The myths of money and happiness are many. The general feeling in today’s society is that more money and things will make us happier. Because of this belief we tend to focus our time and efforts on acquiring more and more “stuff” to the point where we sometimes overextend our finances and resources and in the end achieve exactly the opposite result we intended.
A recent book gave a name to this affliction and in fact is the name of the book. It is entitled Affluenza. In the book affluenza is defined as “a painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” The book reported that Americans each spend more than $21,000 per year on consumer goods. Our average rate of saving has fallen from about 10 percent of our income in 1980 to zero today. Our credit card indebtedness has tripled in the 1990s and currently equals $2,293 in credit card debt for every man, woman and child in the United States. More people are filing for bankruptcy each year than graduate from college.
Many of us do very well with our finances and manage to stay out of debt and live within our means. However, there are too many that have fallen victim to the affliction of affluenza.
What is the True Source of Happiness?
Let’s think for a moment about happiness and where it comes from. First I want to do a little test to see how well your happiness prediction abilities are working. I want to present two different futures for you to contemplate and think about and then decide which one you would prefer.
The first one is of you winning the lottery to the tune of $100 million.
The second one is of you becoming a paraplegic – of losing the use of your legs and being confined to a wheelchair.
So which future would you choose? You may think that is kind of a stupid question. Of course you would choose winning the lottery – who wouldn’t? A person who wins the lottery would be so much happier than someone becoming a paraplegic. Right?
Strange as it may seem they have actually done studies on these two groups of people. They studied how happy they were one year later after either winning the lottery or of becoming a paraplegic. The fact is that one year later lottery winners and paraplegics are equally as happy with their lives. There is absolutely no difference in their level of happiness.
When I asked a number of people I know where they felt true happiness came from they, mentioned their families, serving others, doing what’s right, being out among nature, and someone even said living within your means. So happiness isn’t found in more and better things. It’s mostly found in the things of life that are entirely free.
Jesus Christ made this statement:
Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15)
Misery of Debt
When my wife and I were first married I tried to start my own business. After a year of trying to make a go of it we found ourselves deep in debt and behind on all of our bills. It was a horrible experience for us. Every time the phone rang we would hate to answer it for fear it would be a collection agency calling. We had had enough and finally decided we would do everything we could to pay everyone back and get completely out of debt.
We liquidated the business and I got a job making $4.25 an hour. For the next year all of my paychecks went to paying off debts. We lived like church mice. I drove a $250 car. We cancelled our phone. During the winter we heated only one room of our little rental house. There were times when it got so cold that the water in the toilet would literally freeze. It was a long and difficult year that we spent getting out of debt. But it was a glorious day when the last payment was made and we were completely free of financial bondage. It was a hard lesson to learn but we did learn! Today, my dear wife and I are completely debt free and love every minute of it!
Heber J. Grant said:
If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means. And if there is any one thing that is grinding and discouraging and disheartening, it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet.
Live Within Your Means
What I’m about to say is going to sound old fashioned and out of style. But I know the value of it because I have lived it and know it is true.
I urge each of you to honestly examine your own financial circumstances and determine now to live within your means. Prepare now for the future. Be modest in your expenditures. Save for those things you feel you need. Pay off debts as quickly as you can. Begin saving a little money on a regular basis. I promise you that if you will follow this counsel you will feel more secure and experience greater peace and happiness in your life.
Copyright © 2015 Gary N. Larson