priced out of a beachfront vacation.

  17. Todd Smith says:

    Wow! These are great points everyone! After writing last night, I had the sneaky suspicion that you don’t have to choose between one or the other. Affluence is a state of mind for sure, but why not have two fullnesses? I love my work, I just need to remind myself to keep a balance on my time sometimes. I think a balanced life is what I’m looking for… Sometimes I have to introduce more rest. Other times I need to kick start myself.

  18. Stephen says:

    On the one hand money allows us to experience things that we may not otherwise be able to experience. Take travel. I love travel and every time I go somewhere foreign it really expands my perspective and my life afterward.

    There must be balance somewhere in there. Those I doubt that balance would be the same for between any two people. I do think that if your work is your life’s passion which also brings you wealth then you’re living the exact life you should be.

    I think as long as work is meaningful to us and we look after our responsibilities such as to our children then this is a good balance.

  19. Usiku says:

    Either person could be richer or both. It depends on who is seeking to be a millionaire for their own sake and who is already a moralionaire for other’s sake.

    If the pursuit of additional money, that above paying bills comfortably, is purely for personal pleasure and bragging rights then poverty of perspective and spirit is magnified.

    Naturally, this type of poverty can be a part of anyone’s character regardless of how much money they have or seek.

  20. I posted on this exact topic in my blog on Friday. My answer is the latter – for me, happiness always trump money.

    As in, could I earn lots of money but be unhappy for a while? Not on your life.

    As in, what makes me happy? It doesn’t earn lots of money? Oh well. At least I’m happy. 😉

  21. Maya says:

    I have a problem – I love a simple life …but for me working really hard seems to be a part of having a really simple life. It is about going for the joys of hard work and dreams realized rather than just the money. Oh yes, I love the security that money brings – not really the spending power.

    Ideally, I would like to work like crazy, enjoy myself, make a bunch of money and then take a break enjoy the break, spend some money and then go back to working again. Would you call that one kind of a middle ground? Perhaps …

  22. Krasimir says:

    Honestly, I prefer option #3 – work less, earn more money 🙂 I know, this is not so easy… Simple life is a good thing but these 2 options have many “depends on” stuff around them. “Work less” option sounds really good at first look but I don’t think it really works for many people.

  23. tannage says:

    I think we should replace the word “money” with “value”. Do things that add value to your life. It’s that satisfaction and energy you get from doing something you love that adds “value” to your life, and it’s easy to get stuck in a job that pays you “money” but every day you die a little more.

    I’d work hard at something I loved doing, up till the point where it ceased to add value to my life, if I couldn’t have any quality time with my wife for instance.

    This whole idea of adding “value” to life is the reason why I’ve just fired my job. Extremely well paid, but too boring, too soul-destroying and not adding anything to my life.

    I’m going to be a writer instead! Not well paid at all but I’m going to be happy and I know I’ll make ends meet!

  24. No Debt Plan says:

    I had this question run through my head this weekend… it isn’t an easy thing to answer.

    In the end, if you do something you love and can earn a living from it, you’ll never work a day in your life.

    That is, if your passion is to do something that typically pays $40,000 per year max… you’ll need to adjust your lifestyle if you want to do what you love.

    A lot of people refuse to make that choice and instead pick the higher stress, higher pay career.

  25. Dickie Jones says:

    Personally, I would just enjoy making enough to get by. If i could sell my degrees on ebay they would be gone already.

  26. No doubt. It is time over money. I love being curious and have yet to find the job, aside from working for myself and clients, that allows me the full freedom and flexibility to explore to my heart’s content.

    I love nice things…but not enough to sell my time.


  27. Matt says:

    I go for working less. As long as it’s not poverty, freedom to make whatever you want with your time is one of the greates rewards you can get.

  28. Martin says:

    Personally I like the simple life, I define a simple life as “stress free” or “fear free” or “worry free”. I look for balance in my life, balancing work, rest and play (generally in equal parts). And appreciate having more then I need.
    My basic needs are:
    community (friends and family)

  29. Jonathan Fields says:

    Love the continued comments and thoughts! It’s interesting, too, how a lot of folks view a basic dichotomy between earning a lot of money and doing what you love or living simply. I am a believer that these things can all be had, if they are all priorities. It may not be easy, but it is doable through a concerted effort over time. Curious what you all think about this?

  30. Stella says:

    I love the idea of the simple life, but the reality for me seems to be working long and hard for just enough to pay the bills. There has to be a better way!