“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” said Oscar Wilde who was recently noted in a commentary on finances in Time Out Dubai magazine. An extremely successful and popular poet, author and playwright from the 1880s, Wilde was known for his lavish spending and indulgence of the diversions in life. He died destitute and penniless at the age of 46. So “there’s the rub”!
I know it’s a little ironic that I am writing a spending or personal finance piece in Dubai, which is known for its world-class opulence and a “bigger is better” style. But one has to ask: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Very similar to an exercise regime, your financial health is pretty much in your control. Garbage In — garbage out. Take care of your body, it will take care of you. The same holds true in personal finance. If you are buying cars (a depreciating asset, by the way) that cost more than your yearly income, you probably have a problem. If your rent is more than 25% of your income on a yearly basis, but you have to maintain appearances… another warning sign.
In a 1996, the authors of The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy compared the behavior of those they call UAWs (Under Accumulators of Wealth) and those who are PAWs (Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth). It basically looked at doctors and lawyers with suits, Porsches, and Rolex watches (assumed needed for appearances) vs. plumbers who usually drove pick-up trucks and wore jeans to work. Who do you think was happier? Who do you think had a higher net worth in the study? Certainly food for thought, as the blue-collar worker had, in almost every circumstance, a higher net worth, more funds in the bank, more cabins, boats, and a self-described “higher level of happiness” and fulfillment than his white-collar counterpart.
Still not convinced?
What about today’s rich and famous? In a recent Yahoo Finance article, some of the richest and most famous celebrities were highlighted in their frugal life styles.
Actor Jackie Chan (net worth estimated at $140M) and Super Model Tyra Banks (net worth estimated at $90M) admit to stocking up on hotel soaps, shampoos, and even shower caps. Chan said he never had soap growing up, so it’s tough for him to see it go to waste. Chan told the Los Angeles Times, “I take the shower cap and wrap the soap in it and travel with it.” As for Banks, she’s not afraid to tell the world she’s conservative, “I’m frugal. I’ve always been this way,” she said.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook (net worth estimated at $32.5B…yes that’s a “B” for billion!) still drives a Volkswagen GTI to work. It has a Kelly Blue book worth $30,000. Alfred Morris drives his “Bentley” — the nickname he gave his 1991 Mazda 626(valued at $1,200). Mr. Morris is the famed running back for the Washington Redskins football franchise (net worth estimated at $2M). Although not at the same level as our other celebrities, NFL players are notorious for immediately upgrading their “rides” upon signing. Morris says it helps keep him grounded.
Finally, what fancy restaurant would you go to celebrate an incredible honor? Would it be steak, champagne, or cigars? Actor and singer Justin Timberlake celebrated his People’s Choice Awards win at Taco Bell.
Notice I said frugal, NOT cheap. Frugal people remember where they came from and know what they have, but also live for themselves and know what makes them happy… it’s not about keeping up with a certain kind of reputation.
In conclusion, I suggest you ask yourself a few questions: What is really important to me in life? What do I really want my life to be like?
Upon answering these questions and taking the next steps in the right direction, where do you think you will be next year–in January 2016?