This is Part 2 of a 3 part post. If you missed part 1 last week, check it out here.
Can money buy happiness?
It’s a great question! And it’s complicated…
Investing Versus Spending
Investing isn’t always easy, but the recipe is basic:
- Spend less than you earn.
- Invest the difference in VTSAX or a similar, low-cost index fund.
- Wait for compound interest to make you rich.
For those in America:
- If you make a lot of money: Favor a 401(k) to reduce highly taxed income.
- If your income is low: Favor Roth (post-tax) investments.
Spending is a far more complex task. After basic needs are met, there a billion different shiny objects, services, and experiences that you can throw money at.
I decided to experiment with spending. And not just small experiments. The experiments below cost a healthy $14,400.
Can money buy happiness? If so, how? And spending on what?
#1: Frontera Grill Versus Taco Bell ($200)
I’m not much of a foodie. Simple food prepared at home suits me fine. A good cheeseburger or deep-dish pizza is about at good as it gets.
One exception is mole. Mole is a sophisticated Mexican sauce that’s difficult to make. There is lots of mole out there, but few good examples.
There’s a famous restaurant in Chicago called Frontera Grill that’s famous for it’s mole. Mindy and I decided to give it a try:
The meal set us back $200. This included drinks, an appetizer, and dessert. We usually don’t have appetizers or desserts, but we don’t usually go to Michelin star restaurants either. Go big or go home.
Verdict: The food was really good, but I’ve had meals that have cost 10% as much that I similarly enjoyed. Heck, I don’t mind Taco Bell. I wouldn’t do this again.
#2: Helicopter Ride ($1,400)
On a trip to Kauai, we took a helicopter ride. I have never been on a helicopter before, but:
- I love flying: I’m one of those people who gets a window seat on a plane and stares out the window the whole time.
- I love aircraft: Things that fly are awesome. The End.
- I love Kauai: So green, so beautiful.
Verdict: So yeah, the doorless helicopter ride was slightly terrifying, but it was completely awesome. I’d do this again in a second and will whenever we’re in a beautiful place.
#3: Taylor Swift ($1,000)
My daughter was able to secure one Taylor Swift ticket. One. I had no plans to go, but agreed to take her to the show.
Daughter and I walked to the venue and I was overwhelmed by the energy. There were people all over Denver going nuts for Ms. Swift. I dropped my kid off, walked back to our hotel and decided to look at tickets on aftermarket sites. With the first opening act already onstage, ticket prices were coming down. I ended up buying a pretty great seat for $1,000.
Verdict: The show was amazing. I will probably never blow $1,000 on a concert ticket again, but I don’t regret this at all.
#4: Private Concert ($11,000)
Back in the early 2000s, Mindy and I lived in Chicago. I followed a lot of local bands and one of my favorites was the Webb Brothers.
The band launched a kickstarter to release some new music. The top prize was a private show for $10,000. After a lot of internal debate (and after securing Mindy’s approval), I bought the show.
Verdict: I doubt an opportunity like this will ever come again, but I’d do it again in a second.
#5: Corvette ($800)
I’ve always been a car person. I don’t really like this about myself. A nice car is just one more object to have to maintain and insure. Besides, I’ve come to really dislike most driving. Too much traffic and too many bad drivers.
And I’ve done a version of this experiment already. I once owned my dream car (Acura NSX) Like most shiny new things, the joy wears off. We sold it a couple years after buying it. And while I probably won’t buy another sports car ever again, I can rent one every once in a while. And this is exactly what I did on a recent trip to Los Angeles:
Verdict: Driving in Los Angeles traffic sucks. One way to make it even more miserable is to experience it in a fancy sports car. The Corvette has horrible rear visibility, a firm ride, and chugs expensive gas. Not fun. However, in the mountains east of San Diego on twisty roads, the Corvette was great fun. I may rent a fancy car again, but only in the right setting.
Why It’s Worth Experimenting
No regrets: I probably won’t buy a $1,000 concert ticket again, but if I hadn’t gone, I know I would have regretted it.
You may learn something about yourself: How do you know what you like or don’t unless you try something? I’ll definitely take a helicopter ride again. Maybe one of my kids will become a helicopter pilot?
New experiences create happiness: This is why most people love to travel.
The Problem With These Experiments
Not sustainable: I’m not going to rent Corvettes or go on helicopter rides every day.
Everything gets old: If I were to go on a helicopter every day, the novelty would wear off. It would probably take a long time to get boring because helicopters are awesome, but eventually, it would.
Memory dividends (Die With Zero) are overrated: While I enjoyed all of these experience, I don’t sit there and ponder them every day. I’m glad I did all of these things, but they don’t create long-term, deep happiness.
The experiences in this post all made me happy. However my daily life isn’t spent in Michelin star restaurants or Corvettes or helicopters.
But there’s no reason why we can’t introduce unique, unexpected and challenging experiences wherever we’re at in life. Novelty is one of the key components to happiness. More about it in next week’s post.
More 1500 Days!!!
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