Monday, July 31, 2017

Killing Yourself Over Money -Part III

Killing yourself over money is stupid.

In the news today, a tragic story about a middle-aged couple in the prime of their lives, jumping from a building to their death.   Still in their early 50's, they decide to "end it all" because they have debts from an overly lavish lifestyle.  "We've have a wonderful life!" their suicide note blares - but in reality, they didn't.   And thanks to them, their kids will have a traumatized life from now on.

(NOTE:  Some unscrupulous political journalists decided to make this all about health care, and put out false stories that the couple killed themselves over medical bills.  Again, in the age of Obamacare, it is hard to fathom how this could even be the case.  But as it turned out, it was not true at all.  Some folks thought they would use a tragic suicide to advance their political narrative).

It is funny, but I am not a high-flying Chiropractor in Manhattan with a fancy residence in the financial district.  Yet I could have written this couple a check right now and paid off all their IRS liens and his student loans.  Do you know why?  Because I am not a high-flying Chiropractor in Manhattan living beyond his means.

It is hard to describe to people who have never experienced it, but for the first time in my life, I don't worry so much about money.  I still balance the checkbook every day, and I watch our expenses, only because I don't like the idea of being ripped-off or spending too much.   But I never worry about a check bouncing, being late with a payment, or having to "struggle with bills" because I largely don't have many anymore.  I don't worry so much about money because I pay attention to it now.

I learned to live with less and live better.  It is sad this couple from Manhattan spent more per year for their daughter's high school education than the average amount most Students take out in loans for a four-year college degree.

And what is sad is that in their early 50's, they still had 15-20 years to start over again in America - perhaps moving somewhere less expensive and trendy and putting money aside instead of spending it in a gross display of wealth.   But that was not an option for them, apparently.  It was Manhattan or die.

Of course, there may have been a number of other factors involved as well. There may have been depression or other mental illness involved.  We may never know the full story.  But to kill oneself over money?  Seems kind of dumb to me.

You see, even if I lost everything tomorrow, there would still be life worth living, even if I had to live in a tent.  There are still things to do, places to see, people to meet, even if you can't buy everything you think you're entitled to.

I have discussed this before, in fact, twice.   And I think there is a pattern here.  The more you obsess about making money, and the more you make money the centerpiece of your life, the more vulnerable you make yourself.   When the money train stops - and it always does - you may think your life is ending.

But when you slim down your lifestyle and learn to live with less, you become empowered because you no longer "need" money so much and realize you can live on not a lot, if you had to.

It is funny, but I am only a little older than the couple in the story, and yet in my life at this stage, I find I want less not more.  I don't want a fancy car, they just break and break expensive.  I want less house than I have now, although I am content to stay where I am - for the time being.   As I get older, "things" and status mean less and less to me, and security means more.

And there are two ways to have security - one is to have a lot of money, and the other is to not need a lot of money.  Most folks try the former, and it never seems to work - the more money you make or have, the more you spend, and it becomes an endless treadmill and the money train can never, ever stop for even a moment, or your whole life turns upside down and jumping out of windows seems like a rational alternative.

I feel sad for this couple, not because they killed themselves (for nothing) but because they could not envision a happy lifestyle living in Jersey in a tract home and maybe having less, but at least having.