Here’s a question: Why do you want more money?
Maybe you don’t want to luxuriate in a gold-plated bath filled with lilies imported from a meadow in the Swiss Alps. Maybe you just want to get out of debt. Maybe you just want to get a handle on your day-to-day expenses. And more power to you.
But many people want to move beyond that, into the rarefied air of the 35% tax bracket — and beyond.
So here’s my question: Why?
I ask this question with no judgment. I’m not Noam Chomsky. I’m not going to go on some anti-materialism diatribe here. When I was young and foolish, I thought anyone who pursued money was greedy and shallow. Now, I’m older (alas) and wiser (perhaps), and I don’t have as much of a problem with wealth.
Actually, if I’m honest here, I sure do wish I little more jingle in my jangle. I drive to work in a 2001 Volkswagen with an odometer that’s well north of 100K. I try to make dinner in a microwave oven that inexplicably shuts itself off after exactly 2:48. I watch TV on a ratty old couch that Mickey Rourke would probably avoid.
And I find myself thinking: “Man, it would be nice not to have to worry about this stuff.”
Maybe that’s about the extent of my wishes: As Dorothy Parker said, “I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.” But I also have an adorable two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and I would love to be able to move into a house with a big yard for her to play in.
And to be able to buy her all of the Olivia books, without worrying if we’re going over our amazon allotment for the month.
And to be able to go to restaurants more often.
And to buy a bottle of wine without making sure it’s in this book.
And the occasional trip to, say, France.
And to sleep like Rainer Wolfcastle in The Simpsons: “On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.” (To my wife Jeanne: Just kidding.)
But the point is, it becomes a slippery slope. You want just a little bit more, and soon it becomes like a drug. You want that next thing. Sure your cellphone is nice, but does it have augmented reality? No? Oh man, you have to have augmented reality!
The thing is, I know I’ve got it pretty good. As seen recently on Financial Samurai, we here in the U.S. enjoy a standard of living that most of the world wouldn’t dare dream of. My debt is pretty minimal, I’ve got a great job with amazing benefits, and so on. So I don’t mean to be a malcontent.
But I’ve been able to dip my foot into the waters of the wealthy. Years ago, my ex and I went on a bicycling trip with a high-end travel company through Tuscany. (We were only able to afford it because she was doing some travel writing, one of the sweetest gigs you can have.)
Our group rode some of the Tour de France’s route, and we saw some of the race. I even have a picture of Lance Armstrong raising a glass of champagne right at me. (Well, my ex has it now, but let’s not split hairs.)
And at one point, we stayed at the same Tuscan inn as Robin Williams, who’s apparently a huge cycling fan. And I have to say… living the way the uber-wealthy live was really, really nice. Imagine a football-field–sized bed with the softest sheets imaginable. Elegant linen curtains. A view of the Alps. Delicious dinners with endlessly flowing hand-crafted Italian wine. And so on.
So we got to pretend that we were rich for a little while. And then, like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon, we were sent back to our middling lot in life. (And no, we never saw Robin Williams, either.)
So is it just me who wishes I had a little more? Or are you one of those people who is happy as a pig in mud with what you’ve got? And if so, what’s your secret? I’d love to know it.