Love is More Precious than Gold
A phrase we all know is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What I learned recently is that the phrase, originally by John Locke, read, “life, liberty, and property.” Thomas Jefferson, with advice from Benjamin Franklin, changed “property” to “pursuit of happiness.” While the meaning of happiness has evolved a bit over time, it’s still an important factor in people’s lives. Today, the meaning of happiness has adapted to mean temporary happiness rooted in disposition, circumstance, and temperament1. Back then, the pursuit of happiness was the idea of practicing and obtaining substantial happiness. Franklin and Jefferson may have been onto something when they realized the purpose of life was not property but something even greater…happiness.
Our job as investment managers and financial advisors is to guide clients through financial decisions and professionally manage their money. We write about ways to try to maximize your dollars and help you navigate through your financial journey. This month, let us take a step back and keep in mind what’s really important here. First, let me remind everyone that money itself is not bad, we just cannot let it consume us.
Studies about happiness don’t have a magic answer. If you research money and happiness, you will find a variety of research results. Some studies show wealthier neighborhoods have higher suicide rates, while others show no income households have higher suicide rates. There are arguments that optimal happiness is reached at a $75,000 salary and other arguments of telltale signs that “cause” happiness. The conclusion that seems presentable after some research is there simply isn’t a magic answer. Everyone will have different interactions with money and what makes them happy will vary. The one common thing is that the obsession with money doesn’t lead to a fulfilling or happy life.
Building wealth and saving for the future is not bad. Money may provide security but it doesn’t necessarily provide happiness. Oftentimes, when a person’s desire to become wealthy takes over their life, this can cause a variety of problems. However, building wealth and savings is not bad. The overarching strategy for building wealth comes down to consistency, commitment, and discipline. Consistency with saving, commitment to minimizing expenses to save for the future, and discipline to stick to your plan and know that it takes time. Money can’t buy happiness but sticking to those three principles can help you prepare for the future and help alleviate the stress of retirement, emergency costs, kid’s education, etc.
What to do going forward? Self-reflection can be powerful. Unfortunately, many times it takes the loss of a loved one or poor health for us to really look around and see what is we value, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. It is good to occasionally take the time to prioritize what is important and make sure a desire for wealth is not so strong that it is affecting the areas of our life that matter most.
Chris Stapleton may have come along quite some time after our founding fathers, but he hits the nail on the head. After “Love is more precious than gold,” he goes on to say, “can’t be bought and it can’t be sold.” We all know love can’t be bought or sold. If it could be, we would see it in every store window around the world. As we continue, on this financial journey stay consistent, committed, and disciplined but keep the desire for wealth from overpowering our lives. Instead of property, let us focus on the pursuit of happiness.
1 Carli N. Conklin, The Origins of the Pursuit of Happiness, 7 Wash. U. Jur. Rev. 195 (2015). Available at: http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_jurisprudence/vol7/iss2/6