MONEY IS NOT OUR GREATEST ASSET

Unlike many who embark on this relatively new phenomenon of digital nomadism, spending time overseas isn’t an unfamiliar concept to me. I’ve spent the best part of the last 10 years living and travelling in different parts of the world, while being lucky enough to have dream jobs, the likes of which I never could have imagined.

Written by: Ricky Dunn

Posted on: 5th May 2020

Last updated: 5th May 2020

 

The outbreak of COVID 19 has provided many with the opportunity to slow down and reflect on life. It certainly has for me! I don’t think we’re necessarily doomed, but the rate of change and the challenges facing society as we know it are clearly enormous. Global inequality, the impact of AI, bias media, climate change, consolidation of big businesses, corrupt political systems and a financial bubble that surely has to one day burst are just a few of the risks on the horizon.

I had a similar realisation in 2009 when the Global Financial Crisis was starting to impact my job in commercial real estate. I’d spent years building up a client base that was fast disappearing. It was a wake-up call. Since then, the rate of change has continued to accelerate and there’s every chance that life as we know will be unrecognisable in 10-20 years’ time. Once you accept this likelihood, decision making can become far easier. For me, it has led to spending the majority of the last 11 years living and working in different parts of the world – putting happiness and experiences above money and possessions.

We hear it all the time – ‘live your best life’ and ‘live without regrets’. Yet how many of us actually follow these principles? Most of us go about doing the same thing, day in, day out. We work ridiculous hours for 48+ weeks of the year, all to drive a newer car, have a bigger TV, wear more fancy clothes and escape reality with a holiday for 2 weeks of the year. Why? We don’t need half of it and rarely do they bring long lasting happiness.

Too many people live life for tomorrow. They count down the days until the weekend, until their next holiday, until they get their next new gadget or toy, all the while wishing away the majority of their life. All of this would be fine if people seemed happy – but rarely does this seem to be the case. Could it be that the endless pursuit of material goods is not the answer?

When I was 18, happiness was having a car – any car! When I was 20 and earning more money, all of a sudden I wasn’t happy in my $2,000 car. I concluded happiness would come from a $6,000 car. That lasted another year or two until a $15,000 car became the requirement, and for most, it keeps going from there. At what point would lasting happiness from a more shiny vehicle arrive? Spoiler – it wouldn’t. Meanwhile, by my early 20s I had sacrificed the equivalent of over 6 months full time salary in this failed pursuit. I’m thankful I learned this lesson before handing over cash or taking out a loan for a $60,000 car.

I know some people love their job and enjoy dedicating a large part of their life to it. That’s fantastic – they should keep doing what they love. Some people sacrifice their own happiness to serve society – an admirable way to live and one that surely provides its own sense of fulfillment and purpose.

So what about the rest of us? What are we living for? Are we in some form of autopilot like most other species on the planet, focussed on little more than survival and reproduction? (The latter, which if not curtailed, will no doubt continue destroying our environment).

Those who aren’t living for the weekend seem to be focussed on setting themselves up for retirement, happy to make the sacrifice now to provide a better future for themselves and their family. I can’t speak for those providing for a young family, but for the rest – what guarantees do you have that your wealth will be there when you retire? Will you be healthy enough to live your best life then? What things could you be enjoying now that you are saving for a time that may not come? If you think this won’t happen: on the health front, talk to some people who are fighting an incurable disease. On the financial front, just look at all those who had their retirements wiped out during the GFC, or even the current Covid19 crisis.

Our society seems to be so caught up in the busyness of everyday life that we don’t stop and take a good look at how we’re living and what we’re living for. The consequences of which will stem far wider than the focus of this piece of writing.

Many feel a pressure to ‘grow up’ and ‘be responsible’, a notion perpetuated by societies across the world. We have been trained to believe that life should follow a set path – get an education, have a career, buy a house, get married, start a family, retire and THEN stop and smell the roses. Why?

So many people give everything to the companies they work for, grateful for the wage that allows them to buy nice things and blindly believing that their commitment and loyalty to these companies will be reciprocated. Chances are, it won’t! For the most part, this is something from a bygone era. I would argue that most large, faceless corporations focus solely on doing what is right by senior management and shareholders before worrying about an average employee’s circumstances.

Just look at the situation now – after years of record profitability, how many big companies have kept cash reserves to safeguard their businesses and look after staff when there was an inevitable downturn? And it was inevitable – if it wasn’t COVID19 in 2020, it would have been something else and it would have come soon enough. Those businesses that are ‘too big to fail’ know governments will bail them out with our tax dollars, pay their laid off staff with our tax dollars and ignore the years of companies buying back shares and putting money in the pockets of owners and executives. 

So what will happen in 20 years when a more deadly pandemic strikes? What about when we hit a depression and much of your hard earned money and investments don’t hold their value? How about when the true cost of governments continually printing money and amassing insurmountable debt for the next generation is realised?

All of this paints a pretty grim picture of our future. It may not be this way. Maybe we’ll have a cultural revolution that sets society on a more positive, enlightened and ethical path. In the meantime, those filling a void of unhappiness with possessions or hoarding their pennies while wishing away the days and weeks waiting for some magical moment in their life that may not happen, I ask again – why?

Time is our greatest asset and almost all of us seem to take it for granted. Meanwhile, it’s evaporating right before our eyes. If you’re not happy, before making your next frivolous purchase, think of the time you’ve sacrificed to earn that money – because that is what you’re giving up. If you don’t like your job, spend smarter, make adjustments to your life and do something you enjoy, even if it means earning less.

For those people wishing away the days until the weekend, stop and ask yourself why. Consider what happiness looks like for you and you may realise it’s far more obtainable than you think. For some, genuine happiness will come from that $60,000 car and it will be worth the sacrifice – for most, I’m skeptical.

If you have free time at the moment, spend some of it evaluating what’s important in your life and make it a priority. Whether it’s happiness, family, adventure, learning – it doesn’t matter. Stop living life on autopilot. Don’t look back and think what if. Personally, the fear of waking up one day with regret for what I didn’t do, is far greater than the comfort derived from following the status-quo.

 

I for one will not be gambling the happiness of my life on what may be. Live for now. Do good. Strive to enjoy every day.

 

Read next: Ricky’s Story

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