Monday, May 07, 2012

Money & Happiness and Experiences vs. Things

A blogger writes about money and happiness (link). For Americans, $75,000 in annual income is about where the correlation between income and happiness cuts off. Above that, people don't tend to be any happier on average. Below that, people tend to respond that they are happier as they move up.

There is another section about what kind of things to buy and not to buy. For me, an interesting one is:
1. Buy experiences instead of things

Things get old. Things become ordinary. Things stay the same. Things wear out. Things are difficult to share. But experiences are totally unique; they shine like diamonds in your memory, often more brightly every year, and they can be shared forever. Whenever possible, spend money on experiences such as taking your family to Disney World, rather than things like a new television.

As I kid, I always chose things. I thought buying experiences like an outing was a "waste of money." Some things have enormous time value, such as Lego bricks, or a train set, that can be set up in so many ways, played with in so many ways for an imaginative kid. I still go by that today, though I do value experiences a bit more than I used to. I would tend to think that savers tend more towards things, vs. experiences, but that is a total guess.

Even with the example given, it might depends on how much TV a family or a person watches. A person with an older TV, and that spends the average four hours of TV a day, might enjoy a new TV more than a one-time trip to Disney World. If the upgrade is only from say two years ago, then it wouldn't mean much.

As with a lot of choices, a healthy balanced approach is what I suggest. A person that never takes a trip, could do well to try some new things or new experiences and vice-versa. I don't think that there is one answer that is always correct. As with long term investing, a mix can be a good thing.

/edit to add: a few more thoughts on this subject. There are things that lead to experiences, such as musical instruments, or any collecting hobby where there are clubs, shows or events. There are experiences that may lead to life changes. There are similar experiences such as taking up dancing or singing that may lead to meeting many new people. For folks that never travel, a big trip has the potential to open up their mind and their life. Again, a person can go over board, buy too many things, or spend too much on entertainment and trips. There is always saving money and buying neither. Again, balance is often a good thing.

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