Friday, March 18, 2011

That's Enough

One of the most difficult decisions to make in the context of retirements or scaling down is to know if what one has is enough. I know first-hand that these doubts never go away. There are always scenarios in which the savings seem inadequate.

In light of that, I really liked this poem by a favorite writer of mine – Kurt Vonnegut. (I found the poem in Bob Sutton's blog, Work Matters)

It's a small poem that appeared in the New Yorker back in '05. I am posting it in full.

Joe Heller

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22'
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!"

--Kurt Vonnegut


Your Own Retirement said...

There has to be a little give and take when retiring in this environment. Scaling down and removing things from your shopping list is something that is crucial to retire in todays marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Not so sure I buy Hellers argument - it appears heller needs to caricature just so he does not have to deal with the potential complexity of a more realistic model.

Is it not possible that the billionaire also thinks he has had enough money but is working for more noble reasons than the acquiring of wealth. Is warren buffet working so he can acquire more wealth or is he providing society a service by allocating his investors hard earned retirement savings into the right companies for the future. Does he not derive the same satisfaction from his work as heller does from his own. Does his work not provide the same level of utility to society that hellers work does.

BTW, I loved catch 22.