Singapore is the richest country in the world and yet, Singaporeans are unhappy (“under-happy”) and poor. Jeff Haden, author of TransForm and contributing editor for Inc.com, weighs in with his thoughts.
Words by Jeff Haden
One day I’d like to meet someone who is actually rich. Sometimes I think I’ve found one but it always turns out I’m wrong. No matter how rich I assumed the person to be, within a few minutes, I find out just how poor that person really is.
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Take the guy who sold his company for more than $40 million. (Well, actually $100 million in total; $40 million is his share.) I was sure he was rich.
Then he told me how, for tax and estate planning purposes, he had structured the disbursement of funds over 10 years. So sure, on paper he may be “worth” $40 million, but he only gets around $4 million each year. And despite all that nifty financial planning, the taxes are still so high he doesn’t see nearly that much. It’s a bummer.
Or take the guy who just splashed a cool $450 grand on a Lexus LFA with the Nürburgring package. His everyday car is a Porsche 911 Turbo S. I was sure he was rich.
Then he told me what he wants most in life is a Bugatti Veyron, only they cost about $2 million. Sure, he has money, he said, but he doesn’t have that kind of money. He thinks about it all the time. It’s a bummer.
Or take the guy with the 110-foot yacht. Strictly speaking it’s a ship, not a boat, since it’s big enough to carry several small boats and a couple of jet skis on a platform at the stern. And it has a pool. I was sure he was rich.
Then he told me how expensive the yacht is just to own: fixed costs like cleaning, upkeep, berth, and crew run over six figures a year. And what about the expense of actually taking it for a cruise? He told me firing it up is so expensive he sometimes has to think twice about whether to take it out of the harbour. It’s a bummer.
Or take the guy who – I know it’s a cliché, but it’s still true – started a company in his garage, financing it with credit cards and a loan from his father-in-law. A couple decades later his company owns its building (and a few more), employs 500 people, and generates tens of millions in annual revenue. And he put his three kids through Ivy League schools and then gave them significant seed money to start their own businesses. I was sure he was rich.
Then he explained how he still has to work 60- to 70-hour weeks and can maybe take one week of vacation a year. Sure, he would like to have more free time, but running a company that size requires constant and total attention. Why, it could all go away in an instant, he said. And then what would happen to his family? The very thought makes him shudder. It’s a bummer.
So I decided to set my sights on a different target. By definition there can’t be that many rich people; maybe statistical probability was the problem? So I decided to look for someone who is happy. After all, not everyone can be rich… but anyone can be happy.
I thought I found one when I met an entrepreneur who had just landed her first big customer. Not just a big customer, a truly enabling customer, one who made it possible for her to hire much-needed employees, make long-delayed equipment purchases, and finally get creditors off her back. I figured that surely made her feel happy.
Then she told me how much she hates to recruit and interview … and then actually having to supervise those employees on a daily basis? Ugh. She told me how adding equipment, maintaining a larger inventory, and managing the huge increase in production was such a pain. Don’t get her wrong, she told me as she looked around to make sure no one overheard, but she often longs for the good old days when life was a lot simpler. It’s kind of a bummer.
Or take the guy who, after years of putting out feelers and constant hints, was finally invited to serve on the board of a start-up. The company has potential, he said, but it’s not Twitter. Or Facebook. Or even Fancy. Now serving on one of those boards would be cool. This? He thought it would be fun, but it’s kind of a bummer.
The guy who just bought a bigger house? Bummed because it takes so much work to clean. The guy who just doubled his income? Bummed because now his taxes are higher. The gal who just landed her dream job? Bummed because now her daily commute is half an hour longer.
Seems no one I meet, no matter how much money or success they’ve achieved, is actually rich. Not really. And it seems no one I meet, no matter how fulfilling and gratifying their life might be, is actually happy. Not really.
But that’s okay. I’ll keep looking. Someday I might find someone.
And hopefully that someone is you.
This article has been republished with permission of Jeff Haden.