They say money can't buy happiness. But what if having money can make you less stressed, less jealous, less combative, less anxious, and more joyful? Then surely having more money can at least make you nicer right? I think so.
My first realization with this correlation between niceness and wealth occurred at the end of 2015 when I wrote, Once You Have F You Money, It's Hard To Tell Others To F Off!
Ever since I began working on Wall Street in 1999, the term, “f*ck you money” has been thrown around.
Here's a conversation example:
“Did you hear about Tommy? He just made Managing Director. Now he's really got some f*ck you money!”
“Nah, he ain't making f*ck you money until he makes Partner MD at Goldman. That's when he'll get the real money through profit sharing.”
Hard To Tell Others To Screw Off Once You Have Money
Telling someone to f*ck off isn't a nice thing to do, even if it may be warranted. However, it's what so many people dream of doing to their haters, oppressors, and dissenters.
If you were bullied in school, I'm sure you've had some variation of a dream where you roll up to your high school reunion in a Lamborghini because you did well in your career.
The reality is, once you achieve some level of financial independence, it's really difficult to tell your haters to piss off. Instead, it becomes much easier to ignore them and move on with your business. You might even develop compassion for them.
When you've been around online as long as I have, you'll naturally get some nastiness hurled your way. It's all part of the package for those who dare to put their work out there for public consumption.
By the end of 2015, when I wrote the post, I was feeling pretty good about life.
Three years had passed since I engineered my layoff. I no longer worried if I had made the wrong decision to leave a well-paying job. In the first half of 2015, my wife also engineered her layoff with a nice severance package. Finally, I had my best friend to go travel with.
And perhaps most importantly from a financial security perspective, we had doubled our passive investment income to over $160,000 by the end of 2015. The bull market was a real blessing. With $160,000+ in passive investment income and no kids, we felt financially secure.
I did not have the desire to tell my detractors to f*ck off because I was too busy enjoying life with my wife. Getting into fights takes energy. And who has time to try and change someone's already made up mind? I felt like I was becoming a nicer person after winning the lottery.
However, once I became a father in 2017, my tolerance for racism and general hate began to decline. The reason why is because I didn't want these types of attitudes to negatively affect my children.
Growing up in Virginia for high school and college got me used to the occasional racism. There were plenty of fights and uncomfortable situations I went through. On the other hand, living in more diverse cities such as New York and San Francisco since 1999 has largely inoculated me from racism.
The main way I experience racism or hate now is online. It's a tiny portion. Probably less than 0.01% of the readers. But it still comes up every so often.
A Surprise Apology Letter From An Ex-Hater
Recently, I got an out-of-the-blue apology e-mail from someone who used to hate a lot of the things I wrote about on money and family. Let's call her Veronica, a 34-year-old white woman with one child.
If Veronica wasn't leaving bitter comments on Financial Samurai as part of the Internet Retirement Police, she was joining a Twitter mob to trash something I had shared. Here's what she wrote,
I hope all is well. I just wanted to reach out and apologize for my behavior in the past. I've been doing a lot of reflecting since lockdown and I realized what I did was wrong.
I was in a bad place five years ago when I lost my ideal job. I had struggled for a long time to get to that point – dropped out of college, worked minimum wage jobs, accumulated a lot of debt – and I was feeling devastated at the time.
When you tweeted about making $1,000 a month as a high school tennis coach, it really set me off because I was barely making ends meet. I had finally got my net worth above $0 after years of being saddled with student loans and credit card debt. Further, my daughter was only two years old and I was a stressed-out mom!
I wanted to be the one known for struggling with money. And your tweet encroached on my space. I know that sounds silly to say, but I felt you had swerved into my internet lane, despite not struggling. I was annoyed.
But I'm in a better place now. I got a new job a couple of years ago. My daughter is in the 2nd grade and doing well. Also, my net worth hit the $200,000 mark this past summer!
Looking back, I know you were just trying to use your platform to help shine a light on how other educators make ends meet on a low salary. I shouldn't have pounced on you like I did.
I wasn't even thinking about the incident from so long ago until she shot me the e-mail. But the conflict back then did make me even more cognizant about what I write.
I really appreciate what Veronica wrote. It takes a lot of courage to apologize to someone. I'm also positive you will feel a lot better if you let go of your hate for someone as well. Give it a try!
Your Upbringing Shapes Your Attitude Towards Other People
We traded a couple more e-mails back and forth and she shared with me a couple more details about herself. It was kind of like a therapy session. I always enjoy learning about the backgrounds of the people who dislike what I write.
1) Attended An Expensive Private University
She attended an expensive private university that today costs over $53,000 a year in tuition a year. Including room and board and other fees, the all-in cost to attend her college is over $70,000 a year.
She said she grew up in a middle-class household that didn't teach her much about money. As a result, she got into tremendous student loan debt and ultimately had to drop out. If she could have done it over again, she would have attended community college and then transferred to a state school.
Most of her college classmates came from wealthy households. So she grew up resenting them for being able to graduate college when she could not. This resentment built and probably caused her to look down on anybody who was about to achieve certain levels of financial freedom.
I've discussed in the past the pressures of being somebody great if you go to an expensive private university. However, I never thought about the mental letdown of attending an expensive private school, getting saddled with debt, dropping out, and not doing anything special.
This type of setback is far worse than having graduated from an expensive school and ended up working a regular job just like everybody else.
2) Grew Up In A Homogenous Environment
She grew up in an area where 94.5% of the population is white, 1.6% of the population was black, 1.33% of the population is multiracial, and 2.5% of the population is considered white Hispanic.
As a result, she had no non-white friends growing up. Until this day, all her friends are still white. She mentioned to me being Asian may have played a role in her agitation.
As a white woman in America, she said she wanted to be more conscious about how she treated others offline and online after so many reports of violence against Asians during the pandemic.
She didn't want to turn into one of those “Karens” she's seen on the news. This growing self-awareness is great because one's upbringing is all one knows.
Become Financially Independent And You Will Naturally Be Nicer
Post-pandemic, I think one of the main goals we should all have is to be nicer to others. We need to work on improving our personalities so we can build a stronger support network.
It's natural to stick to a community of similar people to feel safe and welcome. But I challenge you to diversify not only your thoughts but also your friends. If you do, I promise you will be nicer to people you don't know and more empathetic to the plight of others.
Maybe I'm weird because I grew up in a new country every 2-4 years while attending international schools. That's what foreign service life is like as a kid. Then I worked in international equities for another 13 years.
The Importance Of Diversification
However, I've also experienced a relatively homogenous environment while attending high school and college in Virginia for eight years. To me, it is so much better to live in a diverse environment. It is a joy to celebrate other cultures!
For example, if you are a writer or a movie producer, you can draw from many different experiences to tell a more dynamic story. If you're working on a product, you can better avoid blindspots if you have a diverse set of employees.
To be nicer, if you aren't willing to diversify the people you interact with, then get richer. Once you have enough money to feel secure, you will feel less jealous of others. You may even want to use your money to help other people and organizations. Go figure!
There's an insightful saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” If you can take care of your physical and mental health, I dare say you will stop being mean to others.
More Thoughts On How To Naturally Be Nicer
We've already discussed how getting richer and diversifying the people you communicate with can help you become nicer. I've come up with several other points that I think may help as well.
1) Learn another language. Speaking another language forces you to understand a different culture. The more you can understand the way other people do things, the more understanding you will be of other people.
2) Live abroad. The same thing goes for living abroad. If you find yourself in a diverse community or a foreign community, you must be more careful and respectful of other people. You can't just be a bull in a China shop and do things your way. Instead, you must adopt local cultures to fit in.
3) Develop a minimum level of status. If you don't have money, you can try and get some status. To get status, you need to be good at something. Once you get some status, you will feel more secure. And more secure people tend to be less combative and nicer people.
4) Work on your health. Ideally, you will develop money and status and have great health. If you're constantly in pain or feeling unwell physically or mentally, it may naturally sour your mood. The worse mood you are in, the meaner you might be. The healthier you are, the better you will treat others.
5) Become a parent. Once you become a parent, you will constantly try to teach your children right from wrong. This in turn will make you reflect on your own actions in public and in front of them. After all, you must set a good example for your children if you want them to listen to what you teach.
6) Find your reason for being. If you can find your ikigai, a Japanese word for “reason for being,” you will naturally become nicer. There is no greater feeling than doing something you love, you're good at, the world needs, and what you can get paid for! It's one of the reasons why Financial Samurai has continued publishing 3X a week since 2009.
The Benefits Of Being Nicer
By now, you might wonder what's the point of being nicer, especially if you have a lot of money. With a lot of money, you don't need to be nicer. However, you still should for the following reasons:
1) Better for your mental health. The meaner you are, the more people will want to fight or argue with you. If they don't fight or argue with you, they'll speak poorly behind your back. No matter how impervious you think you are to insults, they still sting. Most people would rather be loved than be feared.
2) Better for business growth. If you own a business, being nice is important. The more people like you, the more people will share your work and recommend your product. If you're always making people feel bad, the last thing they'll want to do is recommend your work to others. The nicer you are, the more people will go to bat for you.
3) Better relationships with your family members. Perhaps the biggest benefit of being nicer is that your partner and children will love you more. You'll get into fewer fights and you may have more obedient children. Imagine never raising your voice when your child does something wrong. Instead, you empathize with their frustration and calmly explain a better solution. Now imagine always being more forgiving to your partner. More harmony!
4) Less lonely. More people are more lonely thanks to the pandemic and the internet. Lonelier people tend to be more angry and less happy. Therefore, the nicer you are and the more value you create, the less lonely and happier you will be.
Personally, I'm doing my best to work on #3. At five years old, my boy has endless energy and can sometimes test my patience.
The Natural Evolution Of Demeanor
What's great about being around online since 2009 is that I'm able to notice the evolution of some readers. Dare I say you've collectively become nicer over the years!
In the past, I received so many angry comments on posts such as:
- The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person
- Why Households Need To Earn $300,000 To Live A Middle Class Lifestyle Today
- The 4% Rule Is Way Outdated
A lot of people were irate and said I was out of touch with reality, among other things.
10 years later, many have come back and told me they are either at or above my net worth guide. Amazing what consistent saving and investing can do during a bull market!
Other readers during this time period have started families. They've acknowledged, gosh damn, how expensive it is to take care of kids in a big city. Then they discuss the perpetual conflict they feel about how much to spend on their children since they want what's best for them.
Even Vanguard came around to significantly lowering their return expectations, thereby recommending a much lower safe withdrawal rate in retirement. But I'm still waiting for folks who beat me over the head about my lower safe withdrawal rate to say something nice.
Increased Awareness And Apathy
Over the years, I’ve also written less opinionated posts over time because I've become more aware and apathetic. I used to write what I strongly believed in, even if what I wrote would require uncomfortable change. Now, sadly, I don't care as much.
I've listened to so many stories from people with different backgrounds that I'm wary about making absolute statements. So I don't. I also don't want to force my thoughts on anybody. Feel free to do what you want in this free country of ours!
In conclusion, I say the richer you become, the nicer you will naturally be. It's doubtful Veronica would have ever sent her apology e-mail if her net worth hadn't grown to over $200,000.
Becoming financially secure is a powerful motivator for kindness. Give it a try and let me know your results!
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