So over the holidays I was a bit shocked to realize I literally got just about everything on my wish list. The only missing items were socks and a bottle of scotch (which no I didn’t go Boxing Day shopping for instead I waited to almost the new year to buy when the stores were less busy…oh its official my scotch is now as old as my career at 15 years *grin*). I think it helps that my wish list in the first place was small, but it did occur to me that despite getting just about everything I wanted I wasn’t suddenly like ten times happier. In fact, things went on very similar to how they went on before over all for my happiness. Within a week I wasn’t any much happier than when I got it all.
That of course is a minor example, but the same thing does end up applying to those that have sudden windfalls of money. The lower amount you might easily miss it, but the effect does kick in regardless of how much you win (yes even the poor soul that will win the $1.5 billion dollar lotto in the US). Because of one very simple little fact: money doesn’t change who you are. In larger amounts it just more obvious to see your personality based on your spending. So if before you have a windfall you can’t keep track of your spending and suck at understanding you taxes, then afterwards it will be the same. Just you will buy bigger things and not keep track of them and get even more confused on your taxes. The shift just may be more obvious with a sudden windfall of money. Feel free to search out a few documentaries on this fact, they tend to be rather interesting to see how someone can blow through several million dollars in less than five years.
Saving to retire early is a very similar process, it just takes longer to have it happen and smaller amounts. So before having a lot of savings, I tended to value quality items and not buy cheap things that break easily. I also tended to keep things until they actually break or can no longer be used. And now with over $400,000 in investments, I tend to buy things that last and avoid cheap crap that breaks easily. And despite it all I still tend to save money, even when I really don’t have to it. For example, most of the time I don’t spend all my spending cash in a month. Savings is a habit with me that I fully expect not to really break even when I don’t have to do it anymore. Why? Because something always comes up…good or bad and the cash is usually handy to have at that point.
This isn’t to say you never change, because saving for retirement has changed me. Just not my core values and beliefs in life. Rather I just seem to become more of myself as I get older and have more saved. I dislike kissing ass to people in charge and I even dislike it more when I’m in charge of something. Now I just be honest with people and tend to push the edge of what would be socially acceptable when someone is trying to make themselves look good or be impressive. I’m not mean about it, but I just won’t put up with it. Or the fact, I tend to judge people less for their spending choices now. I get some people REALLY value that annual trip to Mexico, so if that is what they love so be it. I just personally don’t have that much interest in it (or more precisely I don’t get going to the same location every time). People just value different things and that is okay.
In the end, you can get everything you want in life and be happy or miserable because the money or things really don’t matter too much. It’s what’s going on in your head that matters the most. So yes, please save something for your retirement, but more importantly ask yourself what exactly you plan to do with it. Start a business that you had in your head for years with no pressure of making a profit. Or perhaps learning some skills you never had time for. In short, you need a why…why am I doing this…without that it’s just a big old pile of money.