[As part of our weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com – a fellow blogger who retired at 43!]
I really like my life. I’ve arranged my life so that I can do what I want.
– Warren Buffett
I’m a big fan of Warren Buffett, but not for the reason you may think. While Warren is an investing genius, there are plenty of others who have also figured out how to build vast wealth. The trait that makes him really great is that he’s a genuinely good person with plans to give almost all of his billions away to charity. And he’s frugal too, living in the same home for most of his life.
And I love listening to Warren’s folksy wisdom in person every spring. If you’re a shareholder of Warren’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, you have the opportunity to attend the company’s annual meeting. The big party takes place in Omaha and is informally called the “Woodstock of Capitalism.”
It’s a fun event where folks from all over the world ask Warren anything they want during the question and answer session. My wife even asked Warren a question about real estate at the 2016 meeting. Here she is on the big screen:
There is one question that will always stay with me though. At the first meeting I attended, a 20-something year-old asked Warren what books he’d recommend for getting rich. Warren didn’t have many recommendations, but he went on a tangent that was much more interesting. While ruminating on his age, Warren said this:
I’d give away every cent I have to be your age again.
Healthy Is Better Than Wealthy
Warren is a wise man. As he approaches 90, he realizes his days on the little blue-green sphere we all share are almost over. Money means less and less as we approach our expiration date.
Health is the most important aspect of life.
I hadn’t been taking good care of myself until recently. Retiring early has allowed me to go for runs in the middle of the day or swing the kettle bell first thing in the morning. If you don’t have your health, what else matters?
Relationships Are Better Than Riches
Everyone wants to give you advice when they hear that you’re expecting your first child. This certainly happened to me and I quickly grew tired of it. But when I was least expecting it, I received the best child-rearing advice ever.
I was at work when my manager called me into her office. She asked me to sit down and I thought that I was in trouble for playing pranks on my co-workers (not an uncommon occurrence). Instead, she told me that she had advice for me. I was skeptical, but her advice blew me away:
All your children want is your time.
She went on to say that I didn’t need to buy them tons of toys or take them to Disney every year. Just give them your attention. Deep down, that’s what they really want and need.
I walked out of her office in a daze. The advice was simple, but profound. And it made perfect sense. How many times have you seen children act out only because they want the attention and love of their parents? My manager’s words were completely true.
***Quick note: If you’re a parent reading this now on your phone, you have permission to read the rest of this article before setting your phone down and asking your children how their day was. :)
Hundreds of Thousands Don’t Bring You Happiness
I need about $40,000 per year to fund my life. Per the 4% Rule, that means that I need a nest egg of $1,000,000. My portfolio sits at $1,400,000 and I have an additional $400,000 in home equity. For those unskilled in the ways of math, that comes out to $1,800,000.
When I left my job, I expected an instant boost in my happiness. And then it didn’t happen. I started thinking about it and had an epiphany:
The money didn’t make me happier either.
I was no happier as a millionaire than I was when I was just out of college with $60,000 in debt. Wealth doesn’t create happiness. You must figure that out for yourself!
The Paradox of Money
None of what I’ve mentioned requires money. You don’t need money to be healthy. You certainly don’t need it to spend time with your family.
Where does money fit into all of this then? To get money, we must trade our time. You can always earn more money, but you can’t change your expiration date. The only thing you can do then is increase the amount of time where work is optional.
And this is the paradox of money:
It’s simultaneously the most and least important part of life.
While you don’t need money to be happy or healthy, it buys time. And once you have time, you can structure your life optimally. The real goal is this:
Save enough money so that you don’t have to worry about money.
Money is not the end, only the start.
Advice For My Younger Self
If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t buy two new cars. I’d hack my living situation with roommates. I’d build wealth as fast as I could to minimize my working life and maximize my freedom years.
Time is a finite resource. If you’re younger than Warren, embrace his wise words and appreciate the years you have ahead of you. Put the pedal down and start living!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I think about this trade off alllll the time and actually have a saying for it – “I’d rather be young!” That’s what I tell myself anytime I catch myself getting jealous of what someone older than me has that I desperately want :) It doesn’t help when they’re much younger than me, haha, but it does if they’re much older! No way I’d trade decades of my life for more money. Also makes you appreciate how long it takes to acquire such wealth as well – it doesn’t come fast.