I read a study once showing that cab drivers usually go home at the end of their shift. Given the opportunity to keep driving and make more money, they almost never did. Once they put in their 8 hours, they were done, and they went home.
There are huge implications for people being lazy. And yes, I just called those cab drivers lazy. Basically, most people are wired like the taxi drivers—they are not motivated by massive amounts of money. They simply want a nine-to-five and three squares and a roof over their head.
Of course, the “number” that someone thinks he should make at that nine-to-five varies from person to person. A taxi driver might be satisfied with $40,000 a year for a 40-hour week. But $80,000 a year for an 80-hour week isn’t worth it. A business broker might make $300,000 a year on fees—if he makes it in the first six months, he will probably coast the rest of the year.
What I find super interesting are the people who don’t have a “number.” There is no amount that leads them to think, “That’s enough. I’m going home.”
Years ago, I was talking to a businessperson who had received a $50 million offer to buy his business. He turned it down. Look—I believe in myself, but if you offered me $50 million, I would probably take it. Most people would.
Then there are people like Mark Zuckerberg, who could have sold shares of Facebook (FB) at any point along the way, but instead waited many years to start cashing out.
I guess you have to sell sometime. Or do you?
I think we’ve lost track of the relationship between work and money. It’s a simple relationship: If you work, you get money. But somehow, we’ve come to believe that you can work less and earn the same amount of money.
This belief is widespread outside of Wall Street. I hear more and more stories of people who work short days on Friday, or maybe not at all.
As workers, we have become more and more productive, but instead of using that productivity to produce more wealth, we have used it to produce more leisure. And so we are not really any wealthier, which we profess to be unhappy about. But it is a choice.
Of course, investing is kind of a way to become wealthier without working more. I say “kind of,” because it is still work. Lots of people say they don’t have time to spend on investing. That is also a choice.
Others say they don’t have time, but what they really mean is they don’t know how. In that case, I would point them toward The Awesome Portfolio, which is the best way to set up your core portfolio, pretty much no matter who you are. And it really isn’t much work, since I’ve already done the heavy lifting for you.
I worry about the United States sometimes. We are developing attitudes about work and wealth that are similar to folks in Europe.
And it is those selfsame attitudes that have resulted in historically low growth rates across the European continent, rates of growth that we used to snicker at over here in the States.
I think what I miss most about the old America is the crass materialism—houses, cars, boats, planes, jewelry, and clothes—that people aspired to.
Now, people want “time with family.” I could not be less interested in time with family. It’s one of the reasons I like Las Vegas—not so much for the gambling, but just this big pile of things that we can spend money on.
Look—if you aspire to have more money, you have a few options. You can work longer. You can work more productively. You can get a higher paying job. You can start investing. Or you can start a business.
It’s your choice.