The 3 Levels of Wealth From a Billionaire’s Perspective
The 3 Levels of Wealth From a Billionaire’s Perspective
I’ve been a member of several online groups for real estate investors in the past. The majority have used a messaging tool called Slack for internal communication among members.
Last year, during the pandemic shutdown across the United States, Slack allowed companies the best way to continue working especially those that have offices across the country.
Slack’s developer, Stewart Butterfield, stumbled across the idea while unsuccessfully trying to get a multiplayer online game off the ground.
After abandoning the effort, he realized his next best idea could come from the communications system his team used while setting up the game.
Back in 2012, this new idea turned into Slack which is now worth over $20 billion. Not bad for a fluke of an idea!
Each week, I attempt to kill two birds with one stone as I usually listen to episodes of my favorite podcasts while working out.
During an episode of “How I Built This,” host Guy Raz interviewed Butterfield on different topics such as his success when he founded Slack.
Near the end of the interview, Raz asked Butterfield about his journey from “regular guy” to now billionaire.
Specifically he asked, “Does that eliminate stress in your life? Does that mean that everything is set and everything is taken care of?”
Butterfield’s response was intriguing which made me rewind and listen to his response multiple times.
He went on to say that he believed that there are three levels of wealth in the world.
And depending on what level each of us are in, that shapes the way we think.
Related Article: Money Mindset – 3 Steps From Poor to Rich Mindset
3 Levels Of Wealth – Butterfield
At the end of the podcast, Raz asked Butterfield several personal questions including how significant wealth creation has had a huge impact on his life.
Now you’d think that a someone with enormous wealth would have given some type of sophisticated answer regarding how he saved extra money early on and allowed compound interest to snowball his way to riches.
But if you’d have thought that, then you would have been wrong. At least I was.
He mentioned that past a certain level of income or wealth, a person isn’t any happier as this number typically will meet our basic needs.
From what I’ve read, that amount is around $75,000 – $85,000 a year. I realize that this could be higher (if you live in California) or lower (if you live in Louisiana) but you get the picture.
What was interesting was his answer to the original question about how his success has changed his life and how he felt that it could be broken down into three levels of wealth.
Wealth Level #1
I’m not stressed out about debt.
This is where people no longer worry about their credit card bills or student loans.
They usually have an emergency fund in place and enough money to reduce their stress level.
Wealth Level #2
I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants.
This level is when a person doesn’t care how much they spend on a meal.
He used an example of someone wanting an $18 item but settles for the $12 one instead.
At Level #2, these decisions become meaningless.
Wealth Level #3
I don’t care what a vacation costs.
Butterfield stated that Level #3 was the “ultimate level of wealth.”
Hotel costs and which flights you go on don’t matter at this level as you have enough wealth.
As a side note, one of our favorite things to do as a family is travel.
Except for the occasional beach trip to Gulf Shores, AL, I didn’t get to see too much of the world as a kid.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with this, but my parents didn’t have the means nor desire to take my brother and I on many trips.
As a father of two boys, I want them to experience more than what the Southeast U.S. has to offer.
So for me, I find more joy spending money on experiences (travel) versus stuff.
Related article: Die With Zero
Hearing a billionaire state that once you get to “Level #3” you’ve gotten to the ultimate level of wealth in his eyes feels pretty darn good.
Yes, I do care what a vacation costs but typically go on it anyway!
“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. ” – Benjamin Franklin
At the end of Butterfield’s interview, he claimed that because there’s much suffering and inequality in the world, he aims to give most of his wealth away.
He feels that keeping it all too himself isn’t going to make him any happier and that helping others is something we all should do if we can.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”
Again, this goes against what we’d think a billionaire would say about obtaining newfound wealth.
I especially enjoyed how he broke down the complexities of money into three easy to digest levels of wealth.
We talk a good bit here about striving to reach financial freedom from our careers. He reached it using skills to develop software that solves a problem.
But in the end, it seems that Butterfield feels that what really matters about wealth to have a better life is how it impacts the smaller things in your daily life (consumer debt, eating out and travel).
What Level Are You In?
As a high income earner, you’ve probably surpassed levels one and two. Level 3 could be up in the air but if travel isn’t your thing, then let’s make a new level and call it Level 3a.
This level gives you financial stability where your time is your own.
If you want to get up and go to work (or not) then you have the freedom to do so. You choose, not someone else.
If you want to give to someone facing extreme poverty, give to your church or spend time volunteering at the local soup kitchen, you can do it.
If you feel that taking off for three months and touring Montana, Wyoming and Idaho would make you happy then by all means, get with it!
Level 3a is the level that I want for each and every one of you for financial security.
Do you realize how much GOOD every person could do on earth if they didn’t have to go to a JOB the majority of their lives?
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Nice post – thanks! I really can relate to his three levels. I’m on squarely level 2 – but I’m working on it ;-). I’m also on your level 3a. Given that, I don’t think 3a is in the same progression as the others you described.
Or perhaps it should be level 2a. I’m not sure an individual would give up a good paying job and start doing volunteer work if they’re stressing about debt. But once you have gotten out of debt, and feel comfortable with your current level of wealth, you might.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you’d simply drop habits that probably contributed to getting you to that point – like not blowing lots of money eating out at fancy restaurants and ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. For some, living the frugal life – and continuing to do so – is exactly what got them to the point where they could quit trading time for money.
All of your posts take a very interesting perspective and the analogies you draw are easy to comprehend and are well grounded in reality. As always, excellent post.