I wonder if there is an informal idiom to say that someone made so much money that became needless of any more money and retired themselves (meaning that from then on they work only for fun / pleasure and not for the sake of earning money)?


  • He is really a clever guy. He entered to this market just three years ago; just focused on his job and payed no attention to anything else. As a sociable person he managed to connect to the market's most influential people and the big shots in his own field and after awhile he ................. selling silk carpets and retired by the time he was 40.

I used to think that, "make a pile" is the only possible term here, but Cambridge Dictionary says that it means just: "to earn a large amount of money", which has no hint to getting needless of money (becoming very wealthy so that you don't need to try too much to earn any more money).

I wonder if there is any better idiom encompassing all the explained information?


9 Answers 9


The phrase set for life was the first that came to my mind. It doesn't necessarily imply making a lot of money, but with some additional words you can make some idiomatic phrases.

If you make it big on Broadway, you'll be set for life.

You'd be set for life if you'd invested in the month after their IPO.

Another possibility is to strike it rich. This usually but not always means a person is set for life, but rather that they made a lot of money doing one thing or another.

By the Great Horn Spoon! uses this phrase a lot in the context of people migrating to mine gold. Example from the summary (likely many more in the book text):

They pick a beautiful spot, but then, as they hit bedrock, Jack and Praiseworthy find gold and strike it rich.

How these two relate to other answers suggestions:

  • Anecdotally, make a pile is rarer than other suggestions here, even when spoken. The Ngram supports this notion, but make a pile's search results (18.5 million at time of writing on page 1) are greater than strike it rich's at 1.2 million. Then again, "make a pile" can refer to making a physical pile of objects, so it's hard to tell how many of these results are being used in the context this question is asking about, and paging to the end of either phrase's search results yields two more numbers (220 for "strike it rich" and 167 for "make a pile") which exclude similar results.

  • make it big does usually refer to money, but "making it" can refer to a more general notion of success, with "big" simply amplifying it

  • Here's sources for make a fortune versus make one's fortune. Making a fortune simply refer to making a lot of money. In context, this could be a smaller amount than needed to be set for life. On the other hand, "one's fortune" is all the money someone needs to be set for life.

  • independently wealthy is a little tricky, and it is in with financial independence. It suggests something similar to set for life, that one's needs do not depend on someone else's wealth. However, the exact implications are different. Set for life seems grander and might suggest more money. Being independently wealthy or financially independent means that you do not have to work for money. See Reddit's r/financialindepence for a starting point on the connotations of these two phrases.

Ngram viewer with a few of these phrases

It's possible none of these phrases have the exact connotations and usage you're looking for. But if you combine them together and give enough context, you can build your own idiomatic phrases. For example,

He struck it rich selling carpets and was set for life by 35, but he kept working until 40.

What this says is:

  1. He made a lot of money selling carpets.
  2. He could have retired at 35.
  3. He continued working despite not needing to, presumably for reasons other than money.
  • Thank you very much @user886 for the excellent answer. But I wonder what would be your pick and how would you say the same thing (as you noticed that none of these expressions are so close to what I need that I can accept it.)
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 19:04
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    It's generally not good to rely on the initial number Google displays as an indicator of how often a phrase might be used. By the time we start paging through the results, Google will often say: In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 167 already displayed, and it turns out the phrase isn't as ubiquitous as that initial number might have suggested. Note to A-friend: English has no particular idiom that's an exact fit for what you seek.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 20:14
  • @A-friend I added an example of how you can mix these phrases to convey something (I know I warped your example a bit, but I wanted to show how you can adjust the phrasing for another factor).
    – user886
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 2:43

I would use the term independently wealthy, though I don’t think it’s considered an idiom:

(of a person) Possessing enough wealth that one does not need financial support from another person and does not require income from employment.



I can't address the idiom "make a pile" as I am not familiar with it, but maybe some else can. Here's what came to mind for me:

  • make it (big)
    infml to become famous or successful:
    By the time he was nineteen, he had made it big in the music business.
    (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • make it big

    • To achieve great success and/or fame.
      My dream is to make it big on Broadway.
      You're never going to make it big if you don't put in the hard work.
    • to become successful, especially financially. I always knew that someday I would make it big. My brother made it big, but it has just led to tax problems.

However, this also doesn't necessarily mean they're no longer in need of money and retire. In any case, "... and after a while he made it big selling silk carpets and retired by the time he was 40" sounds like a perfectly idiomatic sequence to me.

Anyway, there might be an idiom out there that captures exactly what you want. Let's see!

  • Thank you very much @Em. Let's see what others may have to say. Also, I wonder for which type of English are you talking?
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 9:13
  • I suspect that "made it big" is more common in the USA and "made a pile [of money]" is the British version of the same thing. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 9:20
  • @A-friend I use AmE. I forgot to mention that. :)
    – Em.
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 22:38

I'd use the phrase to make one's fortune, which means to become wealthy.

(None of the references spell it out, but I've always heard it in reference to making enough that money is no longer a concern.  Of course, people who make a fortune through their own efforts are rarely the sort to stop working at that point, but I'd certainly assume that to be an option.)

  • Thank you @gidds, but it just means to make a lot of money. That's all. What about the part which encompasses "becoming needless"?
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 17:13
  • 3
    Again, I haven't yet found a reference which spells it out, but I've always understood a difference between making a fortune (simply earning a lot of money), and making one's fortune (earning enough money so as not to need money any more).
    – gidds
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 17:24

As you say, make a pile simply means that you have made, or are making, a lot of money: it doesn't carry any implications that you don't need any more money.

Once you have reached the stage where earning any more wouldn't make any difference to you, you could use the informal expression filthy rich.

Note that, while anymore is acceptable as a single word in American English, it is not in British English.

  • 1
    I looked up anymore in my Canadian dictionary. Interestingly, it's fine as a single word—although it's mostly used as a single word in Southern Canada. (Probably because of the geographical closeness to the US.) However, two words are used everywhere if a quantity is specified. So (1) I can't eat any more food, but (2) I can't eat food anymore. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 14:14
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    Incidentally, the phrase idle rich is also used, but I'd say that filthy rich is more common and expressive. (Even if it can also have more of a negative implication.) Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 14:16
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    @JasonBassford you are right: I think that "idle rich" is a lot closer to the meaning that A-frient is looking for- somebody who no longer needs to work.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 14:22
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    @A-friend Set for life doesn't necessarily mean that you have any money. It just means that your needs are taken care of. But it could be somebody else with money who is taking care of you. Or somebody who has been homeless could consider being sent to prison, with a roof over their heads and three meals a day, as making them set for life. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 14:59
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    Native speaker of Am.E. here and I've never heard "make a pile" in my life, outside of literally gathering up things into a pile. I suspect this might be a dialect-specific term.
    – Hearth
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 18:07

"Financially independent" is a common term for this. Specifically, it means that you don't depend on anyone else for your money, because you have enough money yourself.

The term is sometimes encountered in the idiom "Financial Independence Retirement Early", or FIRE (see this blog, e.g.). That seems to match the exact example you gave, so: "He achieved financial independence selling silk carpets and retired by the time he was 40".

As an example usage, one financial advisor wrote:

Athletes’ maximum earnings period are relatively short. Building financial plans that help them remain financially independent is extremely gratifying. (Source)

Here is another such usage of a similar, related phrase:

The transaction made Bush independently wealthy — he put in $606,302 and later sold his stake for $14.9 million. (Source)

  • "Financially independent" and "independently wealthy" have connotations more of a person who has enough money of their own not to have to rely on another person's income. I have seen it used much more for women than for men. I don't think of it as meaning that one has earned a lot of money and so can retire. A single man who makes a lot of money on the stock market, say, does not become financially independent. He has no one to be independent from.
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 18:37
  • @A-friend - Don't be so quick to dismiss a suggestion just because you've seen it used in other contexts. I've taken the liberty to add a couple quotes to this answer to show how the expressions you mention are sometimes used in precisely the context you are asking about.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 2:31
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    @A-friend - In the US, I'd expect the term to more closely track with having enough money to not require health insurance than to have any gender connotation. The upshot being that in my understanding, financial independence reflects having enough wealth to escape one's largest expected financial liability.
    – thehole
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 18:04

F*** You Rich is one used in internet circles. The definition can be described as "So wealthy that you can say F*** You with no cause for concern or fear of financial reprisal".

As one comment notes, this is also sometimes called F**k you money. A 2016 article at Money.com reads:

In some circles, the wealth required to burn any bridge you want has a name: “f–k you money.” The term pops up often in popular culture—for example, memorably employed by the actor John Goodman in the 2014 film The Gambler.

For many people, f–k you money is the essence of success. “[If] you have, as performers will call it, ‘f–k you’ money,” Johnny Carson once said, “all that means is that I don’t have to do what I don’t want to do.”

  • 5
    It's more common for people to say you have "fuck you money" (quora.com/…)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 0:32

The idiom that works here is:

make a fortune. In this case, "made a fortune".

It's that simple.

  • Uh, thabk you very much @Lambie. Great job. Just one could you possibly let me know if the two similar idioms: "make a fortune" and "make one fortune" mean the same or they somehow differ in meaning. It strikes me as if the two are not identical and the "one" version is something else. I wonder if you kindly let me know about them. Thank you in advance. 🙏🏻
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 5:00
  • the idiom is: to make a fortune doing something.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 16:15
  • Here's the general scoop on the a/one thing (but not for a specific idiom): ell.stackexchange.com/questions/182207/…
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 16:21

I would suggest 'Rolling in it' as an alternative.

Used in the example context:

As a sociable person he managed to connect to the market's most influential people and the big shots in his own field. He was rolling in it by the time he was 40, after selling carpets, and decided to retire.

When used in the context of money it means to have so much money you can afford to lie around all day surrounded by your money.

It also has the connotation of having a lot more money than you need - this can apply to the very wealthy or can also be used in other contexts if someone has more money that expected.

  • Interesting answer @simon_smiley. Just do you know where does this idiom come from and what does "rolling" allude to? Does this idiom have any association with "printing money"?
    – A-friend
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 5:11
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    I would expect this idiom comes from having so much money you can physically roll on it. Imagine money covering the floor of a room, lying down and rolling around in happiness. You raise an interesting point about the links between printing and rolling but I feel this misleading. Part of the idiom of 'rolling in it' also links to having so much money you can afford to have a room filled with it that is dedicated only to the act of rolling around.
    – sam_smith
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 5:51

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