How wealthy people act

I am an architect that focuses on residential design. I have a unique group of clients that all have one thing in common: they started tech/internet companies in the last ten years, and are all very, very wealthy. I have become good friends with most of them, and some have shared their success stories with me in great detail; including what some of their businesses have sold for. The least wealthy of the group sold his business for $140 million about 18 months ago.

It blows my mind how money conscious they all are. One of the more wealthy gentlemen started a company that creates and customizes billing software for government organizations and large corporations around the world. He is worth at least $400 million. The home that we designed is about a $900,000 home. Thats it. He made “budget” decisions regarding countertop materials because he felt we were getting too close to “the number he wanted to spend.” I felt close enough that I wanted to ask him why he wouldn’t go over budget to build the home of his dreams, or at least get a few nicer finishes. He said that they are just countertops; they wont make his life any better. He said he learned along time ago that the worst mistake you can make no matter how much money you have is blowing a budget out of the water just because you can. It takes discipline to meet a budget, and he wants to remain disciplined so that he still has that “refined skill” long into the future when it might be a $30 – 40 million transaction, not just a piddly $4,000 countertop upgrade. I was shocked and impressed.

The amazing thing is that the guys that have this ridiculous wealth are all like this (at least the ones I interact with). Its the guys that make $300,000 to $600,000 a year that act like they have all the money in the world. Imported tile from Italy, German made cabinets, etc.

Just thought I’d share a quick story that we all might benefit from, and demonstrate that there are some really responsible wealthy people out there.

Edit: since this post has gained some traction, I thought I’d share another tidbit. This one doesn’t fall under the “solid financial advice” column, but more of a personal tip in the pursuit of wealth. I am an eager, ambitious young man (31). One of these clients (the one that I would consider my closest friend out of the bunch) can see my eagerness to get to where he is. He has helped me try to manage my angst, and really enjoy the ride. Having sold his business for nearly $300 million, he shocked me one day when he said “you know lostandfounder, I envy you.” I laughed and said “yea right.” He said “I do, I really do. You wake up every morning knowing that there is something great out there and you still have too go get it. You wake up every morning knowing that if you don’t give it your best, your finances will suffer, your goals won’t be met, and your family may go without. I will likely never feel that again. Sure, I am involved with charity work, and I try to give a lot back, but that satisfaction doesn’t match the chase. the pursuit, the fight. My advice, lostandfounder: enjoy it while you can. Be grateful for the struggle. Appreciate the unknown. Wake up every day and go get it. Cause one day you will wake up and it will already be there. Then what?”

This has had a lasting impact on me. “then what?” doesn’t mean that this man has lost his fire; anything but. It just means that his days of unsurety are gone. he has to find new ways to challenge himself. He will likely never be faced with an “eat or be eaten” situation again.

edit 2: A lot of people are ragging on these guys. They are a small cross section of wealthy people. I think they are very unique not only in their extreme wealth, but in their appreciation for life, charity, graciousness, approachability, and general concern for family/friends/community. These are good people. They may not live like most extremely wealthy people do, but if they did, I wouldn’t have any reason to be inspired to make this post…

To the people saying that the guy in the first edit should just give away all of his money and start over if he wants that feeling back again, I’d like to explain a little better. The point was never about him wanting to be back at square one. He is immensely grateful for his fortune. He wouldn’t part with it. He was helping me see that there is a lot of joy to be had in the journey. That the man that only looks ahead to what he wants or what he could have, will never be happy. Have you never been is a bad situation, only to get out of it, look back, recognize that it may have sucked but it was a truly character building situation, then said “I never want to have too do that again?” That is where this gentlemen is at. He recognizes that the pursuit is difficult, but that it can and should be enjoyed. he in no way wants to go back to that point now that he has made it.

Edit 3: cleaned up edit 2 to not sound like such a jerk. I changed it to just be informational, not inflammatory.

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