Everyone would agree this title makes sense, but national statistics show another story. One of the main reasons I started this website was to show people that investing for the long term is incredibly simple, but it goes far deeper than that. Many things in our lives are made more complicated than they need to be as we are continually led down paths by popular culture that can be unproductive, stressful, and unhealthy.
The truth is we have been programmed in a multitude of ways, starting with our parents, family, friends, advertising media, and far too many others to mention. Every thought we have is based on something that we have either heard, read or seen. The problem is we have heard, read and seen so few things. For every idea that we think is correct, there are an infinite number of ways to approach the same idea that we are not aware of. Trying to step back from how we approach our life and literally throw all the garbage out of our mind is difficult. But I believe to be content with your life, this is the first step. We must examine what pleases us in life and not base it on what others think or tell us. Because after all, they all just another person’s opinions.
Studies show that experiences matter more than purchasing things. Do we buy something because we enjoy the item, or do we purchase an item because we believe someone will be impressed by it? I would be surprised if any of us could honestly say that we have never bought something without thinking of how it might impress others. On the other hand, experiences can be much the same. Think about all the social media pics of vacations, trips, restaurants, tours, etc. that people post. Would we choose those experiences/ make those purchases if no one ever knew what we did or saw it?
When one asks a person how they are doing, the number one answer seems to be about how busy they are, whether it be with work, children, social activities, etc. Does this bring happiness or is it worn as a badge of honor for others? We live more comfortably from a material standpoint than any time in history, yet happiness has decreased since the 1950s. Why? Is this adding to the large numbers of people in our country who are overweight, unhealthy, stressed, unhappy with their occupation, and financially broke?
The title suggests your health and relationships are the most important thing in our life and I agree. The number one thing in life should be your health. According to the Harvard Study on Aging, researchers concluded that we have a 30% chance of dying from something unforeseen and we control the other 70%. They found that the reason most people died prematurely was due to self-inflicted behaviors-drugs (primarily alcohol), smoking, and diet (obesity). We control a large part of our destiny and what we do every day not only affects us but those around us as well.
By keeping your health in order, you will have far more energy to put into your relationships. As much as I enjoy investing and personal finance, I can’t imagine not sharing my life with my wife, children, family and friends. Choosing a spouse or partner will be the most important decision one can make in their life. Richard Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle, says you have a duty to be happy for your spouse and I agree. Contentment with life increases dramatically when you are fit, healthy and love the people around you and your level of contentment directly affects all those around you.
After health and relationships, the next step is to work at becoming financially independent. Financial independence protects you from unforeseen emergencies, lousy job situations, and allows you to help family and friends, along with gaining personal freedom to spend time as you wish. More importantly, how can you be of service to those around you if you are unhealthy, miserable, and broke?
So, why is it that these three simple things seem to be placed on the back burner when we know how they will improve our life dramatically? Our culture has told us otherwise in trying to sell us “happiness”. It doesn’t have to be this way. We all have a choice not to be manipulated by what others deem to be important, but it requires us to think critically and throw out the garbage that we are programmed with daily. Are you ready to stop comparing yourself and pursue what you enjoy regardless of what others may think? It requires us to stop buying into society’s conventions and rethinking every aspect and decision we make in our life.
Why do we do the things we do? One effective way to assess where you are is to literally write down how you spend your time for a set period, say four weeks. The more detailed that you track your time, the easier it will be to evaluate. Then thoroughly evaluate how important these things are and weigh them against your health, relationships, and financial situation. If your daily schedule doesn’t give you value and contentment, start adjusting. Cut out the non-essentials in your life. The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) shows that 80% of our actions are unnecessary, or that 20% of your actions make up 80% of your productivity or contentment with life.
Life can be complicated but too many times it is self-inflicted. Reevaluate everything you do. Simple living is not a gimmick- it can lead to a contented life.