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MoneyTreeI don’t know anyone who doesn’t muse a while after the announcement of yet another mega power ball winner. How nice would that be?

Yet, we learn that when those folks are followed over time, the smaller time winners return to their previous lives all too soon, and the others find themselves bereft of friends and family.

It’s that old adage: money can’t buy happiness. And whoever said it, knew what they were talking about surely. It’s one of those old sayings that turns out to be mostly true.

Mostly.

A new book out called Happy Money has some important points to make on the subject. I haven’t read it, but I did see the authors interviewed and picked up a few points that bear thinking about.

For those of you who are still in the working world, money matters. It matters a great deal how much you are saving toward retirement, especially if you expect and want retirement to be a complete break with your past life. Which probably relates to whether or not you chose a profession that you love versus one that pays the bills.

I chose the latter, and must confess that I didn’t prepare very well for retirement. But I got lucky. I married a man who was land rich. So our retirement took care of itself. So either prepare or be lucky, your choice.

It seems that more money is not necessarily better however. Studies apparently show that the break-off point occurs around $75,000. That’s not at all bad of course, and certainly no where near the median income for most retirees I suspect. But the interesting point is that while happiness does increase to that point, it stops growing at that point as well.

What then becomes most important to happiness?

The book suggests a number of things but a couple really seemed important to me.

One is to buy experiences not things.

I take this to mean that memories are more important than a Porsche in the garage. Of course if you love cars, love to drive, live in the climate for carefree scenic driving, hey go for it. You may build plenty of memories on weekend jaunts up the coast to say, wine country.

But you get the point. Just buying things doesn’t work. Stuffing a house with  pretty things works for a bit, but eventually you walk through rooms with nary a look around. Aesthetics are a good thing, and there is such a thing as living in an environment that is visual enjoyable, but a house needs be functional to be a joy in the long run.

What I mean is that my craft/office room is quite attractive, but the fact that I can be sewing in less than five minutes, or laying out material for a quilt in the same amount of time is, in the long run, the reason why it works for me. The experience of being able to use the room matters much more than how lovely it does or doesn’t look.

Money spent to enhance doing what you love is money well spent. If you love to travel and you enjoy doing it on the ground by car, then an investment in a grand motor home makes some sense. Purchasing one because “everybody has one” in your neighborhood, is quite another.

Keeping up with the Joneses, is not a path to happiness.

Another important point I got from the authors of the book was to “spend to make time”. In other words, spending money to move more free time to your column is really worth it.

We believe and work for retirement because we see it as the time to do as we wish to. We want those eight hours plus going to things that we enjoy. It makes sense then to spend money to enlarge that time off the clock.

I have wondered what retirement might be like for a man or woman who “worked in the home”. It seemed that not much would change. And that would be correct if you don’t spend to save.

So you spend money to let somebody else clean the house and do the yard work. Unless of course you simply adore these activities. Few do. So hire them out. No, they won’t do the job you would do most times. It’s a job to them. But you are freed up for several hours a week.

Use it wisely, conscious of the fact that this is the time you have “bought and paid for.” You will truly enjoy it, I promise you.

It may seem like an expense you shouldn’t indulge in, but the payoff is so worth it if you see it as a gift to yourself to be used to enhance your joy.

So be creative. Not only do I have a housekeeper and we have a kid who does lots of odd jobs around the yard every few weeks, but we also eat out once a week. I don’t feel that I’m captive of a kitchen every day, much as I enjoy cooking, I enjoy being served too.

Discover what you love and enhance that experience with your spending. You will find that you can live really well on a lot less than others think they need, and you are happier than they are.

Spend wisely and you will spend less. And that’s something to make anyone happy.

 

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