Sunday, October 10, 2010

Money Can't Buy Happiness - but it sure can buy a boatload of Misery!

The old saying is, "Money Can't Buy Happiness!"  And it is true.  But money can buy you a whole boatload of Misery!

Buying things and owning things is not an end in and of itself.  As I have learned throughout life, the siren song of commerce is singing a sweet lie - that if only you have the latest and greatest gadget, the coolest car, the biggest house, you will be happy.  Regardless of what you buy or how much of it, there is always some newer gadget down the road, or a fancier car, or a larger house.  You can't win at that game, so don't bother playing.

But no matter how much you buy, happiness is not something that comes with it.  Happiness is entirely unrelated to the ownership or acquisition of "things".  Spending more and more money to be happy never works, period.  The material is mortal error.

Money, on the other hand, can buy as much Misery as you can stand - in the form of debt.  Once you go into debt to buy all these "things" you will never be happy so long as you are in debt.  Debt is like a cancer that grows on you, or a heavy weight that we carry - that gets heavier and heavier with time, unless you take action.  Most people resign themselves to a lifetime of debt and unhappiness.  " I owe, I owe, so it's off to work I go!"   says one bumper sticker.  Work - a career - should be more than a means of paying the cable bill.

Few people think they can get out of debt ever, so they don't bother to think about planning it.  It is quite easy to go into debt - like falling into a lake.  But there rarely is any real need to do so in one's lifetime.  Most of us go into debt with the mistaken idea that it will make us happy.  A fancy car, new clothes, a meal at a chain restaurant - all financed over time with the idea that "having it now" will make us happy, when in reality, it doesn't - and  the long-term debt makes us miserable.

Owning an older, used car and taking care of it is far cheaper and can be done on a cash basis.   But few do it.  Even the poor end up financing such cars, rather than saving up for them.  And mostly it is done on the basis of status - to own a nicer consumer good to impress the hypothetical "other guy".

Americans love their status houses, and will go into mortgage stress to buy one.  They claim they need the space, but who needs five bedrooms for a family of three?  And a three car garage which is filled with boxes of junk?

No matter what your income level, it is the same deal - we expand our consumerism to accommodate the amount of money available.  Both the poor man and the "rich" man end up in debt and unhappy - the richer man merely has higher quality junk he is making payments on.

The debt trap can thus ensnare anyone of any income level.   Truly rich people - of any income level - have no debt, but instead own money.  If you are making $20,000 per year, you might be considered to be at or below the poverty line for a family of four.  But if you have $500,000 in the bank, and live in a house that is paid for, you aren't poor.

Similarly, if you are making $100,000 a year, and are $500,000 in debt and have a mortgage on your house, then you aren't rich, despite your income level.

You can't borrow your way to happiness - only to misery.   You can't spend your way to wealth - only to poverty.  And you can't spend your way to happiness.

Except, perhaps, in one way.

You can buy yourself back.  If you want spend any money at all on anything and expect to get a happiness return, buy yourself out of slavery - pay off all your debts and stay out of them forever.

Once you are in debt, you are beholden to others for the rest of your life, until that debt is paid off.  It is a form of debt slavery, as I have noted before in this blog - the condition of perpetual indebtedness that the victim is never free of.  And for most people in our society, this is viewed as a life-long "normal" condition.

And yet, the things they sell themselves into slavery for are not necessities in life, but luxuries, status items, or toys.  They sell their soul, literally, to have a jet ski.

Buy yourself back from the pawn shop!  Own yourself, free and clear.  Because once you can get out of debt - once and for all - you can live within your means and any surplus is used to own money instead.

When that happens, regardless of income level, you will be truly rich.