YOLO. You Only Live Once.
These are four powerful words commonly used by some of my peers (late 20s to early 30s) to defend their conspicuous lifestyle. Materialism isn’t confined to just the ladies and their Hermes these days. Many of my guy friends do not hesitate to reward themselves with a IWC Schaffhausen or a brand-new Audi A4 after a promotion or a bumper bonus.
After all, life can be unpredictably short, they say. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Therefore, most of them do not understand why the Mrs and I voraciously saved up >50% of our income during the past few years. With our educational qualifications and the corresponding incomes, it was somewhat an anomaly to stay in a HDB flat and rely on public transport.
Are we short-changing ourselves then?
Many of our friends felt that we were short-changing ourselves in the material sense. To the extent that some felt that “living in poverty” probably contributed to her spate of ill health earlier in the year.
By most of their definitions, we could well afford a luxury watch and even a continental car. (Heck, I could pay for both without taking on any loans, a shocking revelation for most of them.) Instead, I wear a Casio digital watch that is way more accurate and precise with way more functions than a Rolex and we spend less than $100 per pax on public transport every month.
Most people feel that thriftiness and leading a frugal life is actually a form of insurance against a long life. It ensures that we wouldn’t be destitute when we turn 100. But what happens if we hit the sack at maybe 40?
When you have just won the billion dollar lottery but realise you have 3 months of your life left…
Therefore, friends are asking us to let loose a little.
“You can’t bring your $250,000 into your grave. Spend it and pamper yourself, Mr and Mrs 15HWW!”
A happy life is the best hedge for a short life
However, I really don’t think spending most of your money can become a good hedge for a short life. Correct me if I am wrong, but I just cannot believe that a young person on his sick bed would ever wish that he had driven a BMW 5 Series instead of a Toyota Camry, own a Patek Philippe instead of a Seiko, or stay in a terrace house instead of a 5 room HDB flat in his life.
However, if he had lived a miserable life just chasing after more money, there could be plenty of reflections and then regrets on the death bed.
Unless spending truckloads of money brings you sustained and permanent fulfilment and pleasure, it’s quite pointless. If you want to hedge against a short life, cut out the unhappiness.
Which is what we are trying to do.
To many, the Mrs and I were taking huge risks when we left our high-paying corporate jobs. At this point in time, our combined income is probably around 50% of what we were getting 18 months ago.
However, to us, it’s really a no-brainer because we were so unhappy in our previous roles. In the modern capitalistic world, work easily consumes half of our life. And if we can find sustainable new gigs where we no longer dread Monday mornings, we felt that a lower remuneration would be a worthwhile trade-off.
Even with a 50% cut in income, we do not have to live off scraps or cut everything down to the bare bones, of course. But fewer restaurant visits, a smaller house and generally owning less stuff all seems pretty worth it if we could lead a happier life now.
In terms of material wealth, both of us really don’t need a lot to be happy. This sentence probably also applies to more people than not.
And who knows, by plugging away working hard at what we love, it could all be a matter of time before our income levels soar back again.