My family was probably considered poor. We lived on a 90-acre farm in a single-wide trailer and then we moved into a very small home (around 1,000 sq. feet) on another farm. I had a great friend growing up named Craig. One day Craig decided to drive to another town where a relative of his lived. When we arrived I couldn’t believe how nice the home was; it was definitely the fanciest home I’d ever seen. His cousin David showed us around and then took us to a separate building (it was also brick) where he kept a motorcycle, a three wheeler, a foosball table, a pool table, a ping pong table, workout equipment; the list goes on and on. His family also had an amazing swimming pool. I almost passed out when I saw all of the incredible things I dreamed of having.
David told Craig and me that we should feel free to do whatever we wanted, so we went wild playing with everything. After a while I noticed David wasn’t playing he was just watching us. When I got home and thought about it I realized he probably wasn’t interested in playing because the things he had were boring to him. This was a bit of a dream crusher for me realizing that even if I had what he had I too would get bored after a while. You’d think that I would’ve learned from this but I chased after things my whole life only to find myself in the same place as David. Stupid!
I’m sure most of us have heard or read stories about lottery winners. There was a great study that was conducted by Harvard University. They wanted to compare lottery winner’s lives before and after they won. What they found is that many lottery winners ended up worse off or not much better than they were before they won. Many of the winners got scammed by con artists. One man in the study won $31MM dollars only to be killed by a friend. One man went directly to a police station because he was afraid of being robbed like some other lottery winners. One lottery winner was robbed several times. Bad guys try to track down lottery winners because if they can successfully break into their homes, they might win a lottery of their own! Having a lot of money can sometimes cause more stress than those who are getting by.
Charities, family members (some of which they hadn’t heard from in years) along with friends, hound them for money. They figure the lottery winner has millions so why doesn’t he or she share. Oprah Winfrey used to talk about this issue in her life as people were constantly asking for money. When the lottery winner doesn’t share his or her winnings with their aunts/uncles, cousins, friends, siblings, etc., their relationships suffer. Instead of being treated the way they were before, friends and family sometimes end up hating them. The bottom line is that lottery winners can end up lonely and depressed yet many people still dream of winning it.
The reason I’m spending so much time on this topic is that a lot of people waste their lives chasing the dream of being rich. They think if they had a lot of money their life would be great. Have you ever wondered why so many celebrities have drug and alcohol problems? How about the number of times they get married and divorced? How about the need for plastic surgery? Several research studies have said that money can help increase someone’s overall wellbeing but they say that any income over $75,000 becomes a small factor in their happiness. Of course this does depend on where you live due to costs of living.
This is an interesting one: have you ever wondered why so many celebrities travel with an entourage (i.e. body guards, family, friends, etc.)? First of all, the more people they have with them the more press they get. Plus it’s usually more fun to have a group of people with them: “The more the merrier.”
One of the problems with this is the celebrity’s family and friends don’t have money for expensive clubs, fine clothes, traveling overseas, upscale parties, etc. If the celebrity wants to have an entourage then he or she has to pay for it. This leads to some problems. Not only don’t their family and friends have the money to keep up with the new lifestyle they also can’t take that kind of time off from work. So what ends up happening is the celebrity asks various friends and family members to leave their jobs and take one with him or her instead.
This also leads to problems. Their family and/or friends are sometimes placed in jobs they don’t have a clue how to handle or that aren’t challenging so they become bored. Then reality starts setting in and they realize that although they might not have loved their previous job it was more rewarding than what they’re doing now. They begin to realize they would feel better about themselves if they earned their own money. Plus they end up realizing they miss being around their own kind so to speak, instead of a bunch of wealthy people they have little in common with. Basically they’d like to put down the champagne and grab a cold Bud!
There is no doubt that if someone is living paycheck to paycheck in order to feed their family, put a roof over their head, take care of their family’s medical needs, etc., he or she’s family would benefit by having more money. A good example of what I’m talking about is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs which if you remember states humans above all else won’t achieve self-actualization or gain self-esteem until their basic needs are met first. But if someone was in the middle-income bracket and living comfortably then going from $60,000 a year to $90,000 a year won’t matter much. The reason for this is that 80% of their basic needs were already met so going above and beyond this brings fractional improvements to their lives; at a certain point everything becomes just window dressing.
I remember when I thought if I made $100,000 a year I’d be both happy and rich; it was my personal pinnacle of success. But guess what, I was wrong because it was never enough. Every time I reached a particular number it wasn’t satisfying enough so I’d set a new bar. This is embarrassing to say but it took me years to figure out that what I was doing would never satisfy me.
I finally figured out that I was investing a significant amount of time into something that brought little additional joy to my life. There’s no better resource than time and we’re all equal in this respect. I wish I knew years ago that spending more time building great relationships with family and friends, and doing things I loved doing, would’ve been a much greater return on my investment. Of course the bad part is that I can’t get that time back. But I do take solace in what Carl Bard said: “Though on one can go back and make a brand new start; anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.”
A great example of money never being enough is the latest NBA strike. The players dreamt of making it to college and then the NBA so they could continue to play basketball and make millions of dollars. But when they began making millions it still wasn’t enough so they went on strike to get more money from their owners. Many of them grew up in poverty yet millions of dollars weren’t enough.
In 2007 an American League baseball player by the name of Alexander Rodriguez (A-Rod) was given a 10-year contract to play for the New York Yankees in the amount of 275 million dollars. What this means is that he makes around $57,000 an hour when he plays baseball. This is absolutely crazy! Now here’s where it gets worse; other players started demanding more money because of what A-Rod was making. So even though they might have been satisfied with their income, finding out someone was making much more money caused them to be unsatisfied.
Many actors dream of getting on a sitcom and when they finally make it they’re ecstatic. Let’s say they were offered $50,000 an episode which I’m sure is a dream come true for them because they often work in minimum wage jobs so they can more easily make it to auditions. Then once the show starts becoming successful they want more money or they’ll quit. So here is an actor whose dream came true yet it wasn’t enough. My guess is that you and I wouldn’t be any different because it’s human nature.
There are a lot of people who work very hard to have a big home. I’m sure that most of us would agree that more space just means more stuff. And when we eventually sell some things in a yard sale, we find that people don’t think as much about our stuff as we do. The money we spend on things that will inevitably make their way to a yard sale is one of the worst investments we can make.
I listened to a speech one time by Zig Ziglar and he said something very profound and that is: “A house does not make a home.” What he was hoping we’d understand is the size and beauty of our home mean nothing compared to the relationships of the people inside. This is where we should invest our time not working harder and harder to have better and more things. God doesn’t want us to waste our lives chasing after treasures which will both lose their luster and eventually go away. One of my favorite groups, Kansas, sang it well: “Everything is dust in the wind.”
I’ve had some people tell me they’re moving into a larger and nicer home that’s located in a good neighborhood because it’s a great investment; I’d like to debunk this theory. Small to mid-size homes typically provide a greater return on investment because they turn so much faster. The market shrinks more and more for those looking to sale their luxury home which ties up cash flow longer. Even if the entire housing market (small to mid-size homes and luxury homes) grew at the same rate it would still be a wash. The person who purchased the larger home would get more cash from the transaction but they also invested more cash so there isn’t any advantage; equity is equity.
Let me give you a very important side note and it’s about owning a home at the beach; of course a lot of people dream about this. I hate to do this if you’re one of these people, but I’m probably going to burst your bubble. I don’t know if you’ve ever recognized this but when you take a vacation to the beach you’re not going to run into a lot of homeowner’s on the beach. This is often because they’ve become bored with it.
Living in a house at the beach versus visiting it, are dramatically different. As I mentioned earlier everything loses its luster. Just like with everything else (i.e. new boat, new car, etc.) after a while it isn’t as important anymore. With this in mind, you get much more excitement escaping to the beach than living there.
You might think you’d be different if you owned a place at the beach and you’d appreciate it. I’ve got a question for you: how good of a job are you doing of counting your blessings now? It’s sad that we know our lives would be much better if we did appreciate what we have, but for some reason many of us can’t get ourselves to do it. We’re just too busy to slow down and count our blessings.
Most people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone. When you lose everything you have, you learn to appreciate even the smallest things. Most of us have more stuff now than we had ten years ago but we certainly don’t appreciate these things any more than we appreciated the things we had before. Getting over your head financially because of the need for more things in your life will take away from your joy not add to it. Someone once said: “It’s sad that people work so hard to have things in their life they never have time to enjoy.” Wow, that hits home!
I believe most of us would say we want happiness and joy more than anything else in life; being rich won’t do it. Yet even though we know this we don’t live this. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. We work harder and harder to earn more money to buy more things that in time always lose their appeal. We continue down the wrong path even though we know we’re going the wrong way. Here’s a rule of thumb for us: if we’re traveling down a road and there’s a lot of other people on it, we’re probably going the wrong way. Let’s start today and chose the road less travelled.