It’s 2016! Yay! You’ve resolved to lose weight, eat better, save more, watch less TV – the list goes on. But how about this: I resolve “Less Doing and More Being”.
Evidently, based on research from numerous places over the past few years including Cornell University, San Francisco University, Eventbrite and WebMD, the happiness achieved from spending money on an experience versus buying a material thing is longer lasting and more fulfilling. Why? One reason is that people are prone to buyer’s remorse or comparisons with material goods. Also, objects tend to deteriorate with time whereas an experience can create a lasting memory. After all, most people would agree they are more the sum of their experiences than the sum of their possessions.
Another interesting aspect is that people adapt faster to things that don’t change. In other words, if you spend your money on a new vehicle, then by the end of a year or so, it is still the same vehicle (more or less). However, each vacation you take is different than the one before! We can feel warm and happy reliving and relishing old memories whereas physical objects tend to leave us a little cold.
Now as a financial advisor I am torn between embracing this idea and advising against it. Material purchases make more financial sense (in general). Think of it as money spent on fulfilling a need versus a want. You need a new washing machine, but you want to go to the beach.
The other side of me looks around and sees hundreds of people daily and weekly, with heads down, staring at a smart phone, lost to the art of conversation, creating ‘experiences’ via 140 character tweets, or snapchats that self destruct after 1 to 10 seconds, or post’s that most of the world will forget about before the digital ink even dries. At least Andy Warhol gave us a whole 15 minutes of fame. I’m not sure what he would think about the “fame gratification” people strive for these days, as in the number of likes they get from a post?
The bottom line for me is to just stop doing this year. Every chance you get, sit wherever you are and just BE there. Make a mental record of the sights, the sounds, the smells. Build a library of experiences that (according to researchers) create for you a longer lasting and greater happiness and well being. Here’s to a gratifying 2016!
Tracy Ann Miller, CFP®
CEO and Chief Portfolio Officer