When were you happiest? Take a moment and think about it. Most people that I know say “college” or “in my twenties”. There are others who yearn for their childhood. Some of you well-adjusted readers might say that you find value in every stage of life. But what do these answers have in common? All of them indicate that you were just as happy if not happier when you had less spending power. With so many people working (and succeeding) at making more money as their career progresses, you have to ask yourself: what are they all working towards? Are they working towards the ability to hail cabs more often rather than take the subway? Are they working towards living in a doorman building? Are they working towards eating at 5-star restaurants multiple times per week? In New York City, these are exactly the types of things people are working towards. And it sounds normal. This is how New York City works, right? But ask the people that go to fancy restaurants regularly and take cabs everywhere and guess what? On average, they will give you the same answer to the question “when were you happiest”. I dare you to find someone who is honestly happy in life solely because he lives in a doorman building. This is where the discussion usually stops. “Money can’t buy happiness”. Done. But don’t worry. I’m not going to preach that you should give away all worldly possessions and live the life of a hermit. It’s time to look at the next question. What DOES make you happy? This is a very personal question and one you MUST take time to figure out (your happiness depends on it!). To get started, here is a list of things that might make you happy:
- Your Career – some people like their job. Many, however, simply convince themselves into thinking that they do. Reflect carefully on this one.
- Freedom – on the other hand, if you don’t like your career, finding time to be free from the daily drudgery can set the stage for you to do what truly makes you happy.
- Your Hobbies – what do you do even when you aren’t paid for it?
- Experiences – this can include travel to other countries, but can also include exploring the endless attractions that you have been overlooking for years in New York.
- Giving Back – volunteering and supporting causes that you believe in can be extremely rewarding.
And, in my opinion, the part of life that is most rewarding:
- Personal Relationships – The relationships you form with family, friends, significant others, kids are far more important than a new 80″ TV hanging on your apartment wall.
Now here is the fun part. Money can help you pursue all of these new paths towards happiness. All you have to do is figure out what makes you happy and actively decide to use your money to achieve that outcome. If your career makes you happy, then you can use money to take classes that help you with your career; you can take important people in your industry out to lunch and learn from their expertise. If you have a hobby that makes you happy, put money and time towards it. Same with experiences. If you value giving back, then donate both time and money to the causes that are important to you. You will notice I have left out freedom and personal relationships. Yes, you can put your money towards personal relationships by traveling to see family or friends that live in other cities. However, you can also work towards buying freedom. If you save money and invest it, you can become financially independent without sacrificing your current happiness. In other words, you CAN retire early and live off of your savings. Don’t believe me? Many people have done it. Check out:
Once you have bought your freedom, you will have more time to spend with your family, friends, and kids and build relationships that are unprecedented in New York these days. Oh, and meanwhile you will have more time to experience the city, volunteer, explore your hobbies, or choose the career path that makes you happy, regardless of salary. That is why saving is important.
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