If ever there was a case of money doesn’t buy happiness, this would be it. Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire famous for founding retail giant Alibaba, has announced he will step down as chairman of his company in 2019 at the age of 55.
While many high-flying executives step down from such roles because they feel they’ve achieved all they’ve achieved their career goals, Ma has revealed his billionaire status has come at a cost. Despite being worth a cool AU$42 Billion (US$30 billion, UK £23 billion), Ma told China Business that he was happiest when he was poor and earning less than $20 a month as a school teacher.
He wants to spend his days playing golf on the beach, but his hectic work schedule currently doesn’t let him enjoy the perks of his wealth. For example, he spent more than 1,000 hours in the air over the past year, according to China Business. To put that into perspective, that’s more than a month of the year spent alone on a plane and away from his family. The year before, he spent 870 hours in the air.
He now says he’d rather die on the beach than at his desk and has put plans in place to dramatically reduce his workload. As the face of one of Asia’s biggest companies, it’s currently up to Ma to meet governments and world figures all around the globe.
Footage of Ma falling asleep at a conference is proof that his life busy, albeit lavish life, doesn’t allow much down time, and his schedule reportedly leads him to often attend multiple continental events per day.
In a statement announcing his departure, Ma also compared his current life to that of a busy president, noting he doesn’t have any power over his life.
“As for myself, I still have lots of dreams to pursue,” he said. “The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realised?”
Ma has two children, Yuankun and Yuanao, as well as wife Cathy. It’s not the first time he’s spoken about his desires to retire early. He stepped down from his CEO position in 2013, and while he’s relinquishing even more power now, he will continue on as a lifetime partner of his company.
While many Boomers won’t relate to Ma’s particular situation, it raises questions over whether people should continue working in older age if it doesn’t make them happy. Is it worth all the time away from family, friends and grandchildren if you can’t enjoy the money your livelihood is bringing in?