Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Money Is A Story We Tell Ourselves ...

The title of this post is what I believe is a direct quote from Seth Godin. It may be slightly paraphrased. But the gist is pure.

I believe he uttered it during his appearance on Tim Ferriss's podcast. And his point was that once we have our basic needs met – food and shelter – everything on top of that is a story we're telling ourselves.

I love that. Such a big topic condensed into such a simple phrase.

The older I get, the less stuff I want and the more I question the reasons behind others wanting as much as they do. I've written before about wanting to see a psychology-based version of "House Hunters." When someone says, "I want a house with a big foyer because when people walk in, I want them to be impressed," I want the realtor (who's also a psychologist in my dream spin-off) to ask "Why do you want them to be impressed?"

What's missing in that person's life that they think that the road to happiness and fulfillment runs through a large, impressive foyer?

I see large foyers and I think "Wasted space." And "money to heat and cool a wasted space." I'd rather spend that money on something else. Something fun. Something practical. Or, likely, donate it to charity.

I've also written before about my studio apartment and my one-bedroom and how the perfect space for me would be the halfway point between the two. I left my studio because I wanted enough space for a queen-size bed. (I could have had a queen-size bed in my studio but that wouldn't have left much room for the rest of my things.) But my one-bedroom had a dining area that was way bigger than I needed.

Perhaps one day, I'll live in a right-size space again. My house is small by most every standard but it's still too big for my tastes. For now, though, given goings on in my life and the lives of those close to me, it's where I should be.

But I really would love to talk to someone who owns 300 pairs of $500-a-pair shoes and ask her why she's invested $150,000 in shoes (not including tax). I really would love to talk to someone who wears a $20,000 watch and ask him how that impacts his life.

I'm a fan of quality, sure. There's logic behind buying something well-made that will last, rather than buying cheap goods that require frequent replacement.

But there's an upper limit to quality beyond which there's not a discernible return. It's just about status.

Yes, a $50 bottle of wine may well taste better than a bottle that costs five bucks.

But who can really tell the difference between a bottle that costs $50 and a bottle that costs $500? Or $5,000?

Furniture is the same. I spent $3,000 on my couch. I've had it for 18 years. I use it every day. It could stand some new seat cushions, for sure. And I would like to get it recovered. (The green seemed like a good choice at the time but there's wisdom in buying large pieces of furniture in neutral colors.)

But I once saw an end table in a magazine that retailed for $15,000. Fifteen thousand dollars for an end table? That's insane to me. (Thinking back, perhaps the pair was $15,000. Or maybe the pair was $30,000. Either way: insane.) What story are those people telling themselves?

I was on the phone with a friend/client the other day and was telling him about Seth. While we chatted, the friend Googled him and rattled off Seth's net worth. Whether or not that information is accurate, I have no idea. But it didn't seem implausible. Seth has written a lot of books and has done a lot of interesting, innovative work. He should be rewarded for it. But nothing about what I see or hear from him says, "Hey, everybody, I have a lot of money! Look at how much I'm worth!"

Which is one of the reasons why I really like him.

I know a couple of multimillionaires personally. Neither of them flaunt their wealth. Both of them still work. One of them lives his life in jeans and work shirts. If you saw him in a bar, you'd never think, "Yup, millionaire right there." I have no idea what he'll do with his money someday. I've never asked. It's none of my business. But odds are he's not going to blow it on a yacht.

Mind you, I'm well aware that folks are free to spend their money on whatever they please. But it'd be interesting to know if they're buying things because they truly derive joy out of owning them or if they're buying things in an attempt to fill a void that can't be filled with things or to distract from something that should be served with attention and resolution.


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