Why You Should Find Meaning Before You Find Wealth

Find Meaning Before You Find Wealth

“Honey…” I chirped.

“…I’m gonna lose.”

“Honey…you know in 5 years if we keep…” I said softly.

“I think I’m gonna lose.”

“…if we keep saving at this rate in 5 years we can kill…”

“Die you stupid penguin.” He whispered, his fingers tapping non stop.

*Me: Sigh*

“Wait I won. Sweet!”

*Sigh x2*

“Are you OK?”

I continued “…if we keep saving at this rate, in 5 years, we will have at least $500,000 and we can pay off the mortgages. That sounds good rig-”


*starts another game*

Oh, I give up. I’ll just write to you guys. Someone will listen to me on the Internet.

Defining wealth sounds easy because the mass media does it all the time. They have pretty polls and fancy statistical data sets every week measuring somebody against somebody else somewhere. But c’mon, that’s not really wealth, that’s money. It took me a loooong time to dig out the revelation that the definition of money and wealth are not interchangeable. I have learned it’s better to find meaning before you find wealth because it makes the journey there that much better.

How We Got Here

For the full story: How Luck Made My Husband a Rich Man

In 5 years, less time for most small new humans to figure out multiplication and division we will have the blessing of at least an additional $500,000-$600,000 thrown into our savings bucket (if all goes to plan).


We had a good run in the stock market. Hubby was lucky with his old employer whose stock ticker just hit all-time highs today at $1000/share. We know a few other couples like us who shared similar runs and similar luck.

No one discusses it though. It’s just something that happened. This is what happens when you find wealth before you find a goal for it. Hubby landed early enough into a rock star company and when it took off, it took off with everybody on it, like it or not.

Lucky Ducky

It’s Sunday night, he’s playing a free RPG on his phone and I’m buried in bed, under the sheets, wondering what is it I can do to inject a better meaning for our money besides the directionless nothing right now.

Through trial and sacrifice, we learned how to knock back a high % of savings by cutting back down to what most Americans consider minimalist. We live car-free (those metal suckers are expensive, man). I wear second-hand clothes I received in high school. Hubby has one pair of tennis shoes and a pair of slippers that accounts for roughly 60% of the variety in his wardrobe.

We’re simple people. We were on the minimalist train long before it was popular on YouTube. I sound so hipster but it’s true 😉

A couple of 20-somethings like us would be considered well on their way with a net worth north of 100K, we have over 8 times that. Lucky, lucky…but we were building wealth without a real purpose. Truth be told, it makes the entire process much less fun and much less meaningful.

Money Guarantees Happy – As Seen On TV

Can I buy a purpose?

As a former poor kid, I thought for most of my life that money meant happiness. With my parents working full-time and being left alone every day, TV was my best friend. It taught me English faster than those depressing ESL (English Second Language) classes did.

I grew up watching 3 stations because the TV we found on the street was from the 80s and half the channel knobs were broken.

It was mostly just very fuzzy people spinning and winning “big money” or some new car. I wanted to be as happy as they seemed on TV.

Must be the money; must be that shiny car!

TV can be such a liar. I’ve yet to find any of that as truth. I may have a low baseline for happiness but I was also severely misinformed by that fuzzy old TV.

A Magic Number

I had this magic number in my head that kept getting higher and higher, without much of a purpose. First out of college and beyond broke, all I wanted was $50,000 and I told myself that will make me feel completely happy.

Then it was $1 million. Since about 6 months ago, I set my number on 3 million (because Financial Samurai said so haha.)

I promise here I shall not inflate this magic number any higher. Money has been proven to only increase my happiness by a small fraction before I’m back down again, so banking on that for happiness is just stupid.

It’s kind of embarrassing to take over 5 years to realize that hitting the magic number is not going to return any more happiness WITHOUT a real purpose behind it.

Any Disney movie could have taught me that lesson in some form or another.

Why You Should Find Meaning Before You Find Wealth

“You’re targeting a value because you have no concept. You end up always wanting more because you can’t come up with a meaning.” My husband said sardonically.

“Well, you don’t have to rub it in because I asked you what your goal was and you said you wanted to do nothing. I don’t accept that.” I shot back.

The problem here is we don’t have a clear end goal that we can agree on. It seriously can’t be anything though. That’s just so against my principles. Nothing* is a cop-out!

That’s a waste of a brilliant mind (yes, I consider my husband brilliant.)

My Rough Concept

Literary Infamy! Or AT LEAST a historical footnote?

It would be neat to be a nefarious writer and write a mongrel type book like Sade, Nabokov and William Burroughs did. All men btw; c’mon girls…

Old Bull himself (writer)

But it doesn’t really take millions of dollars to become a good writer if you have talent. You need a pen, a paper, and a library card if you want to be self-taught and self-trained. Plus a lot of these infamous writers don’t become famous until they’re dead and a good percentage are famous because they committed suicide.

“You’re killing yourself now?” Hubby inquired in the dark. “…should I not encourage you to write anymore?”

My Actual Answer…

So my real answer is I don’t know. I mean why is wealth pertinent to a goal that doesn’t need much money?

Plus my husband just wants to kill penguins in the North Pole on his smartphone all day. Yet we’re hustling just the same, hustling every day like worker drones, without a higher definitive purpose. That’s not good. Don’t be us.

Hubby: “Aw I just got my ass kicked by Santa Claus.”

On the bright side, I know that wealth gives you a lot of options. Since I came from a poor family I definitely appreciate the security. That’s my only halfway decent answer for now. Our meaning of wealth is pretty much up for discussion right now as you can see. Hubby and I do not see eye to eye exactly. We didn’t have a goal when we built our nest egg and that was the problem. Hopefully, it’s not a real problem to have as long as we have enough options to explore later on.

Takeaway: don’t end up like us. Define monetary & conceptual goals before you build your wealth! Have your spouse or partner agree on it too. It’s going to make your journey so much more meaningful and each milestone will be a real cause to celebrate.

Do you think it’s better to find meaning before finding wealth? Does it actually matter? What is your meaning behind wealth building?


25 thoughts on “Why You Should Find Meaning Before You Find Wealth”

  • Wow what a great post! I like how sincere and open you are in your writing. I grew up in a poor family too and always dreamed of having my own money so that I could buy the clothes I liked. But now that I’m older, I have other goals that involve being frugal, saving, investing, and having my own business one day.

    It’s really impressive what you guys have achieved so far. I know Amazon stocks have been doing amazingly well over the past few years. Glad to know you both will increase your net worth by $500-600k over the next 5 years.

    Mr. FAF keeps telling me he wants to have $5M by the time he’s 50. I don’t have a number in mind. But for now, I know we just need to work hard and grow our net worth. 😉
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Blog Traffic Report – May 2017 (2nd Month) – 11,014 Views

    • Haha I read that your hubby’s 5 mil goal on another blog we both frequent! I was like woah, they’re ballers!!!

      If he retires, you get to retire too btw. Just sayin’ 😉

      I want to grow my business one day too! I dig rags to riches stories so I figured…well, it won’t be a waste of a life even if I failed because this is what I wanted to do!

      We sold a good amount of our stock before the peak (totally wish we didn’t!) and we have rebalanced to something less…one basket-y haha. I think I’m OK with just blindly hustling – I am – but I know as a fact it’s better if I had a real, real, real purpose behind it.

  • Great post. Glad you guys are doing so well and you absolutely have the right idea. Wealth really only gives you choices. What you do with those choices is up to you.
    Can I suggest though, that if you have a big proportion of your wealth / savings invested in your husband’s company, that you consider hedging your bets and move some out while things are good. I and a lot of my friends working for a bank during the financial crash lost more than 90% of our long term savings over a very short period of time! You’ve probably got this covered, but just in case….

    • Thank you Erith for stopping by my little internet corner <3!

      Yes, that is FANTASTIC advice and believe it or not, we only did it last year! Pretty ridiculous in hindsight. We had a "all our eggs in one basket" situation for a good few years and we simply got lucky. No one would have thought it was a good idea (because it's not!)

      We still have about 30% in various tech sectors but that's better than the 90% we had before.

  • Tough problem. Mrs Groovy and I retired because we wanted to do the things that really excite us (like picking up garbage). But what if nothing excites you? I’m sure you and Jared will figure out the excite part. You’re too bright not to. Maybe it will be blogging for you. You write beautifully. Thanks for this very thought-provoking post, Lily. Cheers.

    • Hahaha just like picking up garbage!

      Actually an old past time of mine was apartment dumpster diving. Much less selfless than cleaning up the streets but it was pretty exciting!

      Thank you for stopping by Mr.G!! 😸

  • I fully agree. The is a difficult journey and if you don’t know why you are doing it then it will be that much harder.

    We actually were on this journey a year before we figured out what made us start and it wasn’t until a few months ago that we figured out what we were running to.

    • That’s amazing BoaS!

      I tend to lazy it and say it’s for kids but until we actually decide on children it’s a total farce. Family is a big motivator for a lot of people though!

  • You are a really good writer. I love the way you tell your story. You got a new subscriber.

    We are working on getting a number and a retirement age. I think it makes it a little easier when you have a finish line. However, I don’t think happiness is something that can shift much from our baseline. If you are a level 7 happy you will probably never be any happier than level 8-9.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…Embrace Pain For a Better Life

    • Thank you so much Grant! 💃💕

      Yes I totally agree! Even it you’re at level 9 when you’re 7, eventually you’ll be down at 7 once things normalize.

  • This is such a great post! I’ve had this struggle in the past year myself, not knowing what I would do with money once I had it (cause I don’t think anything can take the frugal out of me).

    I think that now that you have identified the problem, there’s going to be no stopping you until you solve it. Got out there and find out what you love, what causes you’re passionate about and where you want to go in life! Only then will you be able to use the money you have as a vehicle to help get you to where you want to go.

    There are good problems and bad problems…this is a good problem to have!!!

    • Thanks for dropping by MD! It’s a great problem because it’s able to teach me something about myself that I didn’t know before 🙂

  • I’ve been thinking about my “number” a lot recently. When I was little I thought that was the ultimate goal. Now that I’m older I think about how foolish it really was. Definitely feels like I wasted some time and memories trying to achieve something that is totally meaningless now. I guess that’s why they say you live and learn 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…When Will You Reach Retirement?

  • This is awesome. I’ve recently read that you need to start with “your why” for any goal in life. That helps put it in focus and actually helps you determine if it’s a goal worth having. Seems like you get it!

    Also, can you please share the name of the game? Let your husband know he’s got me intrigued.

    • Haha I just asked him and he said “Doom & Destiny” and the Santa is just a sprite that looks like a weird Santa. I don’t get boys…xD

  • I really liked this post, it’s something I can relate to. I had a lot of income goals: first $1,000 online, then $5k, then $10k, $20k, where does it stop? I think I need to sit down and write about my WHY. I loosely know it. But I think I need to get it out there. Chasing money for dollar bills isn’t satisfying and you’re totally right – above a certain point it doesn’t really make much difference to happiness.

    • Aw thanks Izy 💖 I just read your post! It’s beautiful and I 100% agree 🙂 I shared it on Twitter. Do you have an account I can tag and add you? 🙂

  • Great post! I like the way Jared’s comments are interspersed throughout your post. It makes me feel like I’m right there with you!

    I’m right there with you. I find it hard to find meaning especially when working fill time and not wanting to do much on the weekend except be lazy. I know that if I stopped working and had nothing to do all day I would find something to do, but the downside is that I won’t be able to save some amount of money each month. So I know the best option is the middle ground of starting something WHILE working. But it’s HARD, which I know is no excuse so I’m trying to work on my mental control right now.

    I don’t even know what my “magic number” is. I calculate years to FI right now (I’m using Mad Fientist’s spreadsheet) to be 3.5 right now, but I’m still living at home so I have the biggest expense taken care of for me. Plus I’m not sure I’ll even stay in SF for long so… Well, life feels all up in the air.

    My favourite show when I was little (and still is) was Spongebob. I think it taught me to be skeptical of the money=happiness promise because Mr. Krabs was always chasing money but his family life never turned out the way he wanted it to, and Squidward was always miserable dreaming of riches. I also think Patrick practices stealth wealth.

  • Hi Lily 🙂 I’m really enjoying your website! Very thoughtful. And I like how your personality comes through.
    My life’s been full of meaning since my earliest memories (~age 1), and just later as a middle-aged adult and beyond, I started having struggles with having too much and trying to figure out how to dispense with it in a satisfying way.
    My parents were broke when they married, and they lived with cardboard box furniture at first. When they got kids, they also got some decent old furniture from Salvation Army.
    By now, my parents are gone, and I have things I’d love to share, but I yearn to know that other people will treasure them and build beautiful memories with them.
    I just have to settle back with the memory that the Father-Creator of the universe loves me and has always taken care of me — is taking wonderful care of me now — and He has a plan for my life and for all that stuff. May I see His plan unfold, and be joyful at the way He uses my stuff in the lives of other people. It all belongs to Him, anyway.

    • That was beautiful Ms Rolls 🙂

      “I just have to settle back with the memory that the Father-Creator of the universe loves me and has always taken care of me — is taking wonderful care of me now — and He has a plan for my life and for all that stuff.”

      I think I’ve said basically that to myself at some point! It’s an absolute blessing to be simply *here* 🙂 cheers to you too

  • What’s wrong with “nothing,” though? I think that’s a noble goal: I value leisure and relaxation — and I feel like you guys have certainly reached the point where you can indulge. I think maybe your desire for more is driven by what everybody else thinks.

    It might sound defeatist but in a few thousand years no one’s going to read Nabokov, and what’s the point of being successful if you kill yourself? I say be like Thoreau instead. The second lost generation doesn’t need any more nihilism.

    Do you write fiction? Have you published? I’ve been a writer and editor for literary magazines and I’d be glad to help you get one of your stories out there. It’s depressing but it’s a bit of a dying medium: You already have more success with this blog than 99% of writers, trust me.

    • You sound like my husband! He started out with the nothing talk but I think towards the end of life if he did “nothing” he might regret it so I’m blowing warning signs. I spent 2 years doing nothing and it was (looking back with regret now) not as fun as one would think. I think humans are driven by something deeper and this is coming from your typical nihilist (I am for sure one.) I like nothing more to enjoy nothing but having been there…surprisingly…it’s not as fun. I wish it was or else I keep doing it. I think it’s just something I have to do for myself. No one might be reading Nabokov but ideas don’t go away. They’re recycled and reseeded and so I think doing that vs nothing…hey I rather do the previous thing! ‘Nothing’ gets really boring after a while!!

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