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How Much Money At One Time Would Change Your Life?

by My Journey to Millions

As I have gotten older and  more and more financially established I have noticed something about the thought given to financial windfalls.  I need a bigger and bigger number to make a difference in my life.  My guess it is only natural.

When I first started this blog I had over $17K in CC Debt, something like a $13K car note (still have that same car by the way lol),  what had to be $70K or so in student loan debt.  With a negative net worth almost any financial windfall of a couple grand would have been amazing and anything over $20K could have been considered life changing.  A Paid off car 2 years earlier would have felt unreal, or paying off most of the credit cards in a few months rather than a year or two would have been fantastic.  I always joke that during college and law school I had NO money.  I always found enough to party it up, but I never felt like I had a lot of it.  While I have worked since I was 16 (even during college and law school) I didn’t have an actual job-job until I was 25 and done with law school.   At that point in my life a grand or two would have probably would have felt life changing.  If I was smart enough to invest it at that point that amount could have been worth a very nice sum right about now.

Over time, I paid off the credit card, paid off the car note and paid off the smaller of the student loan debt (remainder is at 4% – and only costs me $331/month to keep current) which leads me to today’s question – what amount would feel like life changing? and what amount would actual change my life?  Those are two very different questions.

Last year, I got an amazing bonus.  It came at the perfect time as I needed (even more) liquidity to close on my house, but even if I didn’t have a specific use for it I don’t think it would have felt life changing nevertheless actually be life changing as it wasn’t big enough to put a significant amount more down on my home.

Since by writing this post I am forced to provide an answer after 400 words – I think an amount which would be life changing would be $150,000 – $385,000.  On the lower end I could buy a rental property (in my area with a good cushion) and begin that phase of my life. While on the upper end I could pay off my mortgage freeing up about $2,000/month after taxes.  Would I take anything less? OF COURSE, that is why I work my ass off on a few different streams of income just for an extra $200, $500, $1,000 because I know over time I am making a difference for Future Evan and his family.  I just wanted to give a lump sum number which would change my trajectory almost immediately.


What is your number? What would it take to change your life immediately?


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krantcents 07/25/2013 - 11:23 am

My number is $5 million! Remember, you asked for a number that would make a difference immediately. I don’t have much debt(mortgage/car loan) and it will be paid off in less than 4 years anyway. Paying it off early would not make a “big” difference.

Evan 07/26/2013 - 1:45 pm

Your number is your number that’s fine. I know a bit about your situation but wouldn’t even $2mil giving off 5% (extra $100K) make a difference in your life?

JC 07/25/2013 - 11:38 am

Interesting, I guess my numbers have been creeping higher as well. When I first started getting serious about my finances, sure $10-20k would have been great and made a big change. Now that my debt is gone and almost all excess capital being invested, $10-20k would be nice but it’d push me up just a little bit further along my journey. I wouldn’t turn down any free money but a truly life changing amount would need to be at least 6 figures because that could knock a year or more off my FI plan which is significant.

Evan 07/26/2013 - 1:46 pm

I would say becoming FI a year sooner would certainly be life changing!

Chadnudj 07/25/2013 - 3:18 pm

Tough question. Minimum is probably $30k to REALLY change my life (it’d retire a debt that would in turn allow me to sell an underwater rental property, thereby freeing up a significant amount of money, etc.). Being a little less stingy in terms of my imaginary windfall, I think $125k would have a long-lasting impact on my life, insofar as I’d be out of student loan debt entirely….(Damn you law school loans! You got me a higher paying job so they were worth it, but I hate paying you every month!)

Evan 07/26/2013 - 1:48 pm

My student debt is also from law school. You don’t have to pretend for a higher number for my sake, that $30K is exactly the number I was curious about.

$30K is $577 per week after taxes…since no one I know is giving you 30K is there a way to use $577 per week to try and retire that debt earlier?

Chadnudj 07/29/2013 - 12:58 pm

I’m not sure I have $577 a week, but yes, I could make extra efforts to retire that debt earlier.

The problem is, it doesn’t make mathematical sense to do so. I have a renter in the house, who, while not covering all the expenses, is making the house less of a loss. And real estate prices are recovering in the area. And the interest rate on that $30k debt is 4.5%, which is lower than my private student loan rate, and my primary mortgage rate, and also less than the long-term rate of return of index funds.

Further complicating things, my wife and I would like to buy a house for ourselves where we live (we currently live in a 1-bedroom condo that she owns), so extra money is going towards that, since it’s a higher priority for us.

The $30k is thus an annoyance, much less a financial debt imperative. But $30k to retire it would be enough to change my life, since I could then sell the house, turn something of a profit on it most likely, use that profit (and whatever we’d get on the sale of her condo, where we’d also turn a small profit most likely) to jump start the down payment on the new house, plus I’d have the extra money that was going to that debt/the rental house in general each month to put toward other goals (like getting rid of the student loans quicker)…..

Leslie Beslie 07/25/2013 - 4:52 pm

I really can’t think of anything other than getting out of debt right now so the number that would change my life is $20K. That would clear my remaining debt and give me some extra for an EF. This would change my life immediately because I would no longer have the mental weight of that debt. Having bonus money is great and all but not thinking about my debt all the time would be even better.

Evan 07/26/2013 - 1:50 pm

I’ll be honest when I get out from under that CC debt it felt fantastic. Even now I have 9K or so on a 0% CC (new house stuff) I have been fighting internally saying just pay it off (I have the cash no problem in another account) vs play the free interest game.

Just today I paid about 40% of it off just b/c I need to see it gone even though I know it is the wrong thing mathematically.

I am positive you’ll get there!

Investor Junkie 07/25/2013 - 10:06 pm

Double my current net worth 🙂

Evan 07/26/2013 - 1:53 pm

There has to be a number less than $10mil that would change your life significantly!

moneystepper 07/26/2013 - 7:22 am

Its an interesting question Evan. I think it is really important what you mean by “changing your life”? An amount which would allow passive income to surpass my salary would clearly have a life-changing effect if I changed my daily work as a result.

But, equally, a one-off windfall of say £10k, saved at 10% annual interest, over the next 40 years would give me over £450k upon retirement. The amount now doesn’t seem life changing, but it certainly would change a certain part of my life!

Ah, screw it, $1.5bn so I can buy Abramovich’s super yacht: https://tinyurl.com/mgzlj8o – only joking (I think)!

Evan 07/26/2013 - 2:03 pm

Its an interesting question Evan. I think it is really important what you mean by “changing your life”? I would define it as an amount that changes the trajectory of your life. Getting 10K now for the 40yr plan isn’t changing the immediate trajectory

Cassi 07/27/2013 - 6:37 pm

I am currently 18 and starting college soon, so even just $3,500 would be life changing for me, but being greedy, I think I’d really feel the change at $20,000 because at that point I could go through college without any debt, and that would be a dream come true!

Evan 08/25/2013 - 9:22 pm

4 years of college for $20K? Wow where are you going?

Funny about Money 07/29/2013 - 7:40 pm

Gee, that’s an interesting post.

Seems to me it has to do with where you are in your life at any given time. My parents’ neighbors in the old-folkerie actually won a Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes (can you imagine? I never thought those things were real!). But they were in their 80s and living in a life-care community. Obviously, it didn’t make a darned bit of difference to them. Really, all it meant was they had a chunk of money to leave to the kids.

Which would be nice. Very nice.

Right now: About $500,000 would cause me to quit the side gigs that survived after the layoff. I would never edit another scientific paper, never index another scholarly tome, never cope with another junior-college student. Anything less than that…meh. Wouldn’t be enough to assure a safe retirement through my dotage.

Ten, fifteen years ago: one million dollah would’ve been the magic figure. Invested intelligently and added to the money I had then, that would have allowed me to quit my hated job right then and there. And you can be sure I certainly would have! 😀

Thirty years ago? Even a million bucks wouldn’t have made any difference. The husband of the time had a very fine law practice with one of the most prestigious firms in the Southwest, and you can be sure he wouldn’t have quit that. He was supporting me in bourgeois comfort, and so I didn’t have to hold down an obnoxious job — instead, I took jobs I loved but that couldn’t have begun to support me without a spouse. We probably would have traveled more, since he loved to travel. He liked to live on the cuff, too, and so instead of being 3/4 of a million dollars in debt, I expect a windfall like that would have led us into something more like two million in debt.

Once you’ve reached a certain level of affluence — and it doesn’t have to be that high — a lot of extra money may not really cause that much change. It’s just something else to have to keep track of…

Evan 08/25/2013 - 9:28 pm

That is an interesting addition to the theory! The downward curve on the other side of a certain age. I love it!

Integrator 07/30/2013 - 7:43 pm

I think $1m+ would definitely make a material impact. As others have said, i think its all relative to your current situation. That would effectively buy me $30k worth of dividends/yr, combined with existing $28k/yr in dividends would give us what we’d need in terms of the required annual passive income amount to be truly independent.

Evan 08/25/2013 - 9:30 pm

Nothing lower than a mil? Would a smaller amount pay off a debt to bring down your monthly nut?

Paula / Afford Anything 08/05/2013 - 8:56 am

$600,000 would totally change my life.

I’d use $250,000 to pay off one of my rental properties. That would make a decent difference. After that, I’d like another $250,000 to pay off a different rental property, followed by $100,000 for the same reason. Once they’re all paid off, I’ll have about $50,000 – $70,000 annually in net passive income (after operating expenses), which for me would equal financial independence.

Evan 08/25/2013 - 9:32 pm

Interesting. Do you think if someone were ot hand you $600K you’d pay down debt OR do you think you’d expand the empire even more?

Kara 08/10/2013 - 3:11 pm

So my answer changes when “change your life” becomes “change the trajectory of your life”.

Currently $60k would be life changing. It would allow me to pay off the last of the old business/IRS debt, buy a new(er) more fuel efficient car, and pull the trigger on buying the property I currently lease-to-own. It would change my life in that it would accelerate the achievement of these goals and free up a lot of money that’s currently paying debt or being stashed in savings, thereby allowing me to get to work on other (more fun and exciting) goals.

But that’s not changing the trajectory of my life, as that’s all stuff that I’m currently on track to do in the next few years.

So in the “change the trajectory of my life” context: $10 million is the amount that I’ve figured I could invest in such a way as to live comfortably off the interest, while still indulging in some travel and luxuries. (Mind you my guy’s figure is $17 million, because he’s figured that’s the amount he could invest and come away with a $1 million / yr income. That’s his magic number!)

Evan 08/25/2013 - 9:36 pm

Wow $10mil? What about $5mil with a 5% payout is $250K….does your guy make that much?


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