Monday, November 24, 2008

How Much Is Enough?

I really admire Europeans because they emphasize quality of life, they don't spend too much time on overtime and go back to be with their families and spend summer holidays traveling or doing things they like doing.

I wonder whether the same goes for us here in Singapore.

Why work so long hours? So we can earn more money. Then why earn more money? So we can pay the bills and then be able to do the things we want to do.

So let's say we start out with a salary $3000 and then our salary doubles to $6000. Would we then spend more time with our families and doing the things we want to do? No, in fact we will spend roughly the same time at work or even more. Why? Because then our desire for more expensive things increases. Our costs increases.

So let's say our salary increases to $10000, $20000, $30000? Would we still spend more time with our families and doing the things we want to do? Surprisingly, I think that a majority of people will still spend even more time at work.

So if your earning power increases to $20000 from $10000 will you then spend only half-days at work and earn only $10000 and spend the rest of the time with your family, and enjoying your hobbies like reading, taking courses, etc.?

Of course we have to work. Work is good. And of course, there are obligations in life to fulfill, bills to pay, children to feed. However, these costs are actually very little. A salary man earning $2500 can survive just as well as someone earning twice the amount. The only thing is at what quality of life are you satisfied with? Even then, doubling the amount of money spent does not double the quality of life. Owning a $600,000 house does not mean it is double the quality of a $300,000 house, nor a $1.2 million house is quadruple. The returns diminish. And it's not just the amount we spend that determines the quality. As I stated from the beginning, quality of life is also about the amount of time spent, or care given. Being a multimillionaire and yet having a broken family is a very low quality of life.

It then comes back to what we want in life? Is it greed? The desire for more and more and more just for the sake of having more? Or is it expectations from society? That if someone pays us a very large amount of money that we are indebted to sign our souls over to him?