Learning to be happy with what we have is on of the keys to long-term happiness. Money is only a tool to a better and happier life. Never forget this. Part of the reason why so many people are unhappy is because they are never satisfied.
If you can find your ikigai, your “reason for being,” you will find more happiness and be more content.
Learning To Be Happy With What We Have
While cleaning up the FS Forum application spam I had a realization. For the past eight years I've been happy with what I have.
Before 2005 I was restless because I still needed to prove myself at work and make sure I wasn't a failure by age 30 in two years time.
The 1997 Honda Civic I was putzing around in wouldn't do so I upgraded to something nicer within the 1/10th rule. Even my condo I had so proudly bought on my 26th birthday began to feel insufficient after a couple years.
After turning 28 things just clicked one way or another. A promotion a year earlier provided the confidence to buy my current house. Moose was also rescued off Craigslist the same year after his owner rushed to Amsterdam for a job transfer. I've faithfully taken care of him ever since, most recently buying him a new power steering pump for a pretty penny.
Meanwhile, I already found the love of my life, which is more important than all the money in the world. I've seen colleagues never find anybody because of a busy career or simply bad luck. Some admitted they'd give up their fancy titles and riches just to find someone. They wished they worked harder on love instead of career.
Achieving A Steady State Of Happiness
Since 2005 I've also gone from making a lot of money to making much less, yet my consumption habits have not changed. Perhaps it's because I only lived off 30% of my income for the past decade.
I'm probably more happy now because I don't have to ride the bus into work anymore and deal with all the pressures to produce. Then again, I can't remember when I wasn't happy even as a broke foreign exchange student sleeping on a wooden plank in the middle of summer with no AC.
I've driven the same car and have lived in the same house all this time. I even wear the same jeans from 14 years ago along with a bunch of other clothes. I sure do love my REM concert t-shirt from 1995. What fun memories.
Other than splurging on annual two week international vacations, there's really nothing more I want. I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with me given we've all grown wealthier during this time period.
Shouldn't we desire more things the more we have?
Related: Solving The Happiness Conundrum In Five Moves Or Less
Still Learning To Be Happy With What I Have
I thought I'd have the answer by the time I finished this post, but I don't. Perhaps we humans are quite simple. All we need are the basics for survival and anything more doesn't move the needle for very long. We always revert back to our steady state after every milestone.
I've learned to be happy with what I have, yet I don't have many lessons to share. The desire for status fades as we become more financially independent. We become more aware of our mortality the older we get. The immaturity of our 20s goes away. We do things we think will lead us towards more happiness, and aggressively stop doing things that create despair.
At some point whether it's at 28, 38 or 68 we'll look back and realize we've been satisfied for a very long time.
As a father now, the biggest joy I experience every day are my two young children. They are the best! I wake up every morning eager to give them great big hugs.
In order to be free to do so, I've been focused on creating as much passive income as possible. Passive income is what will enable me to stay free.
Resources For A Better Life
Negotiate A Severance Package. Never quit your job, get laid off instead if you want to move on. Negotiating a severance package provided me with six years worth of living expenses to help me focus on my online media business. Check out my book, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Good-bye. The book provides solid strategies for how you too, can escape a job you hate with money in your pocket.
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You can rent out my place as a studio (two queens), one bedroom (one king, a pullout queen, fireplace, two TVs, kitchenette, dining table, two rooms), or entire two bedroom unit (studio and one bedroom combined). Click the links for availability and click this post to see pictures and information about my place. My prices are ~15% lower than anywhere you'll find online!
Time to live it up a little now that we've fully recovered from the financial meltdown. In fact, I plan to re-retire shortly and stop the grind forever.
Photo: Hearts Of San Francisco, Downtown Embarcadero. FS.
Related: Happiness By Age: Stay Away From Middle-Age People!
66 thoughts on “Learning To Be Happy With What We Have”
Not trying to be fasciscious at all but I’d be willing to bet your annual expenditures far exceeds what most of America lives on. You live in arguably the second most expensive city in America, next to New York. Your property taxes, insurance, etc are already inherently higher. than 90% of America.
Not questioning the meaning of your post, just trying to keep it all relative.
Indeed. One of the constant themes of this site is that EVERYTHING is relative when it comes to finances.
And b/c my world is expensive, my income and assets are nothing special b/c 2,500sqft homes in good locations cost $1.7 million and up. And b/c most people can’t make the income they make living in an inexpensive place, comparing the two is difficult. The only way to transcend this situation is to start a mobile business e.g. internet or retire early and move.
So for this post, whether you are rich or poor, it’s about learning to be happy with what we have and know. To always want more is suffering.
Agreed. Even though where you live is expensive, it’s superior in terms of overall happiness I feel, comparing SF to NY. So I applaud you in your ability to live in one of the nicest places in the world for sure.
Ive found that as my financial assets grew I was starting to taste financial freedom. This ultimately created a lost desire in the things and toys I purchased back when I was really living paycheck to paycheck. creating a sufficiently large financial nut and turning minimalist I believe are two traits that can simultaneously develop. Sometimes I feel weird too, I even take walks in walmar or the mall just to see what am I missing? Nope, I walk out thinking the same thing everytime — all that consumerism eye candy crap will be in next years yard sales.
Uncanny how similar our experiences are. Instead of Walmart though, I go to the BMW dealer to inhale the new car smell, go for a test drive, and thank them for their time! I love not spending $60,000 on a car I know I could buy! Besides, there aren’t any Walmarts in SF anyway. :)
A 60k car is another perfect example. Your 1/10 rule is what everyone should target. The reason is car dealerships/salesmen are like home builders — they will all try to sell you more than you need. My friends ask why I dont buy a lexus when I could easily afford it, cash even. I see it a different way opting for the budget cars sticking to the 1/10 rule too, always paying cash. The rest of that cash? well its for my next car in 15 years and the car after that. But the funny thing too is I hope to position myself where someday I wont need a car at all.
For those interested in the subject, there is a great book called “Happiness is a Serious Problem” by Dennis Prager. The whole thing is great, with lots of research/studies noted about this important subject, and some very telling anecdotes. But my main takeaway was that it is my responsibility to at least try to be happy. It is not others’ responsibility to put up with my bad mood; people who make the claim “that’s just the way I am” usually say it after doing or saying something hostile or offensive. Prager makes the point that in civilized western society, we all brush our teeth and wear deodorant and talk with our ‘inside voice’ when we are ‘inside’. We do that so we don’t offend others. And we should also make an effort to be happy, because it has a positive impact on those around us. At the very least, we should not be actively unhappy, because that also imposes on others and is offensive, just like body-odor would be. Anyway, great subject with thoughtful responses!
Feeling satisfied and happy with what you have is a great, and should be natural, feeling. I think it just means that the everyday bombardment of the media (buy more, you need this, you deserve that, etc.) isn’t affecting you – you’ve either matured or grown in some way. I’m satisfied with most aspects of my life (career, car, family, pets, etc.) – except housing. I’d like to own one of my own…perhaps soon.
I think it’s important to be happy whether you’re debt free or not. I get satisfaction from having goals though I might not achieve all of them. Being grateful for adversity is a powerful reminder of how far you can go when challenged. Some of the best times in life are the hard ones!
I agree. Few things really good come easy. All the more satisfying to get through hardship to appreciate what we have.
For me, it’s easy: raising my kids and investing time into them and their development gives me something for which I can be thankful at all times.
That, and realizing that what many of us here take for granted would be a dream come true for many others in quite a bit of the world. Not all of the rest of the world obviously, as some folks have it quite well. But many don’t, compared to the typical middle class American who is luckier than he or she realizes!
I agree. Perspective is so important. We live in paradise compared to so much of the world, yet so many of us have never seen the otherside of things. International trips to developing countries before our 21 birthdays should be mandatory!
One approach that gives me a continuous source of pleasure is money I spend to make my life easier! :) That never gets old.
As others have said, what a timely post, Sam. I’m really glad that you’ve found satisfaction and happiness.
As many readers already know, I’ve lost a lot of my enthusiasm over the years. Some of that is the high-pressure job, some of it is that my expectations of myself have grown WAY past what I would have considered remotely reasonable 10 years ago, some of it is simply stress about the passage of time.
I’m hoping that FIRE will finally “set things right”, but what if the same pressure is still there? Nowadays, even when I get some R&R time, I get restless really easily. I’ll definitely need to change my mindset to get to that happy place again. That, and quit my job! LOL
I know you will be engineering your layoff and not quitting right Jason? :)
You will have a couple months of uncertainty about your decision, but after that your freedom will way out trump the money you were making. I’m pleasantly surprised with how much less I need to be happy in retirement. My efforts are redirected towards things I love instead of things I’m forced to maybe pretend to love. Trust me on this one. You won’t miss money as much as you think!
I really enjoyed this post. I think this topic is so important and yet it is barely talked about. I am still working on this as well. It is a life long process, I think because society does try to cram it down our mouths that we always need to be after the next material thing for that is what is going to provide happiness. Kind of bullsh*t in my IMO. t looks like you have a good handle on it though.
Thanks. It’s why I question whether my lack of desire for more things is abnormal with consumerism all around. Even my laptop is from 2007 and I find it good enough bc it has been the one machine that has let me produce all this content since 2009 and I feel bad giving him up.
You’ll find your happy medium when you least expect. Best to you.
You have NO idea how timely this post is for me. Thank you so much for writing it. You truly are an inspiration to your readers.
The pithiest lines of the article, to me, are “I already found the love of my life, which is more important than all the money in the world” and “The desire for status fades as we become more financially independent.”
I need to tattoo that second line on my arm. Sometimes it can be difficult, and probably also for many others out there still stuck in the middle class consumerist cycle, to keep reminding myself of it because financial independence still seems so far away. I know I’m on track, but sometimes it just seems so much easier to just buy a status symbol whenever I need a pick me up rather than bank the money towards future reward. I was slipping back into my old online shopping habits this weekend, so my bank account thanks you!!!
Your frugality reminds me a lot of my father…he still has his shoes that me came to this country in 30 years ago and still uses them to wash is own car on weekends. He’s got jeans from the 80’s, only has had 3 cars in 30 years (one of them replaced only when it was completely sandwiched and totaled in an accident–he was knocked unconscious in that accident by the way and still went to work the next day). Unfortunately though, his Achilles heel was my mother; he would often give in to whatever she wanted in terms of material things when she was unhappy (and that was dictated by whatever wave she was on in her bi-polar cycle and whether or not she was in our life at that time at all) and, while I am not bi-polar or in and out of my family’s life (thank god) I still have to fight to unlearn her terrible emotional spending habits to this day.
Luckily I have the most loving and non-materialistic husband in the world so it’s not too difficult to remind myself that having the love of my life makes it so much easier to not have to depend on money for happiness! But it is important to focus on your family as much as possible regardless and I think people often take that for granted in the pursuit of financial independence. Congrats to finding the love of your life early on as well!!!!!
I guess at 28 I’m at that cross-roads where I can now see financial independence being a reality and closer on the horizon that I had ever imagined before, and now is the time to start really really aggressively making changes to make sure that it happens. Unfortunately I do not have 14 year old jeans because I was 14 in 1999, but I certainly hope to be able to say that one day!!!!
Hi k, I’m glad the post resonates with you. Congrats on finding your low key man too. It’s much more comforting to go through life with a teammate on your side. If you’ve got a plan to achieve financial freedom, that’s more than half the battle.
I wasn’t financially free at 28, but I knew where I wanted to go and had my savings and investing ritual. Good things tend to happen if we stick with things. Best of luck and very good to have you as a reader!
“Achilles heel” of your father reminds me my ex-girlfriend: Chronically unhappy, hating life, constantly searching attention, and a big spender. But beautiful and intelligent at the same time. I am not sure it was a narcissistic disorder, bipolar disorder, or borderline disorder. Having someone like that in life can bring a total destruction of wealth and happiness.
Nice to hear from your mom. Everybody reaches some aspirational work/money limit at some point. I just didn’t realize mine was around 28 years old until I began reflecting. Glad you have found good personal life balance!
It’s not bad to long for better things in life, but we should also remember that we must work hard to achieve those and not just long for them in a way that we tend not to be unhappy with what we have. The best way to live our lives is to just work as hard as we could, set some goals while enjoying the things that we currently have, though it is easier said than done.
FS.com is part of my everyday morning routine, so I’ve been a fan for a while. This website helps keep me focused on the end goal: financial freedom. Posts like this put my work day in perspective of that greater goal and reminds me to work hard, but more importantly, not to take work too seriously. We work to live, not live to work. Keep up the good work, FS.
Great to hear Nathan. Hope you find your work life balance comfort zone.
I have a question for you, Sam. Is it better to stay in a higher paying job with much more upward mobility and dislike the job or to pick something more middle-of-the-road and like the job? Being a recent college grad, (2 years out of school) I find myself consulting but not in a interesting industry to me. I am a big saver and don’t own anything of value besides my mid-level luxury car and my dog, Whiskey.
Based on your experience, isn’t the truly unique way of finding financial freedom attributable to the amount of income you were able to save as opposed to the job you had?
Hi Nathan, as a recent college grad I’d suck it up and stick with your higher paying job with more upward mobility. See how far you can actually go while keeping your eye out on other opportunities. Jumping ship too early is a common mistake I see.
For years I spent countless hours trying to make more money but that meant I had less time with my family. After leaving my job I now make a lot less money (for now) but I get the quality of life I wanted. I see my wifey and kids every day and get to spend so much time with them. I don’t have a fancy car or home but I have all I could ever need. My home is in a great location with wonderful neighbors.
There are a lot of us, and I do so sometimes, that we are not contented with what we have. The problem before was I was always comparing myself with others even though I do not really know their story. Now I know better.
The story, oh how I wish I could understand someone’s story before every engagement….. Open up folks!
I retired about a year ago and I’m the most content I’ve ever been. I’ve really learned to appreciate my life and be grateful for what I have.
I’ve also been a practicing Zen Buddhist (I have a teacher, go to a Zen Center, have taken the Precepts, meditate daily) for the past four years and I think that has dramatically shifted my perspective on desires and happiness. One of the Four Great Vows is “Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.” I find this very helpful.
Your post has a very Zen perspective. Thanks!
Hey rjack, the four noble truths! Thanks for the reminder.
Really great stuff. I don’t think I’m totally happy yet, but it’s not for material want. I’m still searching for the right kind of professional fulfillment. But honestly, other than that, there’s really not much that I want. I have an awesome family, we have enough money for the needs we need and for saving. This is a great reminder to not lose track of those things, and also that you don’t always need to be making progress to be happy. It’s not only ok to just be happy where you are, it should really be the goal.
Sounds about right. Professional fulfillment is definitely important for either sex. Maybe even more so for men as we can’t have children and have been taught to be providers. Things have obviously changed in the last 50 years. We’ve all got our respective goals to achieve.
That is a great post. There is something healthy to staying the course and keeping it up in your habits.
My big life change made about 19 years ago is to always be very nice to people and to try to avoid hurting others. I’ve also apologized to the people I had wronged earlier in my life. Since then I’ve learn to show more respect and be more compassionate as well. That makes for a very fair and easy way to live life.
I also totally agree with keeping up good financial habits, it is easy to look back and see that you are not deviating. It is a challenge during inflection points in life (marriage, children, etc) but can certainly be done.
Where in SFO is the photo in this post taken?
You are absolutely right about staying the course during inflection points. I guess for a relationship, the key is to find someone who shares similar values.
I like your goal of being nice to everyone. I’ll shoot for the same, and seek to understand other’s hate or just ignore. You open yourself up to a lot as a blogger.
The picture was taken in downtown Embarcadero. I’ll add a caption.
In almost 10 years of marriage, my husband and I are at the most content we have ever been and make the least amount of money. We live in a smaller house and drive older cars than our friends. This allows me to stay home with our kids and send them to private school. The only time I finding myself getting a bit discontent is when a friend ventures off to an exotic vacation or puts a new pool in their backyard. I then remind myself that we value our lifestyle (one working parent) and our children’s education more than expensive vacations and pools.
Great to hear Tiffany. And besides, pools are a liability and a PITA to maintain!
Any way to accelerate debt repayment by cutting costs elsewhere? If it makes you feel better, I’ve got multiples more debt than that!
I can’t believe I’ve had my jeans since 1999. I remember clearly double parking my car outside a Diesel store in midtown Manhattan and picking up a pair. They did sit in the drawer for several years as I put on some weight. But they fit better now than they did then!
Now that is the spirit! Whenever I get food poisoning and lose my appetite I think how awesome it is that I’m losing weight and can save on food.
If I could wear the same jeans as I did 14 years ago, I would be ecstatic.
I have had a big shift in perspective over the last year. I used to be nervous about saving ‘x’ amount of money for retirement and other things. I realized I was stressing about the future and not enjoying the present as much. We still save, but I don’t worry about it as much.
At this point, there is absolutely nothing more I need. I have a wonderful family, we started our own business, and we are doing ok financially. I have never cared about material things. I wouldn’t mind taking a nice trip or two I guess, but am fine without them.
I guess I take it for granted Kris about them jeans. I’ve always just assumed I’d wear all my clothes until holes inexplicably form due to whatever reason. They got softer and more comfortable like that anyway.
Hope your son is doing well at Michigan!
I am definately happy with what I have. For many reasons:
I’m the youngest of 9 and my father died when I was 4 months old. I grew up pretty poor – 4 pairs of pants, 1 black and white television and one bathroom – for those 9 kids.
I have much more money and have seen more of the world than I could have EVER imagined.
I think one of the keys to happiness is living much below your ability and thus you take a lot of financial stress out of your life. My wife and I lived in 600 square foot apartment for about 10 years – about 5 years ago we moved up to a 2000 square foot condo for which we can easily make the payments – it will be paid off in 4 years or less – thus about 9 years in total.
We own one 8 year old accord which we paid cash for.
I have have never had cable in my life.
We take 6 week vacations every year, usually to Asia, this year to Taiwan. We love the food and people we meet in all these trips.
Earn a good salary – live way below your earrings – and happiness will find you!
Wow, that is a lot of siblings David! Sorry to hear about your father. Glad you are enjoying life!
I have felt that way for a very long time! I think you are right , it coincided with financial independence. It was easier to be satisfied because I met my goals and could choose what made me happy. I think I have the most satisfaction from accomplishing all the things I wanted to do. I keep adding new ones, but the big ones are out of the way.
The thing is, I wasn’t financially independent at 28, but I saw where I was heading and was happy. Obviously the 2008-2009 crash was bad for finances, but having someone to be with meant more than anything and that’s all I really think about when I recollect those times.
I think the being happy with what you have comes from a basic principal… money doesn’t buy happiness. In my opinion, if you think more money is the thing missing from your life, you are likely missing something else.
Sounds pretty similar to my most recent blog post. I wish everyone can eventually reach this psychological independence, as well as financial independence.
Sam, I totally agree with your post. When I first graduated from college, I was looking to really prove myself in the workforce, but as I got closer to 30, I realized that promotions and moving up the corporate ladder were nice, but living a simple and balanced life is the best. I’m not sure if it was just the passing of time, finding a partner that balanced me, or seeing those close to you become ill. It was probably a combination of those things and through those experiences and that process, you realize that life is short and what really matters in life can’t be bought (i.e. love, happiness, health, etc).
Good to hear from you Roger. Best of luck in your new adventure into technology. I’ve looked into the space myself, but I don’t think anybody would hire an old fool like me :)
You have figured out at a relatively early age what really is important in life. Yes, we need a
certain minimum amount of financial resources to take care of our daily needs, but beyond this level at least for me, additional dollars bring no significant additional happiness.
Happiness comes from within, and on this fathers day I will be fortunate enough to spend time with the most important things in my life, my kids and wife. That’s happiness.
At 61 it took me years to figure all this out. I to was chasing the almighty buck.
I have had a successful career, and more than enough financial blessing for most men.
Not even close to being well off, but have happiness beyond many of my friends who
were driven to push for the salary and position, and still were bot really “happy”.
This is my favorite post of your blog ever.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really didn’t realize how steady my life has been for the past 8 years. There really is no need to chase the buck after a while. I don’t know why I don’t want more, but I just don’t.
Although this post is short, it took me a while to write so I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I find happiness when I’m quite and mindfully think of all the good things I have. A family, friends, food, and shelter. I do enjoy engaging in new activities and reaching for new goals, but those things lack an importance to them. I have a pretty great life and enjoy my days.
No, I am not happy with what I have, and I would like you to tell me why I should be happy with what I have, as I cannot imagine that you would be happy with what I have,
I have a part-time, menial, low-wage, dead-end, unfulfilling job. Said job affords me the ability to rent a room on the literal edge of a medium-sized city and a bus pass for time-consuming transportation (one hour to get downtown, for example). Naturally, on what I earn buying a home is out of the question, and finding the love of my life (or even a quality date) has a probability in the neighborhood of zero.
Oh, and I can’t afford to get education or training for a better job, so getting ahead probably is not on the table.
Keep trying to get a better job and more education. I have a feeling from reading your post that if you keep working thru the adversity that is currently in your life, good things will come your way!!!
Hi Terry, I’m not here to tell you that you should be happy. I’m sharing with the community how perhaps happiness has always been there, but we don’t even realize it.
As David and Jeremy have written, if you have access to the internet, then you’ve got the world of knowledge at your fingertips. Maybe go to Youtube or rent some videos of the way some in India and other developing countries live. They make the US seem like paradise.
I don’t think Sam was trying to say that you should be happy with your life to the point where complacence would stunt your progression in situations that you need to pull yourself out of. Your unhappiness with your situation actually is a good thing! Harness it to pull yourself out of that situation and create a better life for yourself. Have you seen The Pursuit of Happyness? One of my favorite movies of all time. As others have said, the fact that you have access to the internet and are reading sites like this tells us that you want better for yourself. Now it’s time to make it happen!!! Decide on an industry that you want to break into, educate yourself on it as much as you can with the vast amount of information that is free on the internet (or park yourself at the library, those are still free these days!), start networking in that industry, then start applying to entry level positions. Seek out a mentor who you share commonalities with that will champion your your promotions and teach you everything they know because they see themselves in you. Here’s a little secret. My boss doesn’t have a college degree. He used to work in a bunch different low paying jobs like working and sold stuff on ebay to make extra money. Then he got into Finance and I kid you not, he makes like $400K/year. What did we find common ground on in our interview? We both used to flip stuff on ebay (similar items LOL) and of course the fact that I’m not classically educated in Finance (I have a degree in English Lit). He’s been my mentor for the past 5 years. I don’t have a fancy degree in Finance. But I’m constantly educating myself and learning and applying what my mentor teaches me and I’m one of the very top producers in my company. It can be done but you have to fight your way in and then fight your way to the top. If you are a female, read Lean In and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. There are plenty of sites out there on breaking into industries from non-trad backgrounds. Create a Plan of Action then execute!!! Today!!!
Love the attitude K! The Putsuiy of Happiness was filmed right here in SF and I found it inspiring. If life sucks, believe there is a way to improve out situation. Harness the unhappiness to make positive choices. I truly believe for most of us, we are the one who prevent ourselves from reaching a happy level.
Terry, I can tell you from literally decades of working that if you strive for something it will come. It may not be in the way that you think.
For instance, I recently had a conversation with one of my in-laws about finances and saving for retirement. I asked her how she was planning on spending the next $1M that she and her spouse were going to be bringing in over the next 10 years. She never thought of it in terms like that!
So, let’s say you take your annual income and multiply it by 30 (as in how much will you earn over the next 30 years). Where does that put you, and how much of that can you save? Everything that you can manage to save (even if it’s $10/$20/$30/month), means that you have to spend that much less when you decide to retire later.
Thinking of things in a different way is what makes life fun and enjoyable and finally fulfilling, if not blissful.
Take it from an “old fart” like me who hasn’t completed his degree, but can now afford to save for retirement while being happily married and having a wife that stays at home with our 4 kids! :-)
Find your drive, what you really want to do, and then accomplish it by little bits and pieces over time.
Have a great day Terry!
“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” – John Stuart Mill
FS, I recall you writing that your “philosophy was happiness”, in regards to a comment about your tennis partner, ‘Jabbir’. That is a really nice thing you wrote in this post, about finding the love of your life. It has a very sincere meaning, too, since you have the means to live a different life than the one you are choosing. My thought is that many people who claim to be happy, really have no attractive choices; they are forced to find/claim happiness in a “life of quiet desperation.”
Very impressive comments, too. Jane’s steady progress, Greg’s minimalism and Untemplater’s de-cluttering are choices. Something all of us can admire.
Hmmm…. maybe you are right about a “life of quiet desperation.” Although I do believe people actively do things to try and make themselves more happy, and will therefore ultimately find happiness?
I really didn’t fully realize how unchanged my life and spending habits have been since 2005. It’s a sign that time moves way too quickly. In a blink of an eye, and then we are gone.
Yes, I also believe people actively do things to try to make themselves more happy. Perhaps I am projecting my own experience and arc on others, though, when I quote Henry David Thoreau who said “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That pursuit (money? land? power? promotion? an idealized mate? a buzz?) The “trying” is weird; I have mistaken “trying different things” for another bite at the apple of happiness. In fact, you and most others on this thread have discovered happiness/contentment exactly where and when you are in life.
Clarifying my original statement, I don’t believe many who claim happiness when I can see they consider themselves trapped (financially? a mate? a job/career/worklife? addiction?). It just doesn’t seem sincere when a pal is getting drunk every night, avoiding his wife and kids, and caring WAY too much about his NFL team. It doesn’t seem sustainable. In any event, it took me far too long to discover it was the absence of drama and thrills that allowed contentment. Finding someone with a steady commitment to shared values and goals is very hard to do, and it is great you know what a rare commodity you share with your partner. Continued success to you, and all on the thread!
I love the simplicity and relate-ability of this post. I feel the same way about a lot of things. I’ve never been into designer clothes or expensive things – that doesn’t bring me happiness. I have the same tennis shoes from 10 years ago, most of my clothes are 5-6 years old, some are even hand me downs, and that doesn’t bother me one bit – it actually makes me smile. I am happy when I get to maximize the use out of the things I have, and I gladly donate things when I realize I’m not using something anymore. It makes me happy donating things to Goodwill because I get to declutter, it’s green, and someone out there will have the opportunity to purchase my things for a cheap price, and this cycle helps support Goodwill’s workforce. A simple life with few material wants is a happy life to me. And being in good company and having support is priceless! :)
I’m very glad you and I share so much in common :)
Love to declutter!
Great comment on a great article…You know, it’s the fully depreciated assets that make such a difference on ROA. And some people call it junk….
I agree with a lot of this – hedonic adaptation may be playing a role. There are plenty of roll-your-eyes self-help books out there, but even just leafing through a few for fun to compare them I found at least one common theme: “you are the only thing keeping yourself from being happy”. If you go to Zen-inspired sources, simply living in the present and accepting reality is one way for many to realize the very real possibility for immediate happiness, although I’m personally trying to make sure to avoid complacency that such mindsets can bring about.
Along your lines of living on 30% of income, I feel that being happy with that has another great effect: a feeling of security. Of course, one has to realize that 40% or more of one’s wealth can instantaneously disappear, but that, barring massive, completely unforeseen changes, financial security will offer peace-of-mind to many.
For me, the turning point was around February when I realized that I could work 20 hours a week at a minimum-wage job and still supply my current lifestyle given the financial foundation I have — it was eye-opening partially because it was achieved and tangible rather than vague and placed in trust of the future and others’ advice to get there.
Sounds like a plan Greg! I was thinking of working at Coldstone Creamery in Hawaii for 20 hours a week to get healthcare and free ice cream of course. But then I’d get fat as I couldn’t help myself.
Why is it that 40% of one’s wealth could disappear?