Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.
Essentially, when you can’t live in a moment, they say, it’s best to live in anticipation of an experience. Experiential purchases like trips, concerts, movies, et cetera, tend to trump material purchases because the utility of buying anything really starts accruing before you buy it.
Waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good (and more “pleasantness” too—an eerie metric). By contrast, waiting for a possession is more likely fraught with impatience than anticipation.
A 8 year-old friend of junior pixels recently told him at school that our family doesn’t have many toys because we go on holidays all the time. I initially didn’t know what to think when I heard him recount this, but I am since proud of that fact.
It’s definitely a confusing time for many people at the moment. I’m sure that a lot of people have started to realize their so called wealth during the boom years was really just an illusion, and like any illusion, it can quickly vanish. Many people who used to feel wealthy no longer actually are. Many people have started to question why they’re working longer, doing less things they enjoy and spending less time with their family and yet they’re no better off.
Most definitions of wealth are about abundant valuable material possessions, all of which are worth a lot less now. One of the positive outcomes of these times is that I think we’ll see a better definition of wealth emerge, wealth meaning we can lead a better life instead of just having a lot more shit.
In my opinion, being wealthy isn’t about:
- owning heaps of shit and having to work 70 hours a week just to afford to pay for it all;
- working so much that you need to pay others to care for your family whilst you work;
- having a hugely expensive house that requires multiple incomes just to pay it off and constantly worrying about how much it is worth;
- using your home equity as an constant ATM because it is suddenly worth so much;
- owning the biggest and latest SUV to drive your children around in, polluting the planet and ripping up the roads whilst doing so;
- having absolutely no savings, but heaps of assets (and debt) that supposedly only ever go up in value;
- having no control over your life because all the decisions you make are financial and are about getting ahead.
To me, being wealthy is actually about:
- having just enough to live comfortably;
- having savings that enable you to make decisions about what is right/wrong;
- being generous with your time and money, to make others lives better;
- being able to spend time with your family;
- being able to do things you enjoy as much as you like;
- not trying to continually compare how much you own to others, just being happy with what you’ve got and what you do;
- being happy that the value of your house stays the same, so you only make improvements for yourself rather than what you think will make it worth more to others.
So hopefully out of these tough times we will see a new definition of wealth emerge, and once the dust settles, we can actually work at becoming truly wealthy, the kind of wealth that can’t disappear overnight.
Photo by Hamed Saber (Creative Commons)