A few weeks ago I posted the introduction to my book. Below is the epilogue (the end part) for the book:
How To Get Rich Online
While other teenagers were playing video games and watching sports, I was reading the Wall Street Journal, buying penny stock IPOs, and thinking of inventions. While other college kids were partying, I was starting student businesses and trying get rich quick schemes. While other graduates went off and got jobs, I bought no money down real estate, stayed up all night tinkering around on the Internet, and spent all my money on domain names. Then, as my business began to take off, I worked 16 hours a day 7 days a week for fifteen years to try build it into an online empire. Through all of this, my singular obsession in life was to make lots of money. It was my drive, my passion. It gave my life a sense of purpose. The question is, what do I do now?
Having money has made my life easier and less stressful, but I am not really any happier than I used to be. One reason for this is that I still am under pressure to make even more money. My plan had been to put the $3 million I made from selling my sites in the bank and live off the interest, but with CD interest rates at only 1% (before taxes) right now, that income does not amount to much. And, although I still have a large business left, it does not make a big profit like it used to when I owned Bored.com.
By selling most of my sites I traded my next 20-30 years worth of income for a lump sum payment right now. The problem is that I am only 40 years old, and most people in my family have lived into their 90s, so I need to plan financially for the next 50+ years. Although $3 million seems like a large amount of money, it won’t last that long if I spend it to live on.
I still have a strong desire to become a business tycoon (like Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Warren Buffett, etc.), and I still constantly think of new business ideas, but things are not the same. My work day is still filled with all the various tasks of running a business (paying bills, answering phone calls, handling website problems, dealing with workers, etc.) but I am less motivated to take on new ventures. Everything seems less important now. Making changes to my sites or adding some new content to them at best could make a few thousand dollars a year more for me, but might also have no effect, so either way why bother? I feel like I should be spending my time on bigger things.
In the past, lack of funds kept me from starting many of the businesses that I conceived. Now that money is not a problem anymore, I am in a much better position to start something new. No more financing things on credit cards at 25% interest rates, trying to get partners or investors, or worrying about cash flow problems. I would not even have the pressure of needing the business to make a profit right away. But, I then I think about all the work involved in a startup and how in the end I might not even make anything from it (I could even lose money), and in comparison just living off my existing income does not seem like that bad an option. So for now I feel stuck. Being an entrepreneur and trying to get rich makes me happy, but I don’t want to make my life full of stress and time pressures again, since that will make me unhappy.
Some studies in the field of behavioral economics shed some light on this topic. Contrary to what you would expect, recent experiments show people are less happy when they have a lot of options. They often get overwhelmed and paralyzed by all the choices. For example, in an experiment setup by psychologists Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar, customers at a jam tasting booth in an upscale supermarket in California were ten times more likely to buy the jam when they were offered 6 varieties vs. 24 varieties. It is interesting to note though that the larger booth with more options attracted a bigger crowd.
Everyone wants more. More money, more success, more power, more freedom. But, does that really lead to happiness? Research by happiness economists (no, I am not making that profession up) shows that as predicted, things like a stable marriage, good health and sufficient income make people happier while “bad” things like unemployment, divorce and economic instability make people less happy. But, contrary to popular belief, being rich does not lead to significantly more happiness than just having a moderate income. Studies show that one reason for this is that wealthy people spend less time doing pleasurable things, and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed. Plus, as shown in tabloid magazines and soap operas, rich people have a whole new world of problems to deal with such as fame, security issues, addictions, financial meltdowns, family pressures, and lawyers.
My own personal paradox is that even though the pursuit of money makes me happy, now that I have a sufficient amount of it, overwhelming research indicates making more money won’t make me any happier. One solution would be to make more money but then give some of it away to charity (philanthropy generally makes people happy). Or, maybe I should expand my horizons and find other things to enjoy such as travel, reading, volunteering, sports, religion, hobbies, video games, family, and all the other pleasures life has to offer.
So, I stand now at a crossroads. My future is full of opportunities. It not time yet for me to slow down or retire. I want to make a difference in the world, do great things, and make my mark on history. I don’t know what lies ahead or what path I will take, but I look forward to the journey.