A while ago I came across a poignant article in the Wall Street Journal – You’re Not Super Rich? You Lucked Out, by Jonathan Clements which got me thinking about this concept. Here are some excerpts from it that I think ring especially true.
On the face of it….
We all swoon over nice and expensive things – a big house, flashy car dinner or private jets. We see others with these things and wish we could have them – a completely natural instinct. But the fact is, while it is comforting to be financially secure, money is no measure of self-worth, no guarantee of happiness — and no reason to be impressed.
We all tend to sit up and take notice when we come across people with fancy titles, hefty incomes and immense riches. Yet these aren’t signs of genius or virtue. Want proof? All it takes is two words: Paris Hilton. Wealth may be inherited, which means the beneficiaries’ struggle for riches didn’t extend beyond the delivery room. Legendary investor Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has described “the idea that you win the lottery the moment you’re born” as “outrageous.”
Displays of wealth can also be misleading. Folks can appear wealthy – but the mansion may be fully mortgaged, the cars might be leased and the landscaper may still be awaiting payment. Even if you come across somebody who can easily afford the trappings of wealth, the trappings themselves are not a sign of wealth, but of wealth that has been spent. The money lavished on the cars, homes and jewelry is now gone. True, these purchases could always be sold. But there’s no guarantee they will fetch the price that was paid – and, in the meantime, they may require hefty maintenance costs.
Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing wrong with spending. The whole reason for saving and investing now is so we can have money to spend later. That said, I can’t imagine why I should find this spending impressive – and I am not sure it is making the spenders happy.
As the old adage goes, money doesn’t buy happiness. Yes, those with high incomes and more wealth often say they are happier. This may, however, be a so-called focusing illusion. When the well-heeled are asked how satisfied they are with their lives, they contemplate their position in society — and they realize they’re pretty fortunate. But research has found that, when high-income earners are asked about their emotions on a periodic basis throughout the workday, they don’t report being any happier — but they are more likely to say they are anxious or angry.
All this might have you scratching your head. It seems obvious that your life would be better if you had a gardener to maintain the yard, a chef to prepare your meals and a private jet to whisk you off to exotic locations. And if you were suddenly handed all these things, life would indeed be grand – until you got used to them. Unfortunately, after a while, you would become accustomed to the great food and the no-hassle travel, and you would be hankering for something even better. This is the old adage of is enough ever enough?
Having enough money is important, but having heaps of it doesn’t guarantee happiness. Instead, what matters is doing something that you enjoy and that gives you a sense of purpose – Most times if you find something you believe in and are passionate about, the financial rewards will follow. It is the journey, who you share it with and how you get to that goal will bring real happiness.
This article was updated on July 5