Despite what Social Media seems to depict, a lifestyle of happiness does not come from having millions of dollars in the bank. A happy life does not need to contain partying in Belize and chillin at Coachella. Driving a Tesla and living in a house on the hill sounds great, but all things come with a price, not just a price tag. These things sound cool, and in all honesty, they are cool, but for lots of people they are not realistic or for that matter, necessary. Here is some food for thought on this topic. It may sound contradictory to some of the other things I have said, but hear me out…
I am all for having big dreams, setting goals, and striving for more. But I can tell you that there are ugly truths behind the shiny veneer of things you see on social media that not enough people talk about. I’ve been part of a couple of start up ventures, and I am here to tell you, it is no picnic. I’ve worked for large companies and small companies, and there are pluses and minuses for each. I have bounced from industry to industry, never really specializing in one thing, but rather using a generic skill set like sales to allow me freedom to move around freely. I have driven really nice cars, and POS cars; I have lived in really nice homes and several apartments. Want to know the central theme in all of this?
It’s not what you own or do that makes you happy. Happiness is a mindset.
I have had the luxury(?) of getting to know some very wealthy people in my life. They range from lawyers and doctors, those who inherited money, and those who invented something or started a company and sold it. I ask a lot of questions by nature, I want to know how things work, what things work, and how to shorten my own learning curve. Many of them had goals and ideas starting out of what life would be like being filthy rich, and some worked hard to get there. Others had it handed to them. The most common theme they all shared…Happiness is a mindset.
Those who worked super hard to get lots of money in the bank had to sacrifice time with loved ones to do so. In a sad twist of irony, some worked hard to become rich so they could marry the person of their dreams, only to lose them because they worked too much. Some got divorced because of their desire to be rich. There is a balance to everything, and sometimes we are blinded by the shiny objects in life to the point where we don’t see the real things that bring happiness. While everyone’s definition of happy is different, here are some generic ideas that seem to fit most people in terms of NEEDS:
A decent home to live in, in a neighborhood where you feel safe
A reliable vehicle that is somewhat new
A good school for your kids to attend
Enough money to pay your bills take a vacation or two a year, and save for the future
To some, that list seems will seem like a bare minimum existence. To others, it would be a dream come true. Depending on your current lot in life you will have to decide which is which. But I can tell you that there is a magic number to shoot for that would facilitate a life that is primed for happiness. According to this recent study by Princeton University, an annual household income of $75,000 is the tipping point of setting up a happy life. One of the points of the study was that at $150K per year, you are not twice as happy as you would be at $75K. Once you hit a certain income level, many of the usual concerns in life can melt away, mainly because you have the capital to deal with them. Now keep in mind, this is household income, not just one person, and I am assuming that they didn’t think you’d be living in NYC or San Francisco on that amount of money either.
But the point is, far too many of us have been brainwashed by TV, movies, and social media to think that living in Beverly Hills is the only way to be happy. Do most of the crazy people on Housewives of ____________ or any other reality TV show seem like they are happy? It doesn’t appear that way to me. They may have money at their disposal, but they do not seem like well adjusted and happy human beings.
I think if you were trying to architect a happy life, you’d strive for some of the things on the bullet point list above as the end result of the goals you set. Find a job or if you are lucky a career that you like most of the time, that pays decent money. Live lean and get rid of as much debt as possible before age 30, better yet avoid by being smarter than most. Read this previous blog post. If you could be debt free except for a house payment by age 30, you would be so far better off than almost everyone you interact with, it would blow your mind. The average American household has $16,000 in credit card debt. Not overall debt, JUST CREDIT CARD DEBT. This is living beyond your means; buying something you can’t pay cash for, and paying little by little just to have it. The price for this is up to 28% interest over time, meaning that purchase cost you far more than its real value. You wanna know what debt leads to –> stress! Its the number one thing couples fight about, its the thing that people lose sleep over most often.
To a large degree, this is something you can be in charge of if you are smart. If you are an idiot with money, it will control you and make you miserable your whole life.
In recapping the first 50 years of my life, I can honestly tell you that I value experiences and moments in time FAR MORE than anything I have ever owned. The first kiss with my wife, fly fishing with my Dad, the hug from one of my racquetball kids who just won a big match, seeing the look on my sister’s face the first time she announced to the family she and her husband were going to have a baby. Trust me when I tell you that at some point most people come to this conclusion, and if you can get there now, regardless of your age, you will be far better off.
Don’t drift through life, but instead lay out a plan that aims at facilitating happiness. Expedite this by getting out of debt ASAP, getting into a job that you can at least enjoy slightly more than half the time, and start focusing on the things you love to do. Controlling the money you do make will give you freedom to do things you want, and that in itself will make you a lot happier. Stop poisoning your brain with what you see on TV and social media, make your own rules for happiness. Use the info above as a rough guideline for doing so, and fill in your own parameters. After all, its your life, make your own rules…