Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
“Nothing gold can stay.” A great poem by Robert Frost. Its an important point in todays society. Culture in the US will tell you to buy more, eat this, consume more. But I’m here to tell you. Dont. It may sound funny from a physician.
When I was young I longed for a fast car, massive house, tons of gadgets, lots of stuff (to fill the house). It all changed in the past 5 years. It was a slow and steady build to a crescendo. ..details to come…keep reading.
Money doesnt buy happiness. Its true.
I’ve probably had more fancy dinners than you. I used to got to fancy dinners on company dime 6 nights a week, for over a decade. There is no restaurant chain or steak, or specialty I haven’t seen or tried. And yet, once you’ve had it, it really doesnt seem that important anymore. You begin to value it less, and not do it unless you have a business meeting. If you read my posts, you probably already know where it eat. Psst..organic markets and farmers markets.
I’ve likely had more gadgets than you as well. I would buy and sell at least 20 laptops, cell phones, tablets, and cameras each year. I buy and replace them, before their period of obsolescence is over. And its getting tighter. Now new iPads come out every 6 months. And “the best cell phone” is created every 3 months. I’ve begun to sell them off and not replace them. Now I have one laptop and one cell phone. Down from 2 phones and 3 laptops, and a tablet. Sick, right?
Ive spent time with millionaires, who are happy, and some who are outright depressed.
I’ve also been to places where people live simply, who make less than $20 per month, that are among the happiest people on the earth.
Why is this? What drives this? Sit back and get a coffee. Its time to learn, child.
I had a chance to watch “the Queen of Versailles” on Netflix this weekend. No, its not a fancy French film. It was an amazing American tale of greed, excess, and glorification of possessions. And yet it all came crashing down at the end. It was simply amazing. To even think of building the largest house in the US. And filling it with millions of dollars of stuff. One such object was $5 million just for the marble in the house. $250, 000 for a glass dome. Sick right? I urge you to watch it. Get educated.
Let me tell you where all those things go when you die. In a big rolloff dumpster in your front yard. I know it because it happened to one of my relatives who passed away last year. No fanfare, no excitement, just trash. All those newspaper clippings, odd things you’ve collected, outdated clothes and gadgets, all in a landfill. Some legacy, right?
The difference between the happy and the unhappy, is
1. They are satisfied. They dont have to keep buying stuff to be happy. Be content with what you have. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You can’t. There will always be someone richer than you. Oh, you make $50k? I know someone who makes $500k. You make $500k, I know a few millionaires with yachts. And you know what they want? To be billionaires with jet planes and 5 houses. Here’s the end game. Buffet, Gates, Carlos Slim. Stop it. They beat all of us. You’re driving yourself crazy with your silly little game.
2. The happiest among us spend money on experiences. Little or small. Its free to enjoy your city park. Or take you kids to the playground. Or play backyard football. Its a little more expensive to go to the zoo, or take your kids to the air show, but your kids will always remember it. It costd money to travel, but you will always remember it, and it can never be stolen from you. Your pictures and memories will outlast any object you can buy.
3. Value your friendships. Look up from your cell phone. Look around you. Connect with the people you love. Have a conversation off the grid. In person. Without facetime. Visit friend. Share a simple lunch. Recount the places youve been and the tales youve told.
The Balinese live in tiny homes, and average $20 per month. Yes, per month. And yet they are happy. They dont need tv, 3500 sq foot homes, fine China, or North Face jackets (yeah it is warm there). They spend time walking, talking with family, and enjoying healthy fruits and vegetables. (Beef is super expensive there). Sometimes they just do nothing and appreciate the silence. A chance to think and reflect. This has disappeared in our ADHD, do something constantly culture.
And now to many Americans, and perhaps you, and materialism. (You just gasped…its ok) Most Americans buy what they want with credit and credit cards. On the hope that one day they’ll make more and pay it off. But it never happens. Interest rises and you’ll pay perhaps 25-35% more than you bought it for, while that object depreciates in value. A $200 phone becomes $270. A burrito at Chipotle becomes $9. Gas for your car goes from $50 to $67. All due to interest. And how about that mortgage interest. On a 30 year fixed mortgage, did you realize you are likely to pay double, yes double what you bought your house for? Your $150, 000 home just went to $300, 000. And if you are foolish enough to get a home equity line of credit, you could end up paying a higher rate and pay $450,000. Dont even get me started on private school education loans. And you wonder why you still don’t have any money.
Stop doing it. You wonder why where in the financial mess the US is in. Because, as a rule, people cant repay the loans and credit they’ve taken. And uncle Sam does the same, when they raise the debt ceiling. They are not example to use all. Everyones living on borrowed money, and sometimes it seems like a house of cards, ready to fall. (see fiscal cliff).
Ask yourself, why do you want xyz possession? Why do you want to incur credit debt to get it? Do you need it or do you want it. Do you need a $300 North Face jacket for your 3 kids. Or would a jacket from Target or Kohls be just as effective at keeping out the cold. Do you need a new car, or does the one you are driving get you where you need to go? Or was it just that you wanted to impress your doctor neighbors.
Do you need a new cell phone? How fast do you need to access Facebook? 3mbps? 6mbps? 30mbps? How fast is enough for you? Maybe you should just use the one you have. Maybe you dont even need a smartphone. I made through college and med school without one. Odds are your kids dont need one. And if you work at home, you dont either. The tech industry is amazing, and extremely effective at getting you to upgrade. But ask yourself why you need to…or is it that you just want to.
Which brings me to my point today. Experiences. Several of my friends, recently have been selling their good to travel and enjoy experiences. Some of their most prized possessions have been listed and sold on eBay. One friend wanted a trip to India, more than anything. Another took a mission trip to Guatemala, and sacrificed personal income for time off to take the trip to help the needy. A third sold his estate and considerably downsized. I had a unique cooking experience with a world renowned chef, which I bought as a gift for a loved one. We are entering a new, post-recession era. We can either change or go bankrupt chasing foolishness. Remember the great quote. A fool and his money are soon parted.
Interestingly, I’ve talked to several patients in their 70s and 80s that lived through the depression. If you want to learn about life, talk to them. They know what its like to band together and help their neighbors. To share. To do without. To work to make ends meet, think outside the box, strive for pride, and not live off government assistance. They have been through it before, and they will give you endearing points of wisdom, especially now that they are near lifes end. They see right through what the media is selling you. One day you will too…if you live that long.
You see, at the end of your life, it isnt the TV you have, or the cell phone, or the square footage of your house. It isnt the horsepower or emblem on your car. Nor is it todays fashionable clothes, that will likely be out of style before 2014. Its the friends you make, the places you’ve been, and the memories you have. Stop trying to live a life that TV and the manufacturers want to to live. Stop breaking the bank, spending on things you cant afford. Stop chasing dreams that arent even yours. Invest in experiences. Start living a life that matters and join us.