What’s the Point of Building Wealth?


Most of us have had a moment in our life that we imagined being wealthy. When I say wealthy, some of you may think about having money for a private jet. If you are like me and don’t own a private jet, you might be interested in knowing that a new private jet can cost somewhere between 5 and 70 million dollars. At some point in our life, most of us have let our minds wonder about all the great things we would do if we were wealthy in the way that we as an individual define being wealthy. This can be a fun daydream for a few minutes, but we usually come back to earth and realize that we are probably not going to own a private jet in our lifetime.

After a moment to reflect on this, we probably spend some time thinking about all the great things we have in life and are grateful for what we have. We may daydream about wealth, but we already know that wealth and happiness are not one in the same. Having this understanding allows us to live a more balanced life. It also means that we sometimes forget to ask why we work hard for the money and possessions we have.

Call it a midlife crisis, but over the past several months I have been forcing myself to stop and ask the question “why.” If you have a three-year-old or a teenager you are already incredibly tired of answering the “why” question but hear me out on this. If we are honest, we seldom stop to consider the reasoning behind why we are doing something. Instead, we put our head down and work on checking off the next box in life.

This is not always bad since there are many things in life that just need to be done. If you don’t believe me, just stop doing the dishes or laundry for a week. You can eat on paper plates and wear dirty clothes for a while, but my guess is that you will remember why you do the dishes and laundry soon enough. The point is, there are certain things that don’t require the “why” question because the answer is obvious. However, the answer to why we work hard is more complicated than it appears.

We all understand how money plays into the basic fabric of our lives. It helps determine the home we live in, the car or buggy we drive, the foods we eat, and the clothes we wear. In fact, there are few questions in life that money does not contribute to the decisions we make. Based on this, it is easy to assume that we work hard because it helps us meet our personal needs and desires. The problem with this answer is that for most people it does not adequately define why we work hard. Sure, we work hard and save money because it is beneficial to us as individuals.

Ask a teenager why they have a job and they might tell you that they want a car, a cellphone, and money to hang out with friends. Ask this same teenager later in life and the answer might be a home, a camper, and a nice vacation. In every stage in life, we can find ways to use the money we earn to benefit ourselves. However, as we mature as individuals, we also begin to realize that we want to do more with our money than just buy or do the next thing in life. This desire to do more may be rooted in our religion, our values, or just a sense of responsibility to others. Regardless of our motive, as we mature, we begin to understand that the answer to why we work hard is beyond our own wants and desires.

Several years ago, my wife and I were reminded of how we don’t always understand someone’s motives until they have passed away. Some of you may have read about the person I refer to as Uncle in a previous article, and if you haven’t I will fill you in. Uncle was my wife’s uncle who passed away several years ago. If you would have asked me at his funeral how to describe him I would have said Uncle was a self-serving man, who liked to smoke a pipe and do things his way. He was quick to tell you his opinion and seldom backed down from anyone. His primary occupations were hitchhiker, sailor, van driver, and collector. His favorite food was beef tongue and he always liked canned cranberry sauce. He was married at one point in his life, but I don’t think he took to marriage the way some people do because he was no longer married when I got to know him. He could stretch a penny into copper thread and liked to live on nothing and save the rest.

If you would have asked me why Uncle lived this way, I would have shrugged and said that was just Uncle. After his funeral, my wife and I were surprised when we were told that we had been named in his will. As it turned out, all those years of hitchhiking and eating cow tongue had allowed Uncle to set aside some money for his eleven nieces and nephews. The gift we received from Uncle didn’t change who he was, but it made me realize that even when we did not understand his motives for living life the way he did, he had a plan to give to the people he cared about.

As a law office, we see clients who understand why they have worked hard in life. Other times, we see clients who are still answering that question. In either case, we can help them create a plan. Some want to make sure their real estate goes to a charitable organization, while others are concerned that their daughter receives grandma’s dishes. Regardless of why you are working hard, we are here to help.


Ken Hochstetler

Attorney At Law


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