I’m going to try something new here at Saving Advice for the coming weeks, and that is having “Fun Money Fridays.” Most of the time we (that is, all financial bloggers, talking heads, and advisors) focus on the negative and scary aspects of money. The refrain(s) go like this:
“You’re never going to be able to retire!”
“You’re failing at life if you don’t have ‘X’ amount saved!”
“Inflation will kill you!”
“The markets are crashing!” (Or, “The markets are rising too fast!” Whichever is scarier on any given day.)
“Saving and frugality are painful!”
But much of what happens with money isn’t negative. It can actually be kind of fun, and sometimes even funny. (Even those who aren’t finance wonks like me can find some fun and amusement in money, trust me.) Taking care of your finances allows you to do some pretty cool stuff like donate to charities, help out a friend in need, mark an item off your bucket list, send your kid to college, and retire on your terms. Even if your finances aren’t that great, there are still positives to the journey of fixing the mess such as learning about yourself, learning new skills, and finding a resilience you didn’t know you had. You just have to choose to look at the positives instead of the negatives and try to find the humor, fun, and good things in your personal situation.
To that end, I begin with this little video entitled, “What Matters Most,” which Capital One sent me on my birthday. (I’d have preferred a cake, but a video will do, I guess.)
The music alone has to lift your spirits. (Happy, happy, joy, joy. Sticks with you, doesn’t it?) But the message is the great part. It’s one of the things that we try to convey here at Saving Advice quite often, and that many people come to realize after they’ve been on the financial journey for a while. The message is this: Happiness isn’t found by comparing yourself to other people and it isn’t found in money.
The happiest people are those who can look inside themselves at any level of wealth and like what they see. Comparing yourself to others is the road to misery. We often see others and imagine that they are so much better off than we are and that makes us miserable by comparison. The thing is, though, that a lot of those people aren’t even real (such as people on TV or in ads), or they’re not as well off as we imagine (they may be in debt up to their eyeballs, or they may have money but not a happy family). Comparisons are meaningless and destructive.
The happy people are the people who build relationships, rather than trying to compete with everyone or tear others down. They embrace the Joneses, rather than try to keep up with them. They look at their life and say, “Hey, maybe some things could use a little improvement, but overall I’m doing pretty great.” Sure, money makes some things easier, but true happiness doesn’t come from money. It comes from being the kind of person who can look beyond wealth and status to see what’s important in life. Things like friendship, love, and joy are important. Whether your neighbor drives a new BMW and you drive a ten year old Chevrolet is not an important aspect of life.
The video begins with a question: “If there was a scale that went from miserable to really, really, happy, where would you be?” It’s a question worth pondering and if you can look beyond the surface aspects of things, status, money, and power, you might find that you’re higher on the scale than you thought. And if you’re not high on the scale, ask yourself what you need to do to move higher. If you’re honest with yourself, it probably doesn’t involve money.
(Photos courtesy of John Earl)