How Much is Enough?


It’s a word that factors heavily in so many calculations and decisions we make every day.

How much propofol do I push on induction? Enough.

How much dinner do my boys need to finish and still get a treat? Enough.

How much money should you set aside each month? Enough.

How much do you need to retire? Enough.

How many shirts do you have in your closet and drawers? More than enough.

How much time do you have to do all the things you want to do? Not nearly enough.


Enough is an amount or number that is highly individualized. Enough also happens to be the title of a library book I just finished by John C. Bogle of Vanguard fame. From the Introduction:


“At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have… enough.”


Like Mr. Bogle, I found this anecdote to be quite compelling. Knowing what Enough means for you and being content when you have Enough is powerful stuff. The hedge fund manager on the hedonic treadmill may never get to Enough. Or, if one day he realizes has Enough money, he may not have Enough of other things that matter in life, like friendship, time, love, and happiness.

I’d like to return to a few of the questions first posed. Exactly how much is Enough?

Propofol? About 2 to 2.5 mg/kg usually does the trick.

Dinner? We like the boys to finish the things we know they eat and at least try the foods that are new.

The money questions are a focus here on this site. How much is Enough to set aside each month? It depends on your goals, but I’m going to assume that Financial Independence is among them. Once your debts are paid off, saving 1/3rd of your gross salary is a good goal. This counts pre-check savings like the 401(k) / 403(b), 457(b), SEP-IRA, HSA, etc… If you can’t manage that, start with 10% and work your way up to 1/3rd or more.

How much is Enough to retire? At least 25 times your annual spending, which allows you to use a 4% withdrawal rate and expect it to last 30 years. If you are like me and expect to have a longer lasting retirement, you might be more comfortable with a 3% initial withdrawal rate, and will need a minimum of 33.3 years worth of expenses in your nest egg to have Enough.

Your spending dictates your needs. You have probably figured out that you don’t actually need to replace a percentage of your income in retirement as many experts will have you believe. That works if you are spending the vast majority of your earnings each year, but that’s not going to be the case for you or me. The less you spend, the less you need to retire. Income shouldn’t factor into this calculation.

Of course, you need to know how much you spend, and that can be difficult, particularly early in your career. You are working on paying down student loans, saving up for a down payment on a home, perhaps starting a family or moving for a new job when the first one doesn’t pan out.


Arcadia Whitsun

Enough for the weekend?


When life becomes stable, you can better look at how you spend your money. The concept of Enough enters the picture again. Are you spending wisely, or spending to add to an ever-growing pile of stuff? My wife, who reads much more and looks much better than me, just finished the über-popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

The premise of the book is that we have way too much stuff, and the author proposes a radical way of helping you offload that burden. We do own too many things, not just my family, but most everyone I know. Yet another book that I borrowed from the library, “Work Less, Live More” by Bob Clyatt tells me that per capita consumption has doubled over the past 30 years. A peek into your neighbor’s garage or mine will confirm the stat.

Recognizing that we have more than Enough stuff is a good start. The next step will be to take bigger steps towards reducing inventory, but that takes time. How much time do I have? Not nearly enough.

How can I “buy some time”? I have written before about how money buys time and the best way to buy time is by working less (as in part time) or not at all in an early retirement. How can we make these better lifestyles a reality? We come full circle and start setting aside a good amount of money each month. How much? Have you been paying any attention???

Star wide receiver Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions seems to understand the concept of Enough. He walked away from $67 million when he retired early this off-season with plenty left in the tank. Fellow blogger Mr. Firestation is another man who is on to the concept of Enough. He lefthis Megacorp job (and the opportunity for further career advancement) Apri 1, 2016, just a couple weeks shy of his 50th birthday. He’s got Enough and he knows it.

John Bogle and Joseph Heller are two more people who have clearly mastered the concept of Enough. Mr. Bogle is proud to share with us the fact that his net worth is less than $100 million, when there are hedge funders bringing in over a billion a year. His estimated $80 million could be much higher, but he already has more than Enough.

How do you define Enough? Do you know it when you see it? Will you have Enough money when you are ready to retire? Is $1 million or $2 million enough? $4 million? $10 million?!?

Will you have Enough time? Enough friendship, love, or happiness? Comment in the aptly named comment box below!


  • There’s a few life changing concepts. This is certainly one.

  • Dr. Mo

    You did such a great job with this article. The propofol thing was brilliant. A lot of times I am looking for something concrete when asking a question that doesn’t have a very specific answer. It’s really nice to hear that concept explained so well in your post. And your point about ‘the less you spend the less you need to retire’ is a very powerful statement. As docs we spend more time and energy increasing our income but perhaps don’t put enough effort into lowering our expenses. Maybe it’s out of fear that we may have to give up our comfort.

    • Thank you, Dr. Mo! It is really easy and tempting to allow our consumption to grow right along with our income. Less than 10 years removed from residency, I’ve realized I’ve accumulated too many belongings, and am in a decumulation phase with material goods. I’m still in the accumulation phase with respect to dollars, but it’s all gravy at this point. Cheers to financial independence!

  • Tawcan

    Great stuff. Enough for us just means that our passive income exceeds our expenses. By then we have enough. 25 times is a great number to use in general.

    • Yes, passive income that covers more than Enough will be plenty. The term “passive” is sometimes abused, though. If we’re talking dividends from stocks and mutual funds, that is definitely passive. Blogging, as I am learning, is definitely not passive. Neither is landlording, which I’ve done in the past. Best of luck on your quest!


  • Donna

    Great blog post – I really enjoyed it.

  • MM

    Nice post POF… It has been hard for me to say Enough – but the more i say it the better my life becomes.. i just turned down an exceedingly good job offer as that would mean less time with my family.. I am learning…

    • Good for you. I used to do a lot of locums work with my time off. I am on so many e-mail lists now that I get inquiries from different companies nearly every day. I don’t have any trouble saying no these days. I need time at home, time with my family, and time to write!


  • Great post. How much do I need? I always see the doc in the hospital parking lot with the Maserati. How much has he accumulated in order to own and sustain that car? It does put my frugal self at odds with my doctor self.

    • Thanks, Smart Money MD! Funny you mention the Maserati. I saw one at our local brewery quite recently, an observation I made in my Rule of 72 post last week. What I didn’t say was that one of our pathologists was inside, and I was really curious to know if it was his. I found an excuse to walk out when he did. It wasn’t his, and I felt strangely relieved.

  • Nice article. Enough is so fluid for me. Before I decluttered I felt like I had enough, but what I really had was obscene abundance. Now I feel like I have enough, but I’m guessing I could purge another 50% and still feel that way. I’m still struggling with the concept to be honest. I’ll let you know when I get there 🙂

    • Thank you for the compliment, HappyPhilosopher. My wife read the same book you read, and we are motivated to do some serious decluttering as part of our spring cleaning. I’m glad to hear you still feel you have more than Enough. I have an irrational fear of getting rid of some things, just in case I might need them. Being FI should make it even easier to part with small / inexpensive items, though. They are replaceable in the unlikely event I would want back 1 or 2 of the thousands of things I could unload.

Share your thoughts with the PoF community.