I Can’t Do That

Dennis Friedman

THERE ARE TWO NEW Year’s resolutions I’d like to accomplish: I would like to gain weight and spend more money.

I’ve been trying to gain weight for such a long time that I’ve just about given up. I eat all day long until my stomach is about to explode. The next morning, I jump on the scale and my weight is back where I started the previous morning. Rachel looks at me amazed, as if I’m some kind of human garbage disposal. She’s always asking, “Where does all that food go?”

My friends tell me to eat a lot of high-calorie food. They suggest foods like jumbo pretzel hot dogs, fettuccine Alfredo and cheesecake. One friend offered to buy me a Denny’s Lumberjack Slam breakfast, noting it has almost 1,000 calories. He said it would be a great way to start my day if I wanted to put on weight.

I thought about all this advice. Do I really want to eat a lot of unhealthy food loaded with calories, so I can gain some weight?

The same thing can be said about my effort to spend more money. Do I really want to buy things I don’t need just so I can spend down my portfolio? I mentioned in a previous blog post that my financial planner told me that, if I don’t increase my spending, I’ll die with more money at age 100 than I have today.

I find the root cause of my eating and spending problem is very similar. My diet is low in calories. It’s comprised mostly of vegetables, fruits and lean poultry. It’s hard to gain weight when you’re eating food low in calories.

Ditto for my spending. My fixed expenses are low and my discretionary spending doesn’t involve any high-ticket items. Although I feel I’ve lately increased my purchases, they are mostly lower priced items.

I haven’t made it to the upper echelon—and I don’t think I’m getting there anytime soon. I always thought purchasing an expensive watch, SUV or designer clothing was like eating an unhealthy high-calorie chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream on top. I just can’t do it. I’ve abstained all my life from those kinds of purchases. I don’t think I have it in me to change now.

Rachel is no help. She’s as bad as me when it comes to loosening the purse strings. When we go grocery shopping, I better have a good reason to buy another box of cereal, when the cereal box at home still has two more servings in it. When it comes down to it, we’re both minimalists and live a simple life. We are two peas in a pod when it comes to spending.

When we buy something, it’s a lifetime commitment. We drive our cars until the wheels fall off. Rachel’s Honda Fit has 193,000 miles on it. My previous car, a Toyota Camry, had 237,000 miles. I’m still using my first iPhone. If all Americans spent like us, the economy would be in a recession.

In all honesty, there’s really nothing that I want to buy. We often have dinner out and we plan to go on some trips this year. But there are no other significant expenditures slated for the year ahead.

I now realize the amount of money you have doesn’t always determine the lifestyle you live. As my investment portfolio has grown over the years, my lifestyle hasn’t changed much. Sometimes, your life experiences and values determine how you live your life, not how much money you’ve accumulated.

Since I’ll likely never spend down my portfolio, I will probably donate part of my estate to charity. There are some causes I’m passionate about. Of course, I will also make sure Rachel is well taken care of—and, hopefully, she’ll find it within herself to spend the money. And if not, that’s okay: It’s all about enjoying life in the way you want to live it.

Dennis Friedman retired at age 58 from Boeing Aerospace Company. He enjoys reading and writing about personal finance. His previous articles include Say YesSubtraction ModeTime to Reflect and Be Like Neil Young. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dmfrie.

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David Baese
David Baese
4 years ago

You are a reasonable and contented person. Congratulations, and don’t change anything unless you want to.

4 years ago

I’m fortunately in a similar boat (except for maybe the weight part!), but my take on the situation is perhaps slightly different. I’ve seldom, if ever, felt the urge to “keep up with the Jones'” so my discretionary spending has been viewed by others as idiosyncratic, as in others thinking “why did he buy this, when he could afford that?”. I’m very thankful that my lifestyle, luck, and some degree of perseverance have allowed my to have an abundance of CHOICES, which I value far more than the monetary value associated with those choices. I live and work with many people for whom the “best choice” is by definition the most expensive choice, be it car, vacation, home, spouse. But similarly, I don’t live on the other perspective either, that one should spend solely on experiences over possessions. While I travel pretty extensively, I find life would be fulfilling enough if I rarely got on an airplane; there’s an overabundance of life right outside my door, traveling around the world to seek some “experience” is often, in it’s own way, a possession in and of itself.

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
4 years ago

You are very lucky. You know when you have ‘enough’ and are content with that.

4 years ago

Dennis, may I suggest trying some heavy weight training on a regular basis? It will promote muscle gain/retention and bone density, as well as give numerous other benefits. And to start, you’re in a position to spring for a good trainer to help you do it right. Consider that spending an investment in your long term health.

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