I recently went for a run with my friend FJ. We chatted as we ran, and had similar thoughts on various issues concerning this strange world in which we live. But there was one area where we differed - FJ said that he wanted to earn US$1 million a year while I said that my aim was simply to be happy and that I wanted to do that on a before tax income of US$60,000 a year.
Later that day, I was still thinking about this, and trying to figure out whether one of these aims seemed "more right" than the other.
I guess my start point was that if you're happy, then surely that's it - what's more to want than that? But, on the other hand, if happy is a relative term, to be happy is great, but to be really happy is surely better, and really really happy must be better still.
So if I made a million bucks a year, would I be more happy than living on US$60,000? Many people would say that's a no brainer - anyone would be more happy as a million dollars can give you loads of different things, a nicer car, better house, more holidays, etc. But I'm still not so sure.
In fact, I can look to my recent real life experience on this. Not that I earned US$1 million a year (really absolutely nowhere anything close to this...seriously!), although I did have a job that paid pretty well. But jobs that pay well mostly do so for a reason, and mine came with an increasing amount of grief and stress. In that case, the thing that brought the money was making me unhappy. It was one of the main reasons why I took a step back to look at my life - did I need the higher income that came with the stressful job, or would I be happier with a simpler life? From my blog, you may know that I chose the less money/simpler life and, although only three months into it, so far so good. In fact, I like the idea that having a reduced income means that happiness has to be found in some of the simpler things - it feels like it should be a purer source of happiness, if that makes any sense.
Having said that, I did spend many years following financial targets, but not really with the aim of becoming wealthy. My driver was to gain financial security to start with, and then to achieve financial freedom, so that my money generates enough income to pay for a decent standard of living and, within reason, is enought to let me do the things that I want to do. I'm hoping that I've just about reached that financial freedom level, although our spending in this first few months is making me wonder about that, but it's early days and hopefully it will work out.
Back to FJ's US$1 million a year as a goal. It seems fairly arbitrary to me, why not half a million or ten million or anything less, more, or in between? It would make sense if this magical US$1 million figure were developed from things that FJ wanted to achieve, for example, if he wanted to retire in 10 years time, loves sailing and wants to buy a boat, have a holiday home, pay for his child's education etc, and to achieve these things he has calculated that we will need an income of US$1 million. But I'm not sure this is how the figure has been arrived at.
So what's the answer, is my aim of being happy better than FJ's US$1 million a year? No doubt the answer is each to their own, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. For me this morning, I've written this blog, stared out of the window for inspiration (sorry if I didn't find it!), and enjoyed that I have time to think about these things - just reflecting on that has put a smile on my face...happy! I'm now about to go swimming (trying to teach myself to swim properly, now that's a mission!) and I'm trying to learn French (which is even worse than my swimming!) - despite it being difficult to find two things that I'm more useless at, I'm loving that I have changed my life so that I at least have the time and enthusiasm to try to do these things...happy again.