Every few years, I re-read the book “The Millionaire Next Door.”
Many of the studies used in the book are dated, but the principles are still vitally important.
The basic idea of this book is that people who seem simple on the surface are much more likely to be wealthy than those who appear wealthy.
Ironically, the buying of expensive things is most often a wealth destroyer even though it creates an impression of wealth.
Clever advertising is partially to blame. We are bombarded with ads that would have us believe we can elevate our status by what we buy. We are repeatedly told that happiness comes from material possessions.
This material world is at odds with sound financial principles.
Young people seem to be more susceptible to this influence. Before we beat up millennials, I would add that I don’t think this is new. People need to learn from mistakes, and the young have more to learn and mistakes to make.
Parents should be especially vigilant in this area of their children’s lives, so help them avoid financial mistakes that can last decades rather than months.
Where and how people find pleasure is a great separator between the financially secure and everyone else.
I make it a habit of asking my clients what they do for fun. Those clients who have the most security always provide simple answers. They garden, hike, walk, read books, visit friends and a host of other activities that require little to no money.
Many of these successful retirees also find great joy in traveling.
They do it on a budget, and it is typically the type of travel that leads to learning and self-improvement.
If people can learn to find joy in simple things, they are much more likely to create financial security.
The ability to find joy in inexpensive activities is probably the single greatest commonality among successful retirees. The activities may vary, but the principle doesn’t.
This ability can and should be created by practice. Just like a sport, you have to fail and practice to get better. An excellent place to start is with budgeting and paying close attention to your discretionary purchases.
Another thing to examine is the reason discretionary purchases are made. Are these purchases made to fit in with a group? Are they made to show off?
People looking to simplify their financial lives usually need to examine friendships. Irresponsible spending is often linked to the friends we keep. Some friendships may need to be severed or distanced. Friendships that require material things probably aren’t good friendships anyway.
I would invite all who read this column to make a list of simple and inexpensive things they like or would like to do. Then treat the list as a to-do list.
Hopefully, this activity will lead to some healthy habits and hobbies.