HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE financial freedom? That’s the intriguing question I’ve been asked twice in recent weeks by journalists curious about the new HumbleDollar book, My Money Journey: How 30 People Found Financial Freedom—And You Can Too.
Financial freedom is something that pretty much everybody wants, and yet there’s no agreed-upon definition. Still, I think most folks would focus on two key elements: time and money. But I don’t think it’s a simple matter of having lots of dollars and lots of free time.
MONEY BUYS HAPPINESS—but it may not buy us very much. Indeed, no matter how much we earn and no matter what other steps we take to boost happiness, we may discover the impact is modest and fleeting.
That brings me to a recent academic debate. In 2010, Princeton University’s Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman noted that happiness, on average, didn’t appear to increase beyond an annual income of $75,000 or so—a finding that’s since been widely reported in the mainstream media.
AT AGE 55, I’M PERHAPS a bit young to spend time reflecting on my life. My maternal grandmother died at 101, so I could have many more decades to go. Nevertheless, I find myself more nostalgic now than I was just a few years ago.
I often think back to my childhood and how it shaped who I am today. In 1976, when I was in fourth grade, my parents purchased a two-and-a-half-acre property in a small town outside of Eugene,
NOW THAT I’M RETIRED—and living in a warm desert climate—walking has become one of my favorite activities. Most days, I log between six and eight miles trekking around our neighborhood. I usually listen to a podcast during my journey, but it just serves as background noise. My real focus is contemplating dog training strategies or the subject matter of my future HumbleDollar posts.
Some days, I play the “what if” game.
“DOES MONEY BUY happiness?” That’s one of the questions in HumbleDollar’s Voices section. I hesitate to say that happiness is a commodity we can buy. But studies—and many people’s personal experiences—suggest a lack of money can bring on unhappiness.
A recent paper, “Financial Stress and Depression in Adults” by researchers at the University of Birmingham in England, supports this conclusion. The researchers reviewed 40 studies examining the relationship between depression and financial stress,
IF YOU’RE A HISTORY buff, you know how difficult life was during the 1930s. In our modern American world of plenty, it can be hard to appreciate what life was like during that period. The Great Depression, as it was later dubbed, was a time of incredible strife and struggle.
Today, we have an unemployment rate of less than 4%. During the 1930s, it reached 25% in the U.S. Think about that. A quarter of the country was looking for work to feed their family,
COMPARISONS ARE the death knell of happiness—and they aren’t good for our wallets, either.
If we’re to get the most out of our time and money, we need to devote those two precious resources to things we consider meaningful. But how do we figure out whether something is indeed meaningful to us, and not a reflection of the influence of others?
For “meaningful,” dictionaries offer synonyms such as “important” and “significant.” What we’re talking about are things that have some special emotional resonance,
I’VE RECENTLY BEEN reading and listening to health experts who study the brain chemical known as dopamine. I’m no health expert and I don’t claim any specialized knowledge on the subject, but I’ve learned dopamine is widely considered to be the “pleasure chemical.”
Think about the feeling in between bites of chocolate cake, when we know just how good that next bite is going to be. As we anticipate our reward, our dopamine spikes,
I HAVE READ THAT spending on experiences brings more happiness than spending on things. But what about the experience of buying? Can that make us happy?
I’ve lived in my small community for 21 years. Over that time, my regular buying habits have led me to discover people who provide me with excellent service. They also supply me with a generous measure of genuine satisfaction.
Every third Friday, I sit and listen to a great raconteur as he cuts my hair.
WE ALL WANT TO LEAD happier lives, but that’s no easy task. Our first stumbling block: Most of us aren’t even sure how to define happiness.
Fortunately, philosophers and psychologists have come to the rescue, suggesting that there are two different types of happiness. First up: hedonic happiness. Think of a wonderful party with delicious food, sparkling conversation and all your favorite people in attendance. There’s great momentary pleasure and—fingers crossed—scant pain involved.
THE MEGA MILLIONS drawing on Friday was worth more than $1 billion. Would you be happy if you’d been the lucky winner?
Last week, I talked about the Vanderbilts. Once the wealthiest family in America, they saw their fortune dwindle because of aggressive spending. Back in the 1890s, for example, the family spent $7 million building the Breakers, a summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. That’s the equivalent of $220 million today. When it was completed,
WHEN I WAS WORKING fulltime, my goal was to have enough retirement savings to replace 100% of my income. I knew I could live comfortably on that amount, while still having enough left over to do the things I didn’t have time for when I had a fulltime job. I figured that was the key to a happy retirement.
But after retiring, my thinking changed, as I began focusing on how I could live longer and better.
EACH OF US TAKES our monthly income and then makes countless decisions—some big, some small—about how to use those dollars. How can we get the most from the money that flows through our hands? I find it helpful to look at this “income allocation” through three prisms.
Divvying it up. We can use our income for three main purposes: spending it today, saving it for tomorrow or giving it to others. Our instinct is to spend today,
A FRIEND ASKED ME recently if I got paid for the writing I do. She assumed that I’d be compensated, especially for research articles published in scholarly journals.
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m paid generously—in psychic income.”
“What’s psychic income?” she asked.
I explained. “Instead of earning a paycheck for my paper, I earn the satisfaction of this well-respected periodical running my article.” That’s also the way it is for my short stories and poetry that appear in specialty publications.
“ENOUGH” IS a powerful notion. Unfortunately, it’s largely absent from financial conversations.
The concept is rooted in deep self-awareness. It asks the question, how much do I really need to be happy? I believe we should ask this more often because, if we don’t, culture will fill in the blank—and the default answer will be “more.”
Enough has two dimensions. The first dimension is about spending. Too often, we succumb to the hedonic treadmill—the endless pursuit of the next thrilling purchase,