The Garrulous Jay – How Much Is Enough?

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To say that James Watt, the co-founder and CEO of Brewdog, is “a bit Marmite” would be an understatement. Some view him as a rabid self-publicist hellbent of virtue-signalling his way out of the reputational hole he found himself in, following allegations of sexism and bullying at his company. Others see in him a phenomenal entrepreneur who’s disrupted the brewing industry whilst building a business as focused on its values as its P&L.

True to form, Watt confirmed this week that he will be donating 20% of his shareholding in the company to Brewdog’s staff. Once again, he was leading by example in terms of advocating for employee share ownership and engagement.

When the announcement was first made in May this year the BBC reported his shareholding was 24.2%, implying Watt will continue to hold around 20% of the company. As Brewdog is not listed its valuation is unknown, but estimates online put it at £1.8-2.0 billion. This makes Watt’s remaining shareholding worth £360-400 million.

This lead me to wonder: how much is enough? It’s a question I’m frequently asked by clients, most often when thinking about their future retirement and what they need to have saved up before they stop earning and start living off their pensions, savings and investments.

For Watt, I wondered, did the £100 million giveaway feel painful or, frankly, meaningless?

I also began to consider whether the oft-cited argument around the fleeting nature of sports’ stars careers as justification for their outlandish pay packets ceases to carry weight. talkSport cites French football start Killean Mbappe’s potential earnings from a single season playing for Al Hilal at “a stunning €700 million”.

Does this make Watt feel undervalued? Does he think Mbappe is being over-rewarded? Or doesn’t he care?

I also speculated about the threshold beyond which the Musks, Zuckerbergs and Buffets of the world felt they had accumulated sufficient wealth; or the possible point beyond which their wealth became more of a burden than an incremental benefit.

It is certainly interesting that some billionaires plan not leave more than a fraction of their estate to their children. Perhaps this is a telling reflection of their views as to effect wealth can have on people, in the same way as one hears stories of unhappy lottery winners.

For me this is the key point. As we go about our working lives, setting financial goals and building our wealth and assets for the future to meet these objectives, I think we should all have in mind an answer to the question posed in today’s title.

I also think the answer is inextricably linked to our mental wealth… What will we need to make us happy?

Arriving at an answer to this second question as early in life as possible may provide context and perspective as to what happens subsequently. Importantly it may allow us to avoid falling into the trap of endlessly chasing an ever-rising target: a risk that surely cannot bring with it true happiness.