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Money is power

Money is power post image

The look on my friend’s face was one you might deploy if you were presented with a bill for service at McDonalds. Total incredulity.

“So let me get this straight – you’re putting a money value on your memories?”

“Well I wouldn’t state it so precisely,” I said. “But basically… yes.”

“Wow! That’s so sad! Experiences are worth more than money.”

“I agree,” I admitted. That puzzled look again. “But you’re experiencing something every moment of the day anyway. The question is whether the extra enhanced experience is worth the extra cost. Also – remember that when you spent all that money for those particular memories, you also bought a certain kind of experience you’ll have to live in the future, too.”

“Huh? I don’t get it.”

I topped up her wine.

“Look, neither of us are gazillionaires with infinite money. In particular, you don’t even have a job anymore, depending on whether they’ll take you back – and besides we spent the first half of this evening talking about how the reason you went away for three months was because you hated your work so much.”


“Okay, so you told me you spent half your savings on those three months of traveling. Which now the holiday is over exist only in your head – in as much as you can remember them. Which seems to be to a limited extent, possibly because so much of your holiday took place in various bars.”

“Alright, get on with it…”

“So that’s where we can start. Half your savings bought those memories. I’m not knocking that spending decision specifically – perhaps for you it was worthwhile. My point is you spent the money to buy them. Money that you can’t spend twice. So they certainly have a monetary value.”

“But there’s more,” I added in my winning way that makes me so popular at parties. “You’re in your early 30s – it’s possible you could have quadrupled that same money by age 65 if you’d invested it instead. So we know 65-year old you is going to have massively less money to spend because of those memories you bought and are already forgetting that you don’t think we should think about financially–”

“Yeah bu–”

“–you’re right! Let’s get back to experiences. You usually earn – what – £40,000 a year? After tax and National Insurance that’s going to be something like £30,000 in take home pay. Let’s divide that by 240 working days for easy maths, and say you take home £125 for every day of your life you sacrifice to work. Except since you have to go into the office, you spend more – we’ll call it £6 a day for travel, then add a let’s be honest low-ball £5 for lunch and coffees, and say £4 a day to cover the fact that you buy a certain amount of tidier clothes for work.”


“Knock that spending off the £125 and we’re at £110 a day or so take home. Really I’d like to take it down to £100 a day to cover stuff like ibuprofen, your inability to take off-peak mini-breaks, and all those late-night Ubers you order to have a mid-week social life while working. But we won’t. Let’s just say you spent £5,000 on your three month travels, which seems about right from what you’ve said.”

“I don’t know – something like that?”

“Well, that’s about 45 days of your take home pay – equal to nine additional weeks of your life where you’re going to have to go into the job you hate to sit in an office you hate because you went on your three-month holiday.”

“Yeah, okay – it does sound worse when you put it like that. But then again I got three months away from the office for another three month’s or nine weeks or whatever spent at it. Seems a fair trade?”

“Um, well sadly I was being gentle on you. The reality is you’re not going to save anything like all your take home pay. You know how much it costs to live in London. You’ve also got to eat, go out now and then. Buy bottles of wine to bring to my house for these thrilling heart-to-hearts.”

“Yeah, I’m really glad about that decision…”

“Hah! Anyway, I’d guess you save about 10% of your take home pay, which means it could take you two years more at the office to get back the money you spent on your three months away from it. But let’s say you manage to save to save 20%. Still going to take the best part of a year more work to pay for it.”

“Okay, okay – at least I have the memories.”

“Good, because you’re going to need them while you’re sitting at work! That’s my point – you’re alive either way and still having experiences. When I said earlier [Editor’s note: I did, different discussion!] that I’m more and more trying to find regular moments of happiness in small things, this is what I meant – that I’m trying to focus on sustainable mild contentment rather than the sort of high-cost roller-coaster you’re on. Honestly, I’m not saying you did the wrong thing – not at all, your trip sounds amazing – but I am saying I personally would totally put a cost on those memories, both in terms of the financial outlay and/or the price to be paid in terms of extra work by your future self.”

“Okay, fine, I spent the money. But that’s what money is for, right, to spend and have a good time? What’s the point of just sitting on a big pile of money like a bloody nerd-dragon, counting it in your cave? Even you bought this flat… eventually.”

“Ha ha, nerd-dragon, I’m stealing that! Yeah, I agree. Remember I think and write about this stuff a lot – I’ll probably even turn our conversation into a blog post! So I know this might all sound a weird way of looking at things to someone who doesn’t. But what I think it comes down to is how much do you value your future over your present – or in the case of memories, your past – and how do you strike a balance.”

“Go on…”

“So personally, I’ve always found it very easy to value the future. I saved some paper round money 30 years ago that went into the deposit on this flat! I’d always rather have most of my money invested, and to know I’ll have more options ahead of me because of that. Whereas we both know you live for the present – you’re a great party girl, and you’ve never thought much about tomorrow. That’s obvious. As for the Past You, I guess that’s where the monetary value on memories come in? Also possibly feelings of life satisfaction, and not having regrets, which is what I have to guard for with my approach. Although thinking about it, I suppose that’s really your Present You trying to anticipate and stop your Future You regretting what your Past You didn’t do and–”

“– stop stop I get it. But I still don’t really see how this doesn’t mean money is there to be spent? Whether you spend it now, or when you’re 90 or whenever?”

“Absolutely, ultimately that’s what money is for. But I think it’s helpful not to always think of it as money but sometimes as something else.”

“Something else like what?”

“Well sometimes I like to think of money as stored power. You build up your power by working and saving, and hopefully your investments charge it up further, too. But sometimes you have to run the battery down – that’s when you spend it. You can spend it on something now, but that means you’re going to have to work more in the future to charge it back up. Or you can try to get to the point where you have enough power stored away that it sort of auto-re-charges. And then you have maximum flexibility to spend it how you like indefinitely.”


“Did that make sense?”

“Err, sort of. You know this is why you’re single again, don’t you?”


{ 38 comments… add one }
  • 1 Wanabe Nerd Dragon December 12, 2018, 3:42 pm

    Nerd-Dragon shall be my next band name…

  • 2 Will Mington December 12, 2018, 3:42 pm

    This is crying out for a spreadsheet

  • 3 Pete December 12, 2018, 4:17 pm

    Love it, could see the built up to the last line coming though 🙂
    I tried explaining our drawdown strategy to my wife in terms of rocket fuel tank stages ISAs, SIPPs, final salary pension etc.
    I was so successful I’m now writing this from the office where I’ve gone back to contract for a few months. Apparently the money I earn from 2 months extra working is more valid to pay for a holiday than drawdown cash.

  • 4 Jonathan December 12, 2018, 5:25 pm

    In a philosophical sense, experience (or memories) is all we can ever trade money for. If you could do an audit at the end of your life, any money you have left represents experiences unnecessarily foregone. I keep an overview of my elderly mother’s finances, and I see it as a source of regret that she now has far more savings than she can conceivably use in the rest of her life; while it will be one day of benefit to myself and my siblings it would have been better if she and my father had been more extravagant about spending on things they enjoyed which would have led to good memories.

    Even basic living costs can alternatively be thought of as avoidance of bad memories from times hungry through inadequate food, or from too poor clothing or accommodation. But once the minimum bad experiences have been avoided, the calculation becomes much more complicated. Who can say whether your memory of once owning a £50,000 BMW is worth more than the memory foregone of ten £5000 holidays? (Or perhaps more realistically, a modest £20,000 car and six of those holidays). Or anything else leading to good memories, for example multiple trips to the theatre or meals out with friends.

    For the retire early crowd, saving during employment is basically holding off good experiences affordable now to buy confidence in having acceptable experiences for the expected length of retirement. However the equation starts getting more complicated when your job is also a positive experience, although at some point there will presumably be a crossover point when the job experience becomes less valuable than the alternative things you now have available due to money earned and accumulated while you have been in that job.

  • 5 The Investor December 12, 2018, 5:34 pm

    @Jonathan — Interesting thoughts. I don’t think it’s all about memories though, which is where my power analogy comes from. Your mother may have more money than she forseably needs now, but she also presumably knew for many years that she would have enough. She didn’t have to worry. She could plan and act knowing she would have the power to do what she wanted. This isn’t memory — it’s confidence in the future bringing pleasure (or at least the absence of some concern) to the present.

  • 6 John B December 12, 2018, 5:35 pm

    Long term memories tend to be of extremes, good or bad, so parachute jumps or the car breaking down after midnight. The former can be funded with YOLO money, the latter avoided by funding comfort.

    But there are also short term memories, the nagging hatred of your job, or the pleasant frittering away of a day without one. Every hour you can be in a good mood should be counted in the final reckoning, and being in a good mood can be very cheap.

    Some people like bland lives, and strive to eliminate stressful events, others thrive on them. The latter will have stronger memories, but may not be more happy for them

  • 7 dearieme December 12, 2018, 6:33 pm

    I saw a chilling remark about a week ago. Someone said that the memories you have so expensively accumulated may eventually be stolen by dementia.

    Unlike an ordinary death, I suppose, in which you and your memories become defunct simultaneously.

  • 8 FitFunemployed December 12, 2018, 6:39 pm

    Fortunately I have convinced myself that the best experiences are earned, not bought. One of my most cherished memories is coming in the top 100 at London marathon – you don’t get that free when you buy a pair of Nikes, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it any better (or less, at the time – it did hurt!) if I’d chosen to combine my race with a fancy holiday in Tokyo or Berlin or Dubai.

    That said, if I quit my job now I’d be able to trade some of my power for the luxury of training a lot harder while age is still somewhat on my side (ish…) – I’d just be going back to work in a decade instead of retiring in a decade :-/

  • 9 ermine December 12, 2018, 7:35 pm

    I had a great laugh on this one, though I am also fond of an alternative interpretation, that money is a claim on future human work. Perhaps that’s power in a different way – the power over making people do what you want. Things that machines can do for you tend to get cheaper or better with time, but buying human effort or things/experiences that are the result of other people’s effort tends to stay the same price.

    Oh and dude, your bedside manner sucks. I trust this is a rhetorical scenario, because IMO you risked a stiletto in the ‘nads for rubbing this poor lady’s nose in it like that 😉

    > I’m more and more trying to find regular moments of happiness in small things

    That’s probably a good way to get to FI, but I do wonder if there’s something to be said for the dynamic contrast of a blowout every so often. The problem is the hedonic treadmill that all to easily normalises the blowout, which is probably where the nerd-dragons score, by tracking their spending so it doesn’t inch up out of hand

  • 10 Chris December 12, 2018, 8:13 pm

    This is quite wonderful and very timely. I’m at a weird crossroads where my job is a good one – more like a calling, I have enough saved to frugal RE, and I have pretty much all of the stuff I want and I’m mostly happy. So what’s left? Maintaining health and experiences I guess. I’ve had a similar dialogue to TI re: spending on “big” holiday experiences. Think the ermine is onto something re: contrast though – whether on big blow outs or simply trying something unexpected.

  • 11 Neverland December 12, 2018, 8:49 pm

    The female part is really unwritten and frankly a bit sexist #metoo

  • 12 The Investor December 13, 2018, 12:16 am

    I considered making the character a man just to avoid that sort of auto-complaint. The friend who prompted the post was indeed a woman, but the character here is a composite of two mates — the other is male FWIW (which I consider to be little).

    Not sure if the “underwritten” comment is a joke given the comment maker concerned, but anyway I’m deliberately not sharing identifiable details here, obviously.

    Also we spent hours talking about holiday minutia — if I was mansplaining or whatever here then in reality I got as good as I gave! (Plus she really did ask and kept asking – she’s super curious. One reason why endless holidays are so appealing to her I suppose.)

  • 13 Playing with Fire December 13, 2018, 9:30 am

    Nerd-dragon! Haha! It would make a great title for the more technical articles (to complement Essential Reading and Property Posts etc) or as a flag for the nerdy articles linked to on the Saturday posts.

    I’ve already used it to rename a folder and it is making me smile so much for a tiny investment.

  • 14 John @ UK Value Investor December 13, 2018, 11:18 am

    In the future she’ll be able to realise the value of her memories by uploading them and selling them on Amazon or eBay, so she’ll have the memories and a passive retirement income.

  • 15 The Rhino December 13, 2018, 12:00 pm

    I’m more and more trying to find regular moments of happiness in small things

    After reading David Cain’s latest musings? I quite liked that one too (thanks for the link)

    but I do wonder if there’s something to be said for the dynamic contrast of a blowout every so often?

    I would recommend reading The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux for a real example of taking this idea of experience-contrast to the limit. Its a great book.

    As for the side-issue of bedside manner – a copy of How to Make Friends and Influence People is in the post (early xmas present)

  • 16 Stu December 13, 2018, 2:35 pm

    I get the point of the article, but she seemed to have enjoyed her experience, until you bulldozed it.

  • 17 The Investor December 13, 2018, 4:27 pm

    @Stu — Hmm, well I’m not sure I said that in the article? 🙂 She definitely saw my side more at the end of the conversation than at the start — she didn’t think I was borderline insane or heartless for putting a monetary value on memories.

    But fear not, she’s still much more concerned about how to make another trip away happen than how to re-process her feelings about the last one.

    I’m not sure how much experience you have with talking to people about money? I have a lot! 🙂 It’s incredibly difficult to change anyone much. I don’t even try to nowadays; I just try to give them a nudge in a new direction if they ask for it or show interest, and then see if they come back/change more under their own steam. 🙂

    @ermine — Related to your point, yes I can have a blunt way about me. (My family nicknamed me Doc Martin for a while when that was on the TV, while US friends send me apparently relevant Sheldon Cooper clips from Big Bang Theory (a show I’ve never watched!) now and then…)

    Keep in mind this stuff sounds blunter to us than to the average person though because they don’t really get it. Thinking about the future is extremely abstract to the average present-orientated person; being very blunt forces the issue a bit I’ve found, but to be honest it’s still in a massive tug of war with partying at the upcoming weekend / spending on new gadgets / whatever’s the poison of choice.

    Oh well, we’re all different for a reason, and even us nerd-dragons don’t have the right spreadsheet for everything. 🙂

  • 18 old_eyes December 13, 2018, 4:55 pm

    Interesting read and comments. Of course memories have a cost. Every hour requires an investment in either cold hard cash, or your time (also limited). The question is what value do you place on that memory/experience. It is a cost/benefit analysis, and whilst I would not recommend the ‘hedonic treadmill’, neither would I recommend ruthless self-denial in pursuit of some anticipated future. It is equally possible to spend without thinking and to save without thinking. The words miser and spendthrift are both negative.

    The trick is to spend intentionally and with open eyes. Many years ago I learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, and made a couple more trips after that. Do I now have less money as a result? Definitely! Would I go back and tell my younger self not to be so daft? Definitely not! That was a set of experiences and memories I cherish and are part of who I am.

    A little while later I built myself a computer. It cost me more than I could have bought a branded machine for, and took me many hours of skull sweat and swearing. I am financially poorer as a result but richer in experience and knowledge (and it was a fun project).

    My partner and I had always planned some real adventure trips when we were younger; up the Amazon and so on. But, wait until the mortgage is paid off, kids have left home etc. Now we have the time and could afford it but are not physically able to attempt them. Opportunity cost cuts both ways. Of course, we have substituted easier ‘adventures’ but the regret is still there.

    So a tick for thinking things through and not getting trapped on the hedonic treadmill, and being able to distinguish wants from needs. But I see little point in arriving in later years to find you have a nice comfortable wodge but have not invested in yourself sufficiently in terms of health, skills and experiences to make good use of it.

  • 19 oldie December 13, 2018, 6:19 pm

    Has been said that

    you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!

  • 20 dearieme December 13, 2018, 8:23 pm

    “you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!”

    That must have been said by someone who had never been young.

  • 21 old_eyes December 13, 2018, 11:53 pm

    ” “you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!”

    That must have been said by someone who had never been young.”

    Oh, I don’t know! I think I regret not doing more of the things I did do when I was young!

  • 22 dearieme December 14, 2018, 12:40 am

    “I regret not doing more of the things I did do when I was young!”

    There’s a song in that! I hope you work on it.

  • 23 Maximus December 14, 2018, 1:08 am

    @Will Mington – I second the Spreadsheet motion!

  • 24 Chris December 14, 2018, 5:48 am

    Re: you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!

    Certainly does depend on what you did. A friend of a friend is now dying of cirrhosis of the liver after alcoholism damaged his career and relationships with children and wife.

  • 25 MrOptimistic December 14, 2018, 9:34 am

    If there was no dichotomy between ‘ enjoyable’ life and ‘ work’, and work provided enjoyable memories on a par with holidays, there would be no conflicts like this, nor any need to twist your life to the primary aim of removing the need to work by early investment. So, get a better job ( one that you would be willing to do for even less money). Ps, being right often isn’t good enough so stop tormenting your friends, whilst you still have some!

  • 26 The Rhino December 14, 2018, 11:31 am

    @OE – you’re right, it cuts both ways and you have to find a happy medium. That’s the challenge in living to a certain extent. Sometimes I think that the idea of passing on an inheritance is really just an abdication of responsibility in this department if you happen to be of the miserly persuasion? But for sure, misers are nowhere near as prevalent as spendthrifts. Thats why FIRE blogs can try and pass off the concept of spending less as being life-changing and novel. If the majority was switched we would have a little niche of blogs advocating the incredible life-affirming benefits of the YOLO movement..

    you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!

    I was thinking about this recently, and really its just a pithy phrase encouraging you to be brave.

    If you interpret it literally, then the things you don’t do are potentially infinite, limited only by your imagination to dream them up, i.e. if you’re lucky enough to have a lively imagination and take this phrase to heart then you will be in a state of permanent regret.

    In other words, its complete bollocks, but I can see why its a popular meme.

  • 27 The Borderer December 14, 2018, 12:35 pm

    @ The Rhino (26)

    Perhaps instead of “you regret the things you don’t do rather than those that you do!” it might be “if you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake by doing something, rather than not doing something”.

    With the former, at least you learn (or at least you ought to learn).

  • 28 old_eyes December 14, 2018, 12:53 pm

    @The Borderer

    I was reading about business innovation recently and came across a phrase that stuck with me “experiments should be survivable”. Experiments are vital in business, but many businesses fail because for one reason or another they bet everything on one idea that does not deliver. Could be arrogance, could be a tight focus on their own exciting idea, could be shifting forces in the market, whatever.

    You can learn from your mistakes if they don’t kill you. So consistent with the general FIRE theme of diversification, maybe we should always have a plan B (something our politicians could use!). Go for that new job, invest in that company, enter that new relationship, start that new business. Assume it will work, because that gives you the confidence to start, but have an honest conversation with yourself about what you will do if it doesn’t.

    When I started my own business I walled it off from the family assets and gave myself a timescale to prove it could work, and then went for it with all my energy. I suppose I acted like an angel investor to myself. I like the idea – you have this much money and this much time to make it work or we pull the plug.

  • 29 old_eyes December 14, 2018, 1:20 pm

    @The Rhino

    I equate the happy medium on the spendthrift/miser scale to risk appetite. It is part of our psychological makeup. There is a point where you feel comfortable.

    You are probably right that the general population seems to be tilted towards spendthrift. I think this comes from ignorance (still no financial education in our system), the blizzard of consumerist push through advertising and peer pressure, and the general human tendency to be mostly interested in the here and now.

    Too many FIRE blogs make a virtue of the pain. It becomes a competition to see who can achieve the highest saving rate or spend the least. As a hobby, it is mostly harmless, but as a way to sell to the general population, it is crap. There is a tendency to be censorious and to attribute failure to accumulate ‘enough’ money as a lifestyle choice or a moral fault.

    The truth is not everyone can do what I and many of the people reading this blog have done. Not everyone has the skills, the resilience, the opportunities and the flat-out luck that I have had. I know people who have never really got going after a poor school experience. People who took a slightly wrong turn in their career that made them mildly vulnerable, and were then hit by a series of unfortunate events that drove them to bankruptcy. Sequence of returns type risks are as much a part of life as of investment.

    We have less control than we tend to think, which is why I have always tended to a strategy of resilience rather than winning.

    But that is just my psychology 🙂

  • 30 The Rhino December 14, 2018, 1:31 pm

    @Borderer – or perhaps,

    Favour sins of commission, not sins of ommision

    Bit of a mouthful, not pithy enough?

  • 31 old_eyes December 14, 2018, 2:53 pm

    @The Rhino & @Borderer

    More poetically from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer:

    “…We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done…”

  • 32 Monkeys on a rock December 14, 2018, 11:33 pm

    A lot of this rang true to me, although I suspect (as others have pointed out above) that the balancing exercise between our present and future selves gets more complex the longer you reflect on it.

    To unpack that a bit, we all have (hopefully) enough self-knowledge to have a fair sense of our current values and goals. What’s unknown, and very hard to predict with any certainty, is what our future selves will be like. Personally I’d like to think that certain “core” values would stay constant, but as time passes my priorities will undoubtedly shift in non-obvious ways as my family situation, friends or job change over time.

    Another big aspect of this is health, and this is where the “could get hit by a bus tomorrow” point carries some weight – saving up for dream holidays which I never get to enjoy doesn’t seem like a great outcome, although the flip side of that is that if the health problems are that bad the extra cash would probably come in handy in other ways. The extreme version of this scenario is that even if I do get hit by that hypothetical bus on the day I retire, the saved money still goes to people that I love (or to causes that I consider worthwhile), which is a good thing even if I’m not around to see it.

    So, when making decisions with this level of (unavoidable) uncertainty, what’s a wannabe rational person to do? I think this is where your “power” analogy comes in handy – I don’t know what my future selves will be like, but it’s a decent guess that they’ll find a use for that stored up “power” in one way or another, always bearing in mind the point at which the additional cash starts to provide diminishing marginal returns in terms of happiness.

  • 33 MrOptimistic December 15, 2018, 1:25 pm

    Good idea to have a switch = ‘ lecture mode off ‘ too 🙂

  • 34 The Accumulator December 15, 2018, 1:56 pm

    Great post, great comments thread! +1 for The Investor’s sucky bedside manner 😉

    I disagree with the notion that unspent cash = squandered happiness. Billionaire class antics show that equation doesn’t add up. So little of what makes me happy has much to do with cash. For me, it’s usually bound up in moments of connection with fellow humans, and I usually don’t see it coming.

    Someone once said, “Happiness occurs when your expectations are exceeded,” which is why I wouldn’t want to bank too much on my dream holiday dressed up as a life experience and, equally, why in darker moments I worry about FIRE proving to be a damp squib.

    Regrets are valuable life currency – worth ingesting as long as they help us work out who we really are. If regretting a trip to the Amazon means you make more of life’s opportunities now then it was well worth missing. Beyond that, it’s all too easy to overrate the things you never did.

    @ The Investor – the tension in your tale revolves around contrasting attitudes to the future. I wonder if your victim, I mean friend, would be taken with the idea of mini-retirements? For example, working for a few years in order to take a break for a year etc.

  • 35 Monkeys on a rock December 16, 2018, 12:29 am

    @ The Accumulator

    I like the idea of regrets as life currency: it feels like I can often only figure important things out through trial and (plenty of) error. I suppose the trick is to try to avoid the errors which cause too much harm or are irreversible, and maybe that’s where reading and conversation comes in as a way of vicariously learning the bigger pitfalls to avoid.

    On the holiday point, Daniel Kahneman talks about us having an “experiencing self” and a “remembering self”, and that what they want doesn’t necessarily match up (e.g. the experiencing self might prefer a holiday in a warm place with lots of creature comforts, whereas the remembering self might prefer a holiday trekking up and down mountains but with more picturesque moments to look back on). I feel like that might fit into this discussion, though not entirely sure now – maybe some of us tend to prioritise one self over the other and that’s part of what leads to the mutual incomprehension? I definitely favour the experiencing self and don’t place such a high value on memories, but I doubt there’s a “right” answer here.

  • 36 sendaiben December 16, 2018, 1:18 am

    And yet uncomfortable or dangerous memories are often the most memorable/enjoyable in hindsight, so I’m not sure the purpose of saving is to avoid discomfort exactly.

    Mister Money Mustache I think is correct in his somewhat spartan philosophy of not getting too comfortable.

    I recently started doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu at 40, and have broken several bones, been constantly covered with bruises, and end up close to throwing up several times a week from physical exertion. I love it. It makes me feel alive.

  • 37 old_eyes December 16, 2018, 1:29 pm

    @The Accumulator

    I don’t think that I was suggesting that unspent cash=squandered happiness. Rather saying that each individual must find their own balance. We each are easily frugal in the areas of expenditure that we don’t care about, and find it harder to be frugal where it impacts something we are passionate about. And it is not always, or even often, a rational economic debate.

    Too often the FIRE discussion becomes quite specific denigration of some expenditure the speaker does not see as important. As I have said I think that is a terrible way to try and influence people.

    I think it is fine, indeed laudable, to say to people “you need to save for retirement, and if you are not doing it here are some things to think about”. I have done that myself and referenced this site as a good place to get some straight answers.

    I think it is fine to say to a friend or colleague who is complaining about being stretched financially that they need to make some choices about how they spend their money, and that automatic spending that does not bring you personal fulfilment of some kind is the first place to look.

    I worry when someone picks out a specific piece or type of expenditure and says “well obviously that’s where you are wasting money – it has to go”. It smacks of moral censure, and it is something I see a lot of in MMM’s blog.

    You find greatest fulfilment in interaction with people. Excellent! I enjoy those moments too. But I also enjoy visiting Byzantine churches and being blown away by the mosaics. Something that must for the moment be experienced live. I will save and pay to be able to do that. It might be a lesser experience for you than a great argument over coffee or a pint with friends, but it is not to me. Who is right? – impossible to say.

    A sibling pointed out to me that for less than the cost of my 1-week walking tour of the mountains of Sicily with an expert botany guide, they had two weeks full board lying by the pool/on the beach in Turkey at a much nicer hotel. I don’t care, I hate lying by the pool and had a great time in Sicily.

    My friends and family see me as unnecessarily frugal in some areas and wildly spendthrift in others. I am frugal to make the money available to do the things I want and still save enough for the lifestyle and issues I imagine for my later years. They see me as frugal when I don’t spend on what they think is important/necessary and spendthrift when I spend on things they don’t think are important. It has been like that all my life.

    No one is in a position to say what is important to another individual, but it is legitimate to point out false or risky assumptions, inconsistencies, or absence of a strategy. Which I suppose leads us naturally onto Brexit and the next post! 😉

  • 38 The Accumulator December 16, 2018, 7:06 pm

    @ Old Eyes – it wasn’t your comment that I was disagreeing with. I’m completely onboard with your ideas of spending in line with your values. And I’d happily throw in the occasional Byzantine church to mix up all that connecting with likeable humans.

    @ Monkeys – Interesting point about memories vs actualities. My remembering self often feels like an internal PR machine determined to create the best ‘this is your life’ showreel it can. I need something to show for my efforts afterall. Instinctively, I feel it’s better if the experiencing self has the upper hand. We live in the present and it seems a waste to live much in the past and dangerous to put too much faith in the future. I’m quite bad at ‘living in the moment’ but have found a few things help… paying attention, low expectation, forgetting myself, trying to match the experience to my values where possible, not being afraid to try new things. Think I’m wandering off topic…

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