I laughed and tried to explain that even if I were very wealthy, I would still live frugally. In fact, many of the wealth management books that I've read -- including the The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy (1996, ISBN 0-671-01520-6) by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko-- are filled with examples of very frugal millionaires. Here's a snippet from The Millionaire Next Door.
Here are the reasons why I'd still be frugal even if were a millionaire:1. My children. Quite frankly, I don't want my kids to be brats. If we spent, spent spent, I'd worry about the message that I would be sending to my children. I also worry about affluenza--a financial illness that strikes spoiled kids from affluent homes. As a banking reporter, I once interviewed a very wealthy man who sold his bank for about $300 million in cash. He spoke about the issue of affluenza in harsh tones.
This is the advice he gave me. He told me that it is important to raise your kids with good thrifty values. "You can spend money to fix everything: their teeth, nose, skin. But you can't fix their personalities if they're brats." I really took that advice to heart.
What's more, I've noticed that some of my very, very high-net worth friends are very serious about making sure their kids work for a living. They find part-time jobs, internships and other money-earning enterprises for their kids or they encourage their kids to find those opportunities on their own. It's not about the money; it's about character.
2. My Children: I want to leave them with the means to live comfortably after I've gone to the next world. But if I spend it all now, I won't have anything to leave them later.
I've heard horror stories about families who have lived a luxurious life, but have been reduced to low-income status after a main wage earner suddenly died. Why? The family was living above its means and the lofty lifestyle was really only a fat paycheck-to-fat paycheck existence.
Also, if I were very wealthy, I'd live frugally in order to have enough money to share with my extended family and to pay them back for all of the years of hard work and support.
3. My own sanity. I've gone on marathon shopping sprees that have filled my arms with packages, but have depleted my heart and bank account. The worst shopping trip: In Manhattan during my late 20s, I once went went to every Ann Taylor store on the island (from the Upper West Side to the Lower Manhattan). I was searching for one shirt that was on sale for $20. I found the shirt and purchased one in every color.
Obviously, something was really missing from my life. But definitely, that missing piece of my heart was not in my shopping bag. And clearly, I was clueless. Frugal living, in contrast, keeps me more honest about what's really going on in my life.
4. Environment: When I live very frugally, I conserve energy, money and other resources. I just pay more attention to the world around me.
5. Good Karma: Now this logic may not apply to everyone: but in my heart of hearts, I think that if I save and spend money wisely, I'll have more funds to donate to charities, cultural organizations and to the homeless. And that cycle of giving will enhance the quality of my life.
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