happiness and wealth

Conspicuous Consumption or Subtle Savoring?

photo shows letter blocks spelling "ENJOY"

Some people have so much money, it doesn’t really matter what they do with it. Some people don’t have any to spare. Our work tends to be with those in between, those who need their money to work effectively to cover their needs—and maybe some wants and some legacy concerns.

Clients, that space in between is where most of us live.

As people achieve more financial freedom, some feel compelled to display more and more of their wealth. It may come from pride or social ambition or… who knows exactly? But the cost of trying to impress others is quite high when it manifests in expensive homes, vehicles, and conspicuous consumption.

Housing is a need of course, and transportation can be nonnegotiable for our livelihood, or childcare, or wellbeing. But it’s a great time of year to think about how all the choices add up when we start stretching our means just for show.

We once saw an article about $10,000 watches that had the headline, “Affordable Watches that Will Make You Feel Like a Millionaire.” When people whose invested wealth has reached the $1 million mark, we delight in asking them whether they identify as a millionaire now. Not one has answered “yes.” So if a million dollars doesn’t make a person feel like a millionaire, how would a watch get the job done? (For the record, a large fraction of the millionaires I know enjoy wearing watches in the $39 price neighborhood.)

The paradox is that those who strive to look rich may never accumulate much in the way of assets. Meanwhile, those who choose to be rich may have a better chance of learning to spend well. They can afford vehicles that provide the most comfort, homes that make daily life better, generosity to descendants or causes, and travel to dream destinations.

We do not control what others think. We only control our own choices, and we bear the brunt of the consequences. Those everyday millionaires—and those on their way—seem to have learned this early. And they savor what they have, no matter how life looks to anyone else.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email or call.

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Conspicuous Consumption or Subtle Savoring? 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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The Happiness Assassins

© Can Stock Photo / Feverpitched

A professor at the Harvard Business School studies the connections between happiness and wealth. Since our immediate business here at 228 Main is wealth, and our primary object as human beings is happiness, we are paying attention.

Michael Norton’s research says there are two main questions people with money ask themselves when thinking about their level of satisfaction or happiness. “Am I doing better than before?” and “Am I doing better than other people?”

We recognize the comparison to others as ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ don’t we? And always doing better than before implies a treadmill of constant improvement, ignoring the natural ebb and flow of markets, business and the economy. These are high hurdles to happiness.

Somebody somewhere is always doing better than us. And we can never have enough, if we always want more. Perhaps this is why researchers have found that people feel if only they had two or three times as much money as they had, then they would be perfectly happy.

Being the best clients in the world, you as a group are a little different. You possess a certain kind of common sense, a groundedness, that has you considering your happiness in connection with what you need and with your natural aspirations for the future. You understand the “two steps forward, one step back” nature of the markets and economy. (You don’t always like it, but you do understand it.)

One friend quotes her granny on this point: “I have enough, and enough is as good as a feast.” This is sheer genius.

Clients, it is unimaginably more satisfying for us to work with you, instead of the kind of people these researchers talk to. If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.