Have you said those words? “So, that’s how the other half lives.” Or maybe you’ve experienced some luxury that’s out of the ordinary and asked, “Is this how the other half live?”
I know I’ve said it often, from visiting Aspen, CO to going out to dinner at a fine restaurant, to flying first class, I’ve wondered who these people are, the people who experience lavishness on a regular basis.
I know people have also asked the same about me. Why? Because I retired at the age of 48, split my time between NJ and CA, and have, what many consider, expensive toys such as a boat and wave runner.
Stop asking this question because more often than not this is how the other half spends, not how they live. It doesn’t sound like a big difference but it is. It is the difference between appearances and reality, between displaying success and being a success. It’s how celebrities and sports stars can make millions and still go bankrupt.
Living or Spending
I recently had the opportunity to use a high end gym with several pools, a huge cardio room with several kinds of stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and stair climbers. In the locker room, each sink, of which there were many, had a hair dryer. The gym provided disposable razors, shaving cream, hair spray, and deodorant. After my workout I’d go to the steam room to wind down. I could get used to these kinds of amenities, but I won’t.
The sales rep had given me a ten day free pass in hopes I would join the club in spite of the fact that I told him it didn’t make much sense for me to join as I was rarely in the area.
I looked around at the people in the various classes, in the pool, or working out on the cardio machines and, rather than saying, this is how the other half lives, I thought about the $140 a month, at a minimum, that they were spending. How do they justify that amount of money?
Big Houses and Fancy Cars
While seeing very expensive material things might inspire me, motivate me to work harder, I probably won’t have those things. While I might be able to afford a larger house, I don’t want it. While I might be able to afford that new sports car, I’d rather have freedom and time. While I might be able to pay that gym membership, I’d rather save that money and run outside.
It’s all about my choices and how I choose to live versus how I choose to spend. If I had the huge house, the shiny sports car, and drove it to the exclusive gym, I’m sure a lot of people would think of me as “the other half” but really I’m even more unique than that.
I’m the 1% but not that 1%, not the super-rich 1%. I’m one of the very few who worked hard, spent less, saved more, and invested consistently. My success isn’t as visible as a sports car and it makes me feel more complete than a car could ever make me feel.
On the opposite spectrum of the 1% is not the 99%, the rest of us, it’s the 78% who are living paycheck to paycheck. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are lots of reasons why someone would struggle but a big contributor is living beyond your means.
Simply because that gym I went to for a few days was crowded and the parking lot was filled with very nice cars doesn’t mean that some of those people weren’t part of the 78%.
Don’t let what I’ve said so far make you think I don’t spend money on things I enjoy or that I sacrifice so much that I must be miserable, quite the contrary. The things I spend my money on produce more joy per dollar than, I think, most people experience because I only spend on joyful things.
While I love cars, my weakness, if you want to call it a weakness, is boats. The money I spend on my boat is, by any measure, excessive but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have made sacrifices to have this boat but they’ve all been worth it.
If you think about every purchase, every dollar spent in terms of how much joy it has or will bring you, you’ll begin to spend differently, more deliberately and that will be the difference between how the other half spend and how you live.