“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” -Benjamin Franklin
American culture trains us to believe that by making more money, we will be happier and live better lives. Money is America’s – and most of the world’s – scorecard for success. For a long time, I sought to be “successful” in society’s eyes because I thought it would bring me happiness and fulfillment.
There are two main problems with this mentality:
1. Money beyond a certain baseline level ($75k per year in the U.S.) doesn’t actually increase happiness
2. It makes a future, external goal one of the keys to our internal happiness.
My mindset on money has gone through a dramatic shift in the last two years because of three key events/experiences:
1. I worked for a successful, money-focused company and realized how empty I felt spending my time chasing money.
2. I had a mentor ask me “if you died today, why would your life matter?” This made me realize that I wanted to spend my time working on a cause (now, not later) that I would be proud to die for.
3. I traveled the world last year and realized that I could live well in many phenomenal international cities for $1,000-1,500 per month.
At this point, I’m convinced I want to live a nomadic, impact-focused lifestyle for the rest of my life. I no longer value money as a necessity for me to live a great life. And I don’t have any plans to change my budget or frugal lifestyle regardless of the amount of money that I make in the future. I now view money as a tool to increase my positive impact on the world but not as a way to increase my personal happiness.
I also believe that the less money you need to be happy, the easier it is to achieve happiness. My number is so low (from a U.S. standard) that it didn’t take much work to remove money from my happiness equation. And becoming financially free from society’s grip has been incredibly empowering because, at my current budget and income levels, I’ll never need to get a job again.
By removing money and other external factors from my happiness equation, it has also given me a newfound sense of control and ownership. I’ve learned that I can’t control external events but I do get to choose how my mind interprets them. The belief that happiness is 100% within my control has led me to aggressively optimize my life to improve my happiness (Why 2017 Was The Happiest Year of My Life).
It has taken me extensive searching, but I believe that I’ve found my dual purpose in life:
1) To create meaningful businesses that are focused on positively impacting the world while living a happy, free, and individualistic life.
2) To (hopefully) inspire others to live lives of greater happiness, freedom, individualism, and impact.
Good luck on your life journey – feel free to reach out if you want to discuss any of this!
P.S. It should be noted that I wrote this while living in Budapest, where I’m sleeping on a pull-out couch, and spending about $1,150/month to cover all expenses.