Can you imagine having $10 million in net worth and still not feeling wealthy? That’s the story of a group of folks from Silicon Valley who were interviewed in a New York Times article from August 5. They have a net worth that puts them in the top half of the top one percent of Americans, but are surrounded by people who earn tens or hundreds of millions. As Gary Kremen, the founder of Match.com said, “You’re nobody here with $10 million.”So these so-called working-class millionaires continue to toil at their high-tech companies, working 60 to 80 hours a week, caught up in chasing the players whose net worth is in the top one-tenth of the top one percent.
An extensive body of research has found people cannot seem to help comparing themselves to their peers. This is true whether it’s millionaires in Silicon Valley or the poorest of the poor in countries like Peru and Russia. It’s one thing if you’re passionate about your work, and your work is located in Silicon Valley. Work is the primary value, and you manage your other priorities, and the negatives like a high cost of living, around that primary motivation. But sometimes we just get caught up in a culture, a mind-set and a routine, and we think other alternatives don’t exist.
The path to financial well-being begins with identifying what you value most in life. You want your work and your money to serve your values. That’s not easy, with the siren call of advertising bombarding us from every angle, and our tendency to compare and compete with peers.
So how do you figure out what you value? Start with your passion. Recall the last time you felt excited by work, fulfilled, competent, so deeply engaged in activity that time melted away.
-What were you doing?
-Think about the environment: Were you in an office? In the field? Working alone with ideas or things? Working with other people on a team? -Did you do this activity with the structure of a 9-to-5 day, or did you organize your own schedule?
-What skills and qualities did you call upon to accomplish the job? Creativity? Specific knowledge? Leadership?
-What part of the process did you enjoy most?
What outcomes did you feel most excited about?
-What rewards motivated you? Money? Beating a competitor? Serving others? Learning something new? Creating something new?
Another way to identify your values is to look at how you actually spend your time, and ask why you spend it that way. For more on this exercise, see this story.