All The Money In The World, Plus The Do-Not-Want List

I’ve started asking people a few questions about money to get some conversations going:

1. If you had “all the money in the world” — not literally, but all you wanted — what would you change about your life? (If anything?)

Some people have been telling me they’d like to spend less time doing paid work, though interestingly, not so they could do what we think of as leisure activities. People wanted to spend more time with small children or do volunteer work, which is probably wise. Being idly rich gets old fast. Others pointed to a few chores like laundry and doing dishes that they’d like to offload. One added that she’d like to always fly first class.

What’s interesting to me is that, except for the big philanthropic goals people listed (which would require a lot of money, like “curing HIV” or “making Texas A&M the number one university in the world”) many of the others would take more earthbound sums. For instance, most of us don’t travel that often. Four first class flights per year would add several extra thousand dollars to each ticket, but we are talking a few thousand, not millions. And the fun part is that once you started buying business/first class tickets on a regular basis, you’d start getting upgraded on short, not-full flights. For free! Fun stuff. A housekeeper who came three times a week for four hours each time would run about $20/hour (building in payroll taxes). So that’s $240 a week, or $12,000 per year. As for getting a different job that required less time but still paid well, if this was a long term financial goal, it could probably be done. It would require some research and training and networking, but we live in a varied economy. There are a lot of jobs out there.

2. Even if you did have all the money in the world (not literally, but all you wanted), what would you not spend money on?

I was flipping through Vogue the other day, and found some pages with a retrospective of the late Alexander McQueen’s most avant garde work. I know, much of the fashion is conceptual. But there was a dress that was a grotesque version of the female body, made of the same material as prosthetic limbs, with a bit of horsehair at the bottom. No matter how much money I had, I would never want that dress. I felt the same way about some of the art in the galleries I once visited in Sedona, Arizona. How can something so cheesy be so expensive?

Anyway, I’m sure you can come up with a list too. The point of these questions is to remind us that money is a choice. When it comes to money, many of us operate under once principle: there is never enough. But by asking what we’d do and not do if we didn’t have to think about it, we can clarify what matters (and doesn’t matter) to us, and start thinking about ways to change our lives to move closer to certain goals.

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7 Responses to All The Money In The World, Plus The Do-Not-Want List


  1. Denise R says:

    what I wouldn’t spend money on–
    -Books that I can get at the library (though if I read one like 168 Hours, that I want to refer to again, I will purchase a copy)
    - uncomfortable clothes or shoes

    I must be doing something wrong (or right) that I don’t feel like I do so much cleaning that I need to hire it out. Most of my family/friends who have cleaning people do more straightening up so the cleaning person can do their job, than I do cleaning my house. Maybe I have well-trained family members, or I don’t have as much ‘stuff’ as others? Maybe I will feel differently when I start working again. I’m figuring there will be less cleaning to do, b/c no one will be home all day, making messes.

    What I would spend money on–

    I would love to have BJ’s deliver food, but they haven’t come that far yet. I hate lugging that stuff. Maybe I can pay someone to shop there for me, but that would offset the discounts, I suppose.

    I would pay someone to run errands for me–to purchase, return/exchange, especially at Target

    more Yankee Candles

    more garden plants and flowers than I currently buy

  2. Calee says:

    One of my dad’s friends always said, “You can always travel first class, you just can’t stay as long.” While we’re yet to pay for those tickets, I would love to never fly coach again. Also, 12,000 a year for cleaning 3x a week sounds like a very good goal.
    My husband and I play this game all the time. I’m not interested in cars, he would love to own a classic Packard. (Which, really is only about a 50k expense) I would love to invest in art, but really, the things that make me the happiest are in that same price range. Neither is really out of range if we make different career moves, but for now, just the dreaming can be pretty enjoyable.

  3. Alissa says:

    If I had all the money in the world I would:
    -relocate to Oregon to be near my family (and then have a private plane or be able to afford airfare for my husband to travel back to the midwest).

    -hire a housekeeper and a personal chef.

    I would not quit working. (well I guess since I was moving I would be giving up my current job). Maybe I wouldn’t move, maybe I’d just buy a private jet and bring my family to me. Who knows. We are working towards being able to move to the west coast but the cost of living difference is currently prohibitive.

    So having all the money in the world would just speed up our timeline.

    And yes, money is a choice. People just simply forget they have options sometimes. It’s quite amazing.

  4. CM says:

    We have someone clean our house every other week and he is a godsend. I was so conflicted about it for a while, not so much because of the money but because I felt this was something I should be doing myself and I didn’t want to send the message to my kids that you should avoid tasks you don’t feel like doing. But we can afford it, and it’s so nice to be spending my weekends hanging out with the family instead of scrubbing the toilet and the floors. I think that a lot of people, given enough money, would mainly spend it on buying themselves time.

    On #2, I received my issue of Real Simple yesterday and as usual, had a good laugh about some of the things they suggest buying to “simplify”. Recent issues have featured an $80 paperweight, a $100 Lucite inbox, and a $78 statue of a squirrel for your garden.

    • @CM- I think people get way too conflicted about the cleaning service concept. Most of us aren’t conflicted about having someone change the oil in our cars, or fix the plumbing in our houses, or churn our butter for that matter, even though technically most of us could figure out how to do these things too. It’s just that we think of housekeeping as women’s work, and that women’s time has no value. And so, it’s a luxury whereas the other things are normal.

  5. Cara Marcano says:

    Definitely buy time. Like the staff that allows you to have a life. I think of those movie stars that have nannies and private staff and a personal assistant. Where would we be as women if all women had two personal assistants, one personal and one private?
    I also notice how few profiles of working women and moms mention the nanny… No harm paying for it and talking about it. Some things are just a choice and a work in progress, money aside. Oprah has a personal chef or more than one and still struggles with her food issues. There is no easy money solution for getting older, and for finding balance though money definitely helps.
    Being able to ask the question is in itself a luxury as is self-actualization — good to remember that you could have been the teenage bride of Bin Laden — or his 12-year old daughter. Be glad we have choices if not all the money in the world and gratitude is free.

  6. Susan says:

    Interesting thoughts. My husband and I are teachers and while we definitely do not have all the money in the world, we do have time, and I’d rather have it that way (he used to be in real estate and development, so I’ve had it both ways now). In the last 2 years we have travelled all over the country, camping with our 3 kids. I have a friend who is a VP at her family’s company, and while she has the money to hire a full time nanny and people who clean and do her laundry, and she has every time-saving device known to man, she does not see her kids nearly enough for me.
    So, if I had all the money, I don’t think I would change too much. A nicer car (mine is 12 years old with 200,000+ miles). Trips, for sure — Italy, the rest of Europe, Brazil, Peru, Belize. One day these will be checked off our lists!