This is part of an ongoing series on happiness. I’m going to continue sharing everyday moments, experiences, and activities where I feel most happy. Since I believe the pursuit of happiness is something that binds humanity, and since one of the major reasons to attain financial freedom in the first place is to improve one’s happiness, I find it important to share aspects of my life where I feel like the pursuit of happiness is most successful. I hope to show through these regular insights that not only does it not take much (or any) money to improve one’s happiness, but also that financial freedom provides additional opportunities (via more time) to boost happiness.
That giant, life-giving star in the sky.
Easy to take for granted since it rises and sets, as it’s supposed to, every day.
However, there’s a significant percentage of the world’s population that, for a good chunk of the year, actually see it and experience its warmth very little.
I used to live in a place like that.
Growing up in Southeast Michigan, the sun basically disappears for about half the year.
Sure, it’s still there. Don’t get me wrong. You get daylight.
These concepts are mostly pipe dreams from about November until May.
It took me a good, long while to realize I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, which became one of the non-financial catalysts behind my decision to relocate to Southwest Florida back in 2009.
Dealing with that crippling feeling of hopelessness and depression for almost half the year can be severely limiting – even debilitating. And then there’s the anxiety that one can deal with in the summer (knowing that summer won’t last long).
Having not experienced SAD for many years now, I can say that my quality of life has been boosted rather significantly as a result.
As such, I don’t think I could ever again live in a place that experiences a very cold and cloudy climate for a material percentage of the year.
I’ve noted over and over again throughout this series of articles on happiness that most of the life choices that truly create value and add happiness to one’s life will likely cost very little or no money at all.
Well, year-round warmth and sunshine might be one of the easiest and best examples from my own life.
That’s because it’s something that not only typically doesn’t cost money, but it can actually save a lot of money.
In fact, I’d put it this way…
Let’s say someone came to me and told me that if I wrote them a check for $100,000, I’d never again have to deal with a long, cold, cloudy, snowy winter. I could instead experience warm and sunny weather for the rest of my life.
My friends, I would write that check. That’s how much it’s worth to me.
Yet, I don’t have to write that check.
In fact, perhaps ironically, it’s actually cheaper for me to live in many warm and sunny places throughout the world.
My first experience with this was relocating from Michigan to Florida, upon which I noticed a higher level of pay at my job, a lower cost of living, and a state income tax rate that dropped from 4%+ to 0%.
I couldn’t believe it.
I was receiving much better year-round weather – and I was simultaneously being financially compensated for the benefit. I was essentially getting paid to have a year-round summer.
Well, I took advantage of this phenomenon yet again – in an even bigger way – when I relocated to Thailand as a dividend expat in late 2017.
My increase in local purchasing power turned me into an overnight millionaire.
In pure financial terms, living here has been an improvement that’s almost beyond belief.
But one of the absolute best things about living here is the fact that the climate allows for year-round warm and sunny weather. It’s almost like geographic arbitrage is also weather arbitrage.
The fact that it’s so cheap is very sweet icing on a very big cake.
Sure, it can get awfully hot for a few months. And I’d honestly prefer it if it were about 10 degrees cooler during the day from March until June.
But I’d rather sweat than shiver, all else equal.
And the evenings, even in the hottest months of the year, can be surprisingly pleasant.
Moreover, most places that get four seasons can be awfully stifling during the summer anyway. Some of the hottest moments I’ve ever experienced in my life were July afternoons in Michigan.
Plus, one could always cheaply snowbird over on this side of the planet, if they felt so inclined. It’s not difficult or expensive to leave town for a couple months.
But it really comes down to enjoying almost all of my days. I no longer have to deal with a five-month stretch that’s depressingly gray and cold.
Being able to freely and delightfully stroll around outside, all year, is something that provides so much value and happiness to me.
As someone who vastly prefers walking to every other transportation mode, warm and sunny weather is almost a must.
I love feeling the sunshine on my face. The warm breeze sweeping across my body. The blue sky overhead. The strong, intense amount of life-giving light. The happy faces everywhere I look.
Those faces, by the way, contrast pretty sharply with what I’d see throughout the harsh winter months in Michigan: nobody was terribly happy to walk outside for any longer than it took to get from car to destination and vice versa.
There’s no need to schedule things based on weather. And I don’t have to pack in a year’s worth of fun and activities into just a few months. No anxiety about the weather turning for the worst.
Plus, there are the financial benefits.
I won’t repeat how living in a warm(er) place can often be cheaper right from the start, but I’ve also seen many ancillary savings, too.
Since the average human body is most comfortable at somewhere around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (with my body’s thermostat favoring something closer to 77 degrees), I’ve found that the average daily temperature in many warmer places is far closer, on a daily average, to that ideal than colder places. As such, there’s less need to constantly operate indoor HVAC systems, leading to less costs and pollution.
Also, I don’t need seasonal clothing, extra blankets, space heaters, or any of the other stuff that makes long winters more tolerable/livable.
Forget the costs of buying all of this stuff for a moment.
As one of the most hardcore minimalists you’ll ever meet, I really appreciate simply not having to keep this stuff around.
The last thing I want taking up space in my small closet is a heavy coat, sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, thicker socks, boots, blankets, etc. It takes up room and adds no value to my life. About the only thing it would add is anxiety, in anticipation for the inevitable time of year that requires me to actually wear this stuff.
I’d simply much rather use that space (or not use that space) in a more meaningful way.
Oh, and lest we forget the health benefits (which no doubt eventually directly relate to financial benefits), people tend to gain between five and seven pounds in the winter, according to research by John Hopkins University.
Since America already has the highest prevalence of overweight adults in the English-speaking world, this just makes matters worse.
Meanwhile, I’ve lost more than 10 pounds in only four months of living in Chiang Mai, which has found me looking and feeling better than I ever have – and this is coming from a guy who was already in relatively good shape before I left America.
Living in a place that offers warm and sunny weather all year is worth six figures to me. No doubt about it. That’s how much value and happiness it adds to my life.
The fact that I can keep that check, while simultaneously spending so much less on a regular basis, is such an incredible gift.
What do you think? Do you enjoy living in a place that offers year-round warm and sunny weather? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming financially independent, which could help you live anywhere in the world (including many warm and sunny places), check out the excellent list of resources I’ve compiled that helped me personally reach financial independent in my early 30s!