“I have enough money to live comfortably until next Thursday.”
Those of you who have been enlightened by knowledge of personal finance have probably read, or at least heard of, The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko. It’s a book filled with studies, reports, interviews, and details about the importance of proper saving and living below your means of wealth…sort of like something both your professor and your mom would make you read. It’s far from a get-rich-quick book; as a matter of fact, it embraces frugal spending and serious investing over a lifetime in order to be a prodigious accumulator of wealth (PAW). It was recommended by our friends over at r/personalfinance as a hallmark piece and is a great introduction to the lifestyle of healthy spending.
Overall, I did feel more acquainted with financial goals after finishing it. The studies portrayed in the book are a few years old, but they still ring mightily true to this day. If you can get past the repetitive examples and some findings that make you say, “well, fucking duh,” I think anyone can benefit from reading it. If you are or plan to be an entrepreneur, this book is your rallying cry.
I’m still a student, graduating from college soon mind you. Money is consistently on my mind in a sense of survival, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts. There have been sagas of life where I needed to eat ramen a few times per week in order to make rent, but nothing to freak out about. The entire reason I applied to school in the first place was because a better education meant better chances of a higher income. For such a long time I was fascinated by the thought of hyper-consumption. I wanted to graduate school and find the biggest and baddest job and make a load of America’s finest printed currency so that I, too, could drive a Range Rover and retire at 40. Money can buy happiness, or perhaps at least buffer you from financial risk, right?
Over the past year or so a lot of that mindset has changed. No, I don’t want to be homeless or in debt up to my eyes, balls, and/or eyeballs. But at the same time: a Rolex and a country club membership aren’t going to make me happy. I know that a six-figure salary would make plenty of people (including myself) very happy, but it wouldn’t leave me fulfilled. I
can’t won’t take money to the grave with me. While I may be able to pass it on to another entity when I’m gone, I’m not going to be able to spend a single copper Lincoln in that doomsday box buried 6 feet underground.
So why save? What’s the point of having all of that money if you don’t plan to spend it? I’ll spend frugally most of the time, but I should be able to have some fun with it, too! Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap, it means being smart (and sometimes kind of cheap) with your money. The takeaway of the book is if you want to have a high net wealth, you must spend frugally (playing good offense) and save wisely (playing good defense). This way, you can pay for your kids education, save for retirement, be able to give back, yada yada yada. I’m not going to argue that any of those things are bad, but they shouldn’t be the sole purpose of life. But if you find yourself at the point where all you do is save, I feel like you’re almost as bad as the under-accumulator of wealth (UAW).
I think, at least for people like me, it is imperative that we find a balance between hyper-consumption and living frugally. I can forego the designer clothes at the mall and be perfectly satisfied with last year’s line of funky socks on sale at Target; a logo isn’t worth the price to me. But if I were to choose between staying the night in to save a buck versus going out with good company, I’ll likely take the company!
What I’m trying to express is that life isn’t about who can save the most money or who can keep up with the (goddamned) Kardashians. It’s about experiences. Some of you are out there going, “Ha-Ha, gotcha there buddy! Driving a Range Rover IS a great experience!” I’ll admit, those machines are SLICK (still waiting on that spokesperson check). Material goods can indeed be an experience. For others, their experience of choice might be traveling the world to see as much of this beautiful planet they can witness. For even more, it may be the simple experience of spending time with people they care about and want to be around.
“But you need money to do all of those things, you DICKHEAD!”
I see you, bud. You’re not wrong! There’s no denying that we need an income to accomplish these things. Rather, I’m accepting the fact that I don’t need a lot of income to be fulfilled. I’m not telling you how to spend your money, I’m asking why you spend it. When you’re on the brink of exiting this life as you’re surrounded by those dearest to you, what are you going to think of how you spent your time here?
Are you going to be proud of the shopping sprees and the finer cosmetics of life?
Are you going to be fond of your IRA cushion or the estate you’ll leave your family?
Are you going to think back on how you interacted with yourself and your fellow humans?
“If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories, the choices you’ve made and the people you’ve touched. The life that has been carved out from your subconscious is the only evidence by which you will be judged, by which you must judge yourself. Because when this world ends, there will only be you and him, and no one else.”