This week’s blog came from a combination of a thought I had a couple of weekends ago, along with some good ol’ fashioned Twitter debate I saw last week.
I would really love to hear your thoughts before and after you read this week’s blog. Feel free to share your responses with me, at my email, firstname.lastname@example.org
The question I want you to think about is pretty simple. What amount of money would change your life?
Before I give my answers and take on this topic, let’s dig a little deeper into what we are addressing today.
We’ve all seen headlines of the “Overnight Millionaires”, whether that be from a successful start-up company getting acquired or going public, an athlete signing a mega-contract, a brilliant idea getting backed by Mark Cuban or another Shark from the TV Show Shark Tank, and of course, who could forget those Powerball or MegaMillions winners?
These are all very public, and very well-documented examples of life-changing money events.
We are taught that more money will make us happier, or at least make life a little bit easier.
If there is one thing I have been completely fascinated by, and completely wrong about from when I first started my career, it would be that more money changes who you are.
It doesn’t. More money will simply allow you to magnify who you already are.
Let’s dig into this a bit more.
The only way to accumulate wealth is to save more than you spend. Yes, the wealthiest people in the world may have more to spend, but they still abide by this very simple rule.
I will never forget early in my career when a client I was working with had millions of dollars saved, was in her mid-70s, and couldn’t even fathom taking a trip that would cost her about $1,000.
She literally could not spend the money she had saved her whole life. It took months of digging into her concerns to get her to a place where she actually wanted to spend the money, even though she knew the plan worked from this first encounter.
She was always a saver, and it was incredibly hard for her to be a spender. You would never guess she was a millionaire because she did not have the car, the fancy clothes, or the common things we would expect a wealthy person to have.
This also explains why spenders will continue to be spenders even after they receive what most would consider enough money.
We have all heard the story of professional athletes going broke, and Kiplinger estimates approximately 78% of all drafted NFL players will file for bankruptcy, or find themselves in financial ruin within two years of their retirement.
This is an alarming statistic. When you break it down, that means 4-5 players out of the 22 players on the field at any given moment will be financially ok after they retire.
Former Tennessee Titan Vince Young for example, once purchased all of the seats on a Southwest Airlines flight to avoid having to travel next to anyone on the plane he was taking. That is 140 seats purchased for a flight. Yikes.
Now yes, I understand I am not writing this article for NFL players, but rather everyday people who are looking to get their finances to a state of harmony, but the point still holds true.
While the data may not have enough clarity to it to actually make this statement, I would be willing to bet those 4 or 5 that will be ok were not big spenders before they made their millions playing football.
It is so easy for us to apply our normal life to what it would be like if we were granted the amount of money we see people attaining in the news headlines. We think our life would change much more than it actually would.
I personally don’t think it would take more than $500 to change my life, and I could probably do it in a lesser amount given the right set of circumstances.
While this may seem like a low amount, let’s look at how it ties into the larger financial state of our country, too.
According to an ABC News article from 2019, nearly 40% of U.S. adults wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency.
Of that 40%, approximately 12% wouldn’t be able to cover it at all, with around 27% saying they would only be able to cover it if they borrowed the money, or sold something.
In this case, just $400 would be a life-changing amount of money, if for a completely different reason. Just $400 would create an entirely different peace of mind, knowing they wouldn’t have to sell personal belongings or the things they need to function normally on a daily basis.
A separate survey question noted 12% of adults wouldn’t be able to cover their monthly bills if faced with an unexpected $400 expense.
This isn’t to say this group of people are all big spenders, there surely is a bigger story to be told surrounding the income of the participants, but I would imagine some of the people in this study would have more than enough if they weren’t spenders.
Having a system in place to protect the unexpected is critical in building life-changing financial habits, which you can read about more in this blog post from a few weeks back.
I want to shift back to the positive side though, and go back to our initial question.
What would a life-changing amount of money be for you?
As I mentioned above, I think I could do it for about $500. I would use that money to take a life-changing trip, likely to the West Coast to drive the Pacific Highway.
If I really wanted to skimp out on expenses, there is no reason I couldn’t just fuel up, hit the road, pack some camping gear, and buy groceries along the way.
Now sure, if someone came along and gave me $10,000 to do the same trip, I surely could find a way to make use of all that money and accomplish roughly the same thing.
This could involve a direct flight to the top or bottom of the West Coast (probably even first class), a really nice rental car, maybe the nicer hotels along the way, and some meals at fancy restaurants, but the core experience of the sights and sounds would likely be the same as my $500 trip.
While it may not be everyone’s definition of life-changing, it would be for me. It would be one more thing off the list of things I hope to see during my time here on Earth.
I have found experiences tend to be more life-changing than having a bunch of things or even a bunch of money.
The amount of money spent won’t change how I would value such a trip.
Money can help us collect more experiences, but money alone won’t change who we are.
Next week we will wrap up these foundational posts, and I will be putting out more educational content in the weeks following.
Weather permitting, I hope to have another fun experience to share next week. I was challenged by a few colleagues of mine to participate in a “solitude retreat”, and will be taking a day off to immerse myself in nature, bring some paper, and write down all that comes to my mind.
No phone, no internet, nothing but nature and my thoughts.
This is somewhat intimidating to subject myself to, but I am looking forward to going through this experience.
If my plans get delayed, this adventure will have to be written about in a bonus post down the road.
Come back next week to hear the results… or whatever I write up if the rain cancels my plans.
Until next time,