Weblog - The lure of the lifestyle

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Have you wondered how the crony capitalists spend the proceeds of their exercised stock-options, enormous salaries and generous perks? They become lifestyle junkies - hooked on pompous posturing, playing follow-the-leader into an endless hedonistic spiral. This type of escalation up the ladder of life is not limited just to the filthy-rich. It's easy to succumb to the lure of the lifestyle.
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Weblog Comments - The lure of the Lifestyle

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Thursday, October 9, 2003

My Mother-In-Law is a multi-millionare. She lives on an old farm with one of her daughters, two dogs, a cat, and a couple horses put out to pasture. Despite her wealthy upbringing and lifestyle, she will not tolerate those who "put on airs." She's generally frugal, though she's not afraid to spend money on things that matter.

The difference here is that my Mother-In-Law has kept her ambition in check. Her goal is to live her life with family and grandchildren around her. And I have to say that I think she's succeeded remarkably well in this regard. Her children are successful and independent. And they still return home to Grandma on holidays, weekends, or just to say hi.

I know an arborist or two whose businesses are doing very well. The way these guys talk you'd never know that they were managing so much money and capital assets. Yes, they're self made men, but you'd never guess it from the way they talk or live. They're all down-to-earth can-do types of people.

Money doesn't have to lead to "The Lifestyle."

Meanwhile, there are those who can think of nothing but "The Lifestyle". They have ambitions to meet those with money and by knowing these folks, find their own fortunes by riding their coattails. It doesn't work nearly as well as most would have us think.

Houses from "The Lifestyle" show is that there are far too many in this world who have no purposes for their lives. When blessed with good financial fortune, these people don't seek to help others, they seek to build palaces. With palaces come exclusive neighborhoods and the ability to wall out the rest of society.

I'm not bothered by financial success --even if it's unearned. I'm bothered by the lack of vision behind the money. Those with no vision remind me of the history of feudalism when Monarchies sat on huge sums of money and played parlor games with political intrigue instead of investing it in people around them.

There are many causes from research, to education, to charity, which all deserve our respect and support. One should find something interesting, and pursue it full heartedly. When money is tied up in to building palaces, the people around may initially benefit, but over the long term, they'll suffer.

We don't need more country clubs or neighborhoods with tract mansions. We need sane leaders with good ideas who are willing to share them with others who are less fortunate. That's what's so obcenely wrong with "The Lifestyle." Bernie Ebbers, are you listening?

Monday, January 27, 2003

About eight years ago, I started an Internet service provider. I then sold it five years later, for two reasons: 1) I was burnt out, 2) financially, it was much more lucrative to sell. The year was 1999, so we did pretty well. I made enough money to 'retire', but only with careful management of my money. The thing is, I was not even 20 years old when I sold the company.

I was never attracted by using the money I attained to reach a lifestyle of lavish spending on pretentious items of wealth (oversized house, luxury car, watch, jewelry, country club, etc.) In fact, I'm (what I read somewhere is) a reverse snob. This is basically someone who wouldn't associate with this excessive materialism because I'm better than that. I'm a snob who's above the materialist slaves.

Despite everyone else's advice of what to do with the money I made, I believe having a paid-off home should be a crucial centerpoint to financial health. Cars and almost anything else (but real estate) depreciates, and should never be considered an investment. I drive a Honda Civic, but at the same time I used my wealth to buy something my wife and I need, and will be able to profit from - a Steinway grand piano (100 years old, rebuilt). We're both musicians (although my wife makes more of a living with it than I do).

I work down from there I guess. With no rent, and a minimal car to pay for, all you need is enough for health/car insurance, food, and misc. expenses that may hit. So god forbid I needed to work again, I wouldn't need to slave over it.

PS - We're moving to San Diego next month - real estate is so expensive there! I can't understand how the average guy can afford it without over-leveraging himself. We'll be able to afford a nice little house, but not a palace. Palaces in the cold (in Connecticut right now) are over rated. I'll trade it for a comfortable and friendly little place anyday. I can't wait to move!

Sunday, December 22, 2002 - Jerry Lyons [jlyons@i-55.com] wrote:

I just read and found "Lure of the Lifestyle" very interesting. My wife and I are rather conservative and have never really fallen in to the financing trap that has become such a popular way of life with many of our contemporaries and the especially the younger set. We have very few recurring monthly bills.

Rather, we try to pay as we go. If we can't afford it, we usually wait until we can. We use our credit cards but always pay up at month's end. Our investments are largely solid long term stable return and tend to be liquid.

As I read the Weblog comments I remembered an observation that I recently made and expressed to one of my sons (who by the way hasn't quite embraced our frugal practices yet) and that is; I notice now that I am in a position to buy and do, having saved and invested wisely, I don't actually go through with the purchase...(vacation trip, boat, car motorcycle, other toy). And that's OK......just knowing that I am able to buy this or that without a hassle must be enough!

Strange, huh?

On May 20, 2002, a regular JimPinto.com subscriber wrote:

"I thoroughly enjoyed your “Lure of the Lifestyle” article, and forwarded the link to my wife. Here is her passionate response:

    "My sentiments exactly! We could afford to make larger payments on a bigger house, fancier cars, etc. But we wouldn't have the money for the fun things we do or buy the truck parts or skating tickets or the trips to see the kids. Those things are more important to me. Plus saving for that rainy day -- be it a lay off or retirement. I don't want to have to work the rest of my life to have things. I want to get to the point someday where we can have things and NOT work."
(The truck she refers to is my 33 year-old restoration project.)

I’m amazed at how many friends and co-workers earn no more than us, but spend like they make twice as much - new cars every 2-3 years, large homes with high utility bills, trendy restaurants, single-malt Scotch (yuk!), etc.

Jerry Van Ee [jvanee@ppco.com] from Canada:

You have hit the nail on the head! I think many people live life in the fast lane not because they really want to, or need to, but simply because they are able to. Or, worse yet, they think they are able to.

"It's a problem as old as civilization. People think that money and possessions will make them happy and the more they have of both, the happier they will be. It's not true, but people believe it is. I don't think the constant barrage of lottery advertisements helps the situation. They very blatantly equate happiness with having lots of money."

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