Monday, December 12, 2022

How much is too much?

I spend a lot of time musing over questions about "enough". It turns out I'm the person you all should want to win the lottery because I'd be spending a large portion of the winnings on others.

Of course I can't stop there. Lately I've started wondering about the concept of having "too much" money.  Just where is that line, and how do you know when someone has crossed it? That's a really tricky problem. It's not like you have X dollars and when you add one more there's a bunch of flashing lights and alarms go off.

So I tried a little thought experiment and here's what I came up with.

The US median annual income in 2021 was $70,784.  Clearly the median isn't too much, so let's go nuts and multiply that by ten thousand.  That gets us just over $700 million.  Is that too much

A person needs a place to live and food to eat. Let's fill those needs in the extreme.


432 Park Avenue has a penthouse apartment. It has 6 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, and 8,255 square feet of living space. It recently sold for $169 million and is possibly the most expensive apartment in New York.

But what if you don't want to live in New York? Let's add 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard to our shopping cart. It only has 2 bedrooms and is not for sale, but you can rent it for the year for about $359,000.


I could have tried to figure out average meal costs and such, but I realized it'd be a lot easier to take the cost of a meal at the most expensive restaurant in the US and use that. If we chose to eat anywhere else or cook our own food then it can only be cheaper than that.

Masa in New York City has three stars from Michelin, and the average bill is $1,300.  Eating there every single night for a year would cost $474,500.  We'll double that to be $949,000 so we have include lunch money.


Since we have places to live in both New York and LA, we'll need to get from one to the other. If we decide to make the trip every single day of the year that would add up to around $918,000. First class of course, and it comes with a frickin' bed.

But sometimes you just don't want to be bothered will all the other people on a plane, or maybe you want to go somewhere else, so we'll throw in a private jet for $100 million and hire a pilot for $100,000 a year.


But jetting between luxurious apartments in NY and LA can get so exhausting, so let's add a vacation home to get away from it all.

The most expensive home in Palm Beach Florida rests on 2.25 acres of land, with 150 feet of direct beachfront. It includes 9 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, and a total of 21,000 square feet of living space, all for a price of $140 million.

And to get further away from it all we'll buy an island.

For only $50 million we can buy a 430 acre private island resort in The Bahamas.

To get around in the Bahamas we'll also throw in a private 140-foot yacht for $20 million, and hire a captain for $2.5 million per year.

[I'm not sure why the yacht captain gets paid so much more than the plane pilot. Working hours maybe?]


There is a small matter here of Noblesse Oblige. If we're so wealthy that we can buy all this stuff it's only right that we give money to charity, so we'll give away a thousand dollars a day. Of course that would eat into our busy schedule, so we'll hire someone to do it for us and pay them a thousand dollars a day. That totals $730,000.

Too Much

After paying all of the above, a person making ten thousand times the median US income would still have over $200 million left over

They would also have ownership of a penthouse in New York, a mansion in Florida, an island, a plane, and a yacht, so they wouldn't need to buy them again the next year.

No one needs that much money. No one can even really use up that much money. I would say an annual income of $700,000,000 is too much

... so when I look at the annual incomes (2019) of some of the wealthiest people, I'm left struggling to conceive of what they do with their wealth.