How much before you’re rich?

This recent article detailed the budget of a couple with annual income of $500,000. That couple is “only” investing into their 401(k)s for retirement, only giving 3.6% of income to charity (5.7% of post-tax income), and has only $7,300 left at the end for savings. The article describes them as feeling “average.”

If you have a household income of, say $100k, you’re likely to be incredulous at this. You think you’d surely be able to give more, save more, and have more left over if you could only have that kind of income. You likely will look at many of this couple’s expenses as lavish and unnecessary. (“Three vacations!” “BMW…”)

But be aware that someone with household income of, say $50k, would be equally incredulous at a $100k household with similar numbers. Same for the $25k household looking at the $50k. Probably same for the couple featured here if they came across a couple making $2 million who thought they were just average…

Anecdotal observation: people at almost all income levels think they’re at the just-barely-making-it point. We tend to compare up rather than down. That gives us justifications for why we don’t give more and why we don’t save more and why if we could just make as much as [whomever we’re comparing to], we’d be fine. Those justifications don’t do anything good for our hearts, our relationships (which easily turn resentful), or our generosity (which I’d suggest has a reciprocal relationship with our hearts).

If you wait to give generously until you’re finally at that position in life where you see someone else, it’s not likely to come. Whenever you get there, the goalposts will have moved. Same for saving. Same for gratitude. Simplicity1, generosity and gratitude have more to do with the state of our heart than our annual income. Yet we tend to look to a bigger income as the solution.


  1. In this instance, I use “simplicity” in a loose way––for anyone who lives happily within their means