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Old 07-11-2013, 11:10 AM   #41
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Competitive materialism is so basic, so ingrained in American culture. In elementary school, kids would compare whose parents took them on the coolest vacation, who had a swimming pool, sports/dance/music lessons (not so common as they are now), new clothes, etc. I remember being made fun of because I wore hand-made and hand-me-down clothes, and my mother cut my hair instead of taking me to a hairdresser like other girls in class. Even my cheap eyeglasses and old lunchbox were made fun of.

No wonder I wanted good clothing, jewelry, a beautiful home. And, all these things DID make me happier, contrary to those who insist that "things" can't possibly make a person happy. Yet I have reached the point where "more" doesn't mean "happier." "More time" just might.

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+1 on that things can make you happier.... I can tell you that I am happier in my house than the crappy house I grew up in.... I am happier with my nice car than the few crappy ones I had early in life... I am happier with some of the nice vacations that I take than the ones that I did not take because I did not have money....

Still does not mean I cannot LBYM.... my car is 10 years old and I am not looking to get a new one... we try and not waste money on vacation... basically things that waste money that will not make us any happier...
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Old 07-11-2013, 11:23 AM   #42
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Wow, the four noble truths.
Said tongue in cheek, with just a hint of enlightenment, some get it some don't.
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:14 PM   #43
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Were it not that too many of them are wearing their relative poverty as a badge of distinction, I might see your point...
Quite a few of these RV bloggers describe how content they are, without shooting down what other people do, or sneer at the "richer" people, or tell other people what they should do.

And the ones who are really poor are not too happy, when their vehicle break down and they cannot scrounge up a few thousand dollars to get it fixed.

My point was these people manage to get a reasonable level of happiness, while spending a lot less than the commonly accepted $75K/yr, by finding a suitable lifestyle for what they can afford.

Abject poverty is tough! Lots of misery, no doubt about that.
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:18 PM   #44
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+1 on that things can make you happier.... I can tell you that I am happier in my house than the crappy house I grew up in.... I am happier with my nice car than the few crappy ones I had early in life... I am happier with some of the nice vacations that I take than the ones that I did not take because I did not have money....

Still does not mean I cannot LBYM.... my car is 10 years old and I am not looking to get a new one... we try and not waste money on vacation... basically things that waste money that will not make us any happier...
+1 We found a level of spending that maximizes what I call our "happiness return". We found a house we love, I drive a really nice (8 yr old) car that makes me happy every time I drive it, and I love our vacations. Could we do with less? Sure. Would we be as happy? No way. We also LBOM by a bunch.

I've been poor and now I'm not. Now is better. I've yet to hear a story of someone giving away their money in order to be happier. Now that would be a great case study...
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Old 07-11-2013, 12:34 PM   #45
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Quite a few of these RV bloggers describe how content they are, without shooting down what other people do, or sneer at the "richer" people, or tell other people what they should do...
No, I said it wrong. They describe their daily life, what they see in their mountain hike, their interaction with the environment and other people, etc... From their writing, I assume that they have reached a high level of contentment. I of course could be all wrong, as they could be all miserable and envious of other people but were able to hide it.

Some are open about their expenses, and I was astounded to learn that they spend something like $20K-30K/yr.

On the other hand, the ones with less money would have bouts of misery when their vehicle break down, or they encountered some unexpected expenses that they could not afford.

My point was that by choosing a suitable lifestyle, it appears that some can achieve happiness with much less than the commonly accepted $75K/yr. Maybe they did not get the memo.

And if we ask these millionaire gurus who preach simplicity, I suspect that they would call $75K/yr a miserable lifestyle.
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Old 07-11-2013, 02:49 PM   #46
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Yet when you take away the bias of individuals putting their own two cents in, and you just look at objective measures across a normalized population, that $75k number is what results.
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Old 07-11-2013, 02:58 PM   #47
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And if we ask these millionaire gurus who preach simplicity, I suspect that they would call $75K/yr a miserable lifestyle.

The likely answer from them would be "I thought you meant $75K per MONTH"...
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Old 07-11-2013, 03:39 PM   #48
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Well this forum is incredibly money obsessed. I'm driven by saving for retirement...so money is probably more important to me than it should be. I don't desire material things, but do want to have financial independence.....so what's worse; spending money on material things or hoarding it?
I think it's a matter of your goal. Being obsessed with money because it buys you a bigger house and a bigger TV -- or because you think it means you are "winning" or better than others -- is one thing. Being obsessed with money because it buys you freedom from having to work, freedom to pursue things that you find meaningful/pleasurable -- that is another.

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One of the reasons DH and I have really gotten into a sustainable lifestyle is that for us is seems to be the opposite of what marketing campaigns want us to do.
I have an oppositional streak in me, so I take pleasure in not buying into the marketing, not being suckered into the attempts to get me to buy into the consumerist lifestyle.

Otoh, I'm glad there are people who drive themselves bonkers trying to make money, spend/spend/spend, more/more/more. They are the gerbils who keep the stock market humming, and I need them to keep running in their wheels so my SWD rate stays intact. That's a selfish way of putting it, I suppose, but that's how I feel. Part of me smirks at it, says "knock yourself out." I'm opting out, and at the same time I'm able to opt out partially because of their craziness.

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Yet when you take away the bias of individuals putting their own two cents in, and you just look at objective measures across a normalized population, that $75k number is what results.
I missed something. What is this "commonly accepted" $75K/yr? Commonly accepted as what?
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Old 07-11-2013, 03:44 PM   #49
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That's not the words I used:
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A recent study established a link between financial resources and happiness ("emotional well being"), specifically noting that there was a certain amount of money beyond which happiness itself isn't improved. The dollar amount was a household income of $75K.
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Old 07-11-2013, 04:00 PM   #50
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That's not the words I used:
I know, but NW did, to whom you were responding. I just quoted you as an easy reference to the conversation. Didn't mean to offend.

Psychologists have studied this for decades. Beyond a modest income, there's little correlation between income and happiness. That's been replicated over and over again. I wouldn't put too much stock in a particular figure from a particular study -- although $75K per household doesn't sound too far off. Also, it's good to remember it's an asymptomptotic relationship, so there is a much bigger difference between 10K and 30K than between 50K and 70K -- diminishing returns as you get closer to 75K.
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Old 07-11-2013, 04:13 PM   #51
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My point was that by choosing a suitable lifestyle, it appears that some can achieve happiness with much less than the commonly accepted $75K/yr.
Agree! These figures are averages, and we all know that averages by definition gloss over lots of individual variability. Personally, I love stories of people making happy lives for themselves on the cheap. I think so much of this has to do with individual philosophy and beliefs. It's not like a biological requirement, the RDA of vitamin C or something. It has everything to do with individual values, beliefs, yada yada.
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Old 07-11-2013, 04:29 PM   #52
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A recent study established a link between financial resources and happiness ("emotional well being"), specifically noting that there was a certain amount of money beyond which happiness itself isn't improved. The dollar amount was a household income of $75K.
Yet, that $75K is a median number, meaning some might answer a low number like $30K, while a fewer percentage of population would say as high as $200K+. I am willing to bet the former group would include a lot of young people just starting out, and many people who are currently unemployed. And the latter would certainly include most doctors, businessmen, etc...

And then, if we are to conduct the same survey elsewhere in the world, will we be surprised to find that the median happiness number varies in proportion to the countries' median income?

The point is that we are all influenced by 1) our peers, whether we admit to it or not, and 2) our own current condition.

About the peer pressure, I just have a theory about my group of happy $20-$30K low-budget RV'ers. They may be so because they see the poorer RV'ers struggling on meager SS!

In my case, among the people I hang around like my former work friends and my relatives, I did not do too bad. Some maintain a higher standard of living than my own, but gosh, they are still working their butt off, while I goofed around for months on RV treks, before coming back to my stick homes, which are just a bit smaller than theirs.

I will describe a bit more about 2), the influence of own current condition.

Many of us who ER'ed claimed that we pulled the plug when we had enough. But how did we determine that level? What's your number? If your career is a highly-paid one, you will want a few millions, perhaps even 10 cool ones, to feel safe. Most people would be quite happy with a barely 7-figure portfolio though, and that is a function of what they have been able to save up to that point.

If our job were easy-money, we tended to want to do "one more year" to get more. But if the work condition got stressful, we would console ourselves that we did indeed have enough, and it was time to let go.

So, my conclusion is that in order to maintain our happiness and keep our desire in check, we want to look down, not up. For the decamillionaires, that means learning not to envy the billionaires' yachts.

As for me, I like to research my favorite low-budget RV'ers, because it is so easy to put myself in their shoes. After six months of getting lost in the woods, when I could not hack it anymore, I would go home and declared the experiment a success. Hey, even Thoreau only stayed at Walden Pond for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days.

The idea of looking down is not for schadenfreude. That's just too mean. It is so that we feel lucky that we have it better than some even poorer chaps, instead of looking up and envying people who have more.

But I think we are getting too far from the idea in the article quoted in the OP. The idea is not about dropping out when one reaches a certain level. It's about not killing oneself in one's work, about not being too much of a type A, and not sacrificing family life, etc...

Nothing's wrong with that, but hey, that's just another platitude to us laid-back early retirees. What else did we drop out early for?
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:03 PM   #53
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Evidently it's not obvious to most of our citizens, 76% who reportedly live paycheck to paycheck. 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck - Jun. 24, 2013
Does that article make any sense? Maybe I'm misreading?


76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck - Jun. 24, 2013

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Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.

Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.
Are they saying that anyone with less than 6 months expenses in a savings account is 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'? According to that definition, I am 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'!

Turning this around, ~ 25% of those surveyed have 6 months or more in a savings account. Where are the people with 3 to 6 months savings? OK, so the 27% with no savings are a subset of the 50% with 3 months or less, so I guess that leaves ~ 25% with 3-6 months in a savings account.

I'm not sure that 3 months in a savings account equates to 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'. If not, then 75% are NOT 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'. And I wonder who they surveyed? Maybe 1,000 households that applied for loans? Without methodology, it's hard to say anything at all except "This is a headline".

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Old 07-12-2013, 04:04 AM   #54
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Psychologists have studied this for decades. Beyond a modest income, there's little correlation between income and happiness.
What's a "modest" income? (I think that's really what the study is talking about.)

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The point is that we are all influenced by 1) our peers, whether we admit to it or not, and 2) our own current condition.
I think those factors cause perturbations around the median, but the median itself is affected mostly by the cost of living.
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Old 07-12-2013, 10:16 AM   #55
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Are they saying that anyone with less than 6 months expenses in a savings account is 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'? According to that definition, I am 'living paycheck-to-paycheck'!
I am now adopting this standard to describe myself when people I know start sniffing for loans!
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Old 07-12-2013, 11:35 AM   #56
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What's a "modest" income? (I think that's really what the study is talking about.)

I think those factors cause perturbations around the median, but the median itself is affected mostly by the cost of living.
... and the standard of living, which varies over the world.

Residents of a 3rd world country would not dream of owning an average American home of 2,400 sq.ft., air conditioned, with a 2-car garage, and 3 cars parked outside of said garage because the latter is choked full of "stuff".

I maintain that what people here define as basic necessities are way beyond that. The standard is set by the average Joe/Jane around us, and if we have less than they do, we feel unhappiness.
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Old 07-12-2013, 12:11 PM   #57
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Well, there's the "80% Rule".

Example: If it costs you "100" to get 100%X, you can likely get "80" for 50%X. It's not linear and that last 20% is a killer.

A lot of people have jobs that demand "100" in effort but folks around them get 80% of the lifestyle/pay/benefits/house/car/'stuff' for 50% of the effort.

We used to call it "the big lie" when promoting someone. "You get to now work twice as hard/much and get a 20% raise in pay"
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Old 07-12-2013, 02:23 PM   #58
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What's a "modest" income? (I think that's really what the study is talking about.)
Depends on the study. In general, once you're out of poverty and into the middle class, you've got most of the bang for your buck. Best I can remember, there were figures of around 50K for individual income, in the studies I've seen (might need some adjusting for inflation). Beyond that, more money didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference.

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Well, there's the "80% Rule".
Good point.
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Old 07-13-2013, 04:00 AM   #59
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Beyond that, more money didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference.
Isn't the most recent study about that cited earlier in the thread? I'm not sure why the $75K number is so offensive to some folks in this thread, but regardless, if there are other recent studies, showing a lower number, then they'd be published as well. It is important to recognize that America's standard of living shapes this number, but also important to recognize that expecting others to overcome American cultural conditioning in that regard, on their own, is unreasonable. National culture is something we share, and is something we craft together.
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Old 07-13-2013, 08:04 AM   #60
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Isn't the most recent study about that cited earlier in the thread? I'm not sure why the $75K number is so offensive to some folks in this thread [....]
You cited it, so why ask whether it was cited?

I'm not sure whether your "offended" comment is directed at me, but if so, let me clarify -- I'm not offended by it at all. It lines up with decades of research and doesn't surprise me at all, much less offend me. Just adding my two cents about previous research and the limitations of applying averages to any particular case.
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