Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Contentment: If I had a Million Dollars


I told a friend in Mérida recently that if suddenly I came into a million dollars I would not change a thing about my life here.

If I received a windfall, I would not get a different house. My house is a wonderful place and it's just right for me. It sits in the heart of the city, but walk inside and close the front door, and it is a refuge. It feels like another world. The thick walls keep out most of the street noise. The quiet, tall trees and birdsong of the back yard make it feel more like the countryside than the inner city. I like my neighborhood. I know of no other place like this and suspect I will live here for a good long time.

If I received a windfall, I would not splurge on new appliances, gadgets or furniture. I have all I need, and that's not much. I don't watch TV, so I'm not craving a bigger flatscreen. Every five or six years I buy a new laptop computer, usually only when the old one has begun to show signs of imminent demise. My budget cell phone allows me to make calls and send text messages and that's it. I am happier and have more money because I don't "need" the latest or fastest, so I'm in good shape there.

I eat well, wear decent clothing, have good health insurance, receive excellent medical care, and can afford an occasional splurge. I can do that because I've learned to concentrate my spending in just the few categories of items that provide the most satisfaction, and I live in a place where the cost of living is modest.

Not that I wouldn't spend some of the million.

If I had that money, I might visit Alaska more often, and travel to spend more time with far-away friends and relatives. I like being at home in Yucatán and really don't enjoy air travel much anymore, but I do miss Alaska and my longtime relationships. These are the main thing I find travel worthwhile for now.

My ten-year-old, high-mileage car, which I use mainly for trips and exploring, has become less reliable. It hasn't left me stranded yet, but I've had a couple of scares. If I had all that money, I might upgrade to a newer and more dependable vehicle so I could continue to explore remote areas of Yucatán without worrying about getting stuck on the side of the road.

Then, if I had that chunk of money, I'd give more to a few good causes I already support having to do with providing better educational opportunities for children.

I would also devote funds to planting trees on damaged and deforested land.

So, although I wouldn't move or go on a big spending spree, perhaps all that money would change my life a bit.

I'd spend on experiences and on making the most of my time.

And I'd invest in the future.

20 comments:

  1. Marc,

    Contentment is worth more than a million dollars.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much more...it's priceless. And it's free.

      Delete
  2. Thought-provoking post, Marc. It challenges us to do our own calculation of what we've got and what wealth really means.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...and I think it has been easier for me to clarify things while living where I do now than it would be elsewhere.

      Delete
  3. John: Just like you, if I suddenly had a million bucks I wouldn't change my house or wardrobe or get any more gadgets. I'd probably give most of it away, right here in Mexico where there's so much need. And I'd travel more--first class so I would have more legroom and not have to wait at the airport.

    Al Lanier (San Miguel de Allende)
    ranchosantaclara.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're pretty similar in that regard. I would use some money to enhance my experiences rather than buy stuff, and would devote money to things that will continue after I am gone. I think that would be the best thing to do, and it certainly would give me the most satisfaction.

      Delete
  4. Well said, Marc.

    And I love the lyrics to the tune which mimics the title of your post, by the Canadian group BareNakedLadies. So I've pasted them below. The very last line is especially true for you already, because you understand something about true riches.





    If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well I'd buy you a house
    I would buy you a house
    If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    I'd (silent) buy you furniture for your house
    Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman
    And if I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you a K-Car
    A nice Reliant automobile
    and If I had a million dollars I'd buy your love

    If I had a million dollars
    I'd build a tree fort in our yard
    If I had million dollars
    You could help, it wouldn't be that hard
    If I had million dollars
    Maybe we could put like a little tiny fridge in there somewhere
    You know, we could just go up there and hang out
    Like open the fridge and stuff
    There would already be laid out foods for us
    Like little pre-wrapped sausages and things


    mmm, They have pre-wrapped sausages but
    they don't have pre-wrapped bacon
    Well, can you blame 'em
    Uh, yeah


    If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you a fur coat
    But not a real fur coat that's cruelAnd if I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you an exotic pet
    Yep, like a llama or an emu
    And if I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you John Merrick's remains
    Ooh, all them crazy elephant bones
    And If I had a million dollars I'd buy your love


    If I had a million dollars
    We wouldn't have to walk to the store
    and If I had a million dollars
    Now, we'd take a limousine 'cause it costs more
    If I had a million dollars
    We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner
    But we would eat Kraft Dinner
    Of course we would, we’d just eat more
    And buy really expensive ketchups with it
    That’s right, all the fanciest ke... dijon ketchups!
    Mmmmmm, Mmmm-Hmmm


    If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you a green dress
    But not a real green dress, that's cruel
    And if I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you some art
    A Picasso or a Garfunkel
    If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    Well, I'd buy you a monkey
    Haven't you always wanted a monkey


    If I had a million dollars
    I’d buy your love


    If I had a million dollars, If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars, If I had a million dollars
    If I had a million dollars
    I'd be rich.

    ~eric.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eric, as I wrote this post I was thinking about Barenaked Ladies. I had that disc years ago and always enjoyed the lyrics of that tune. Thanks for sharing the lyrics.

      Delete
  5. Let me suggest, Marc (since it's my style to think "variably")--one does not know for SURE how they'd react until given the real chance. Some day I might tell you about my own experience, vis-a-vis that of a friend of mine.

    Nevertheless I find your restraint and contentment most admirable. Thanks so much for it.

    AND I share your "refuge" sentimiento! Did you know, when you moved there, that your walls would be so noise-reducing? Or that the vision of your garden so relaxing? I suspect a lot of this is a matter of luck for many. I feel lucky that my house is J-shaped, and that my bedroom is where it is. Otherwise, I might be having an occasional noisy night. There are so many variables, particularly in a city which is lovely, but somewhat unregulated when it comes to the noise and commercial locations.

    Alinde

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alinde, in the first draft of this post, before I edited for brevity, I stated that although I have no way of testing the statement that I wouldn't change a thing, I am pretty sure that it's true. Of course you are right. We can't be sure, but I am fairly certain I would not change much.

      I liked my house when I bought it, but it has grown on me. That's partially because over the nearly nine years I have been here, I've molded it to my tastes, and partially because I was fortunate to find an affordable, good house in a good area to start with.

      Delete
  6. I think about getting a million dollar windfall -- A LOT. It comes up on my planning list of what I will do if piranha start shooting out of my shower head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was younger I used to think about what I would do with a lot of money because I hoped to have it. Now I know I never will, and it really is not something I think about anymore, except that recently it was an interesting exercise in focusing my priorities. I realized that I could do good things with money, and although if I spent wisely I probably could enjoy myself with more money (particularly the visits to family and friends), I really don't need more than I already have. It's a good feeling.

      Delete
  7. Nice post Marc... I once read an interview with a famous actor who was asked, "Are you happy?" The actor said, "Yes I am because I live well below my means." The two of you have got it figured out... it feels good to be content.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Joanna, I can't say I am always 100% content, but I never expected, in my younger days, to feel contentment to this extent. I have been fortunate to have had many good opportunities in my life and that made it easier for me than for many. I am blessed and feel very fortunate in that respect.

      Delete
  8. If you read "The Millionaire Next Door," you will discover that most wealthy people actually live quite frugally.

    I love your post. It certainly captures the essence of what's important.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we're thinking a million dollars isn't what it used to be anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Kim, although I haven't read "The Millionaire Next Door," I've had the experience a couple of times in my life of knowing people for quite some time before I discovered that they were fabulously wealthy. They lived pretty much the way I did, and found more important things to do with their money than show it off.

      Delete
  9. Great post. We are in the process of moving from Utah to Mexico and we really enjoy the personal insite from expats like yourself. One reason we are moving to Mahahual is to get away from the Jones's. Everything is bigger, better, faster here. Our kids have every digital contraption ever invented. We are looking for the simpler life, like when we were kids. You know what I mean? Kids get home from school and they play outside until the street lights come on. Right now, they come home from school and play video games all night. They go outside to play with friends on occasion but it is the exception.

    All the money in the world can't replace the real life adventures of being a kid.

    Robert C.
    Salt Lake City, Utah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robert, this is a good place to find that simpler way of life. I've found it here in Merida, where kids still do play in the street, and people put rocking chairs out on the sidewalk in the evening catch the cool air and visit with neighbors. It's like a time machine. I often say that it reminds me of visits to my grandmother's house in Kansas in the late 50's and early 60's.

      Delete
  10. Love the post and I so agree with you. I once had a lot of money. More then I could have ever imagined. It went to attempt to save my daughter's life. I don't for a minute regret not having it and would do it all again.
    Having lived the large life at one time, I can tell you for sure, that contentment and serenity have nothing to do with money. I have both of those now and no money. It doesn't matter. A million - irrelevant at this point.
    The sunsets, the sky, a good book, the smiles of the children are worth way more then a million.

    ReplyDelete
  11. A number of years ago, I was making more money than I ever imagined possible. It bought some security in the sense of taking care of ongoing medical bills that had become frightening, despite good insurance. It didn't buy me any time. In fact, it stole most of my life for a good five years. I spent a lot of it buying services from others to take care of things I couldn't working 80 hours a week.

    I don't have that stress today, or the money either. It was exciting in the beginning, but in the end left me empty. I already had enough ~ enough of everything except the things that can't be bought, like good health for my husband.

    My life is back, but I am still unsettled. Here, wanting to be elsewhere. At least I don't want stuff, and the latest shiny-new doesn't appeal to me. Peace, quiet, birds singing, the feeling of absolute calm that I get on the front terrace at dawn, the feel of a sea breeze again, sand between my toes. Those are the things I need now. I wish it were possible to buy them.

    ReplyDelete

I appreciate comments, but will delete comments that are rude, offensive or off topic. Unfortunately, due to the heavy volume of spam, comment moderation has been enabled. I will try to approve comments promptly, but your patience is appreciated.
If you have technical trouble leaving your comment, please email it to:
marc_olson@hotmail.com
and I will post it for you.