This is part of an ongoing series where I dissect and discuss the reasoning behind various facets of my lifestyle. Through this, I’m attempting to separate the money aspect from the decision-making process, showing that I live a lifestyle that’s largely divorced from concerns about money whatsoever. Essentially, this is a lifestyle that I’d live regardless of my income/wealth. These facets thus aren’t about the money at all, but rather the result of thoughtful choices based around what I value and what drives my happiness.
The financial community and blogosphere in general is a pretty wonderful place.
In a world where common sense isn’t terribly common, I take solace in knowing that I can reach out to people who are also fairly prudent when it comes to financial matters and other major lifestyle decisions in general. It’s a fantastic time to be alive – one can simply turn on a computer and have access to a like-minded community almost instantaneously.
However, I’ve noticed that anytime a niche develops – the type of niche doesn’t particularly matter – there are usually factions that develop within a niche, ranging from less extreme to more extreme. This seems to happen pretty much every time, which is probably just a manifestation of the human condition in general (as people naturally range in their tolerance/extremeness).
Well, one way in which the financial community can be a little extreme sometimes is when almost anything and everything becomes boiled down into simple financial terms, meaning that any decision becomes about dollars and cents.
I kind of captured the essence of that – which I happen to think is silly, although I’m admittedly guilty of it occasionally – when I discussed the rent versus buy debate.
Well, one other “debate” (if we can even call it that) that also seems to be distilled far too often into simplistic numbers is whether or not relationships are financially advantageous.
There are 180,000,000 Google results for the search term “Is it cheaper to be single”.
There are 25,500,000 Google results for the search term “Do relationships make you happier”.
Indeed, people have a seemingly insatiable desire for more money. Becoming happier, however, isn’t necessarily pursued as profoundly. The mental trick that people play on themselves is that more money will always result in more happiness, even though that’s not the case at all.
That behavioral observation is kind of what led me to found this blog. It’s also what led to this article.
As I recently wrote about, wealth means nothing at all without love and health. Love is quite possibly the most important thing one can have in their life (rather than money), yet it’s one of the few things that can’t possibly be purchased. It’s almost a diabolical plot from some galactic practical joker.
In the spirit of that realization, I’ve come to believe that being in a relationship isn’t about money at all.
In fact, being in a healthy, faithful, supportive, nurturing, and loving partnership couldn’t be less about money, no matter how some try to spin it. Loving and being loved is one of the great gifts of life, worth so much more than even an unlimited amount of money. As such, I’m actively looking for a new partnership, as my highly successful, rewarding, and loving relationship with Claudia came to a close at the end of last year.
Will this be cheaper? Will this be more expensive?
One could argue these things either way. But it totally misses the point.
Money is pretty easy to accumulate and figure out in a modern-day and developed society. I could provide a roof over my head and food for my belly on minimum wage. It’s not that hard.
And that’s really the “big idea” behind happiness. That which is easy to attain is that which people focus so much on simply because it’s easy. Yet that which is easy typically doesn’t provide the biggest rewards, rightfully and intuitively so. Focusing all of one’s money, time, and resources on the easy stuff results in quick exposure to the law of diminishing marginal utility. It’s like quicksand: the more you throw at it, the faster and deeper you sink.
But love is something that can’t be bought. It’s hard to attain. And it’s perhaps even harder to keep. Because of the level of difficulty, relationships, love, and the associated rewards and challenges aren’t necessarily looked at with the same desire as money, even though desire and challenge should increase in kind.
So we make it easy on ourselves by distilling relationships down into financial terms. It’s an unfortunate fallacy.
Well, I don’t look at relationships in financial terms at all.
I could make singledom very cheap, seeing it as an unimpeded path toward my financial goals with no compromise or outside repercussions. I could also discuss the economies of scale achieved inside of a like-minded relationship. One could pontificate on the financial pros and cons all day long, completely missing 99% of what it’s really all about.
What it’s really all about is “locking in” the basics and quickly moving beyond the simple aspects of life, which then allows one to devote money, time, and resources toward the more challenging and rewarding aspects. Love, philanthropy, and self-actualization are higher up the chain for good reason.
In my view, mutual love, support, and adoration is simultaneously extremely challenging and highly rewarding. From experience, however, the rewards are worth the challenges. In fact, I don’t really think life is much worth living without love. And so I’m on a path that I hope leads me to that which I seek.
Love can make you more than yourself. It can actually work a lot like investing, in that the gains compound. Whereas money can multiply itself seemingly out of nowhere, creating something from nothing, love can also create more of you out of thin air. It can make you more, better, and happier. As someone who’s on a quest to become a better and happier version of myself, love is primal toward that end.
The good news about all of this is that financial independence can indeed make finding love easier, if only indirectly. While love can’t be bought (at least not the kind I’d want), one has far more resources to devote toward the process of finding a wonderful mate when those basics are pretty much taken care of already. Not having to work 40-50 hours per week surely frees one up for more meaningful ventures, of which finding and keeping love is potentially the most meaningful of all.
I’m having this dialogue with you readers in order to point out that the lifestyle one creates in order to become financially free at a young age doesn’t have to and shouldn’t lead to a decline in one’s happiness.
Not only does spending more money not automatically lead to more happiness, but spending less money can actually lead to more happiness.
It’s counterintuitive – which makes it that much more amazing. For some reason, people largely believe that money and happiness operate under a constant 1:1 ratio where the increase or decrease of the former always leads to the equivalent change in the latter. But it’s just not true.
And that’s not just due to the permanent shift in one’s internal “happiness thermostat” that one attains after becoming financially free, but it’s also due to the realization that the creation of a more robust lifestyle that concentrates on life and experiences more than stuff and money alleviates oneself of a silly and undue burden. This can actually improve the world around you, which simply compounds the benefits.
Finally, being in a position to make lifestyle decisions not based on money but rather the pursuit of happiness is, in my view, a wonderful way to approach life. I’ve found that I think not about money when I make decisions but instead about whether or not something makes me happy. And it just so happens that what makes me happy doesn’t cost very much money. It’s an incredibly virtuous cycle that’s part of an overarching holistic lifestyle that feeds into itself. Once you open your eyes to it, it’s almost like you can’t help but succeed, become financially free, and live life on your terms.
How about you? Do you find that attaining and keeping love is far more challenging and rewarding than attaining and keeping money? Should being in a relationship be distilled into dollars and cents?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: start08 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.