I'm not the only one who has been thinking about the relationship between money and meaning lately. This is a guest post from CJ at WiseMoneyMatters.com, who is trying to live a rich life even as he works to pay down debt.
I love this quote from Dr. Edwin Louis Cole because it gives me a heart check. It helps me understand my motives for doing what I'm doing.
You see, my goals are to become completely debt-free. I'm getting closer and closer to that goal. Within the last few months, I downsized my house, doubled my income, and was able to pay off all of my debts except for the mortgage. So now all I have left is about $100,000 to pay off before I am completely debt-free.
In order to get to those goals, I'm working extra hard. I work a job that has a great schedule: ten hours a day, four days a week. While that's nice, it's 45 minutes away, so I get very little time with my wife those four days.
Then I use my three-day weekends to work on side jobs. I'm a D.J. and videographer for weddings. I also work on my blog, WiseMoneyMatters.com. I do everything possible to earn extra money to help pay down debt.
And, of course, I try to be as frugal as possible. My wife and I are on a strict budget. We each get $100 per month for play money (this includes new clothes, eating out, coffee, etc). Groceries are limited to $200 per month. Everything else goes towards bills or savings.
Be Careful What You Wish For
I'm on the right track toward getting out of debt and becoming rich. I'm doing all of the right things. But why? Why do I want to be debt-free? Why do I want lots of money? I know intellectually that money doesn't always bring happiness, yet we all strive for more of it, and sometimes at the expense of our own families.
I know too many guys who have built very successful businesses and made large amounts of money and had their family fall apart. I used to be envious of them and what they had. Now I just feel sorry for them.
They wanted riches so bad that it consumed them. They have nice houses and brand-new cars, yet are completely alone. Many celebrities find themselves in similar circumstances.
I hear stories all of the time on personal finance blogs and podcasts about how the drive to get out of debt causes significant conflicts in the home. One spouse goes crazy frugal while the other is a spendthrift. Money-related issues are the leading cause of divorce these days.
What's the Point?
Let's say I accomplish my goal of becoming completely debt-free. What then? What will I do with all of that extra money? I'll probably save for retirement. That's the next logical step, right? But it all just seems so superficial.
I'm spending my whole life working my butt off so I can be lazy the last 10-20 years of my life. Something about that just doesn't sit right with me.
I want for there to be more purpose in life than just a selfish dream of ultimate laziness. I want to make a difference in this world. I want my life to be meaningful.
My wife and I decided to give our money away. If we've been blessed this much, I feel it's important to bless others.
We have set aside 20% of our income just for giving to charity. My wife takes girls from our church youth group out to lunch. She just talks with them and helps them through those tough situations that come up for teenagers. We sponsor a girl in India via Compassion International. We give to Teen Challenge to help teenaged boys with drug addictions. We donate both our time and money because time is as valuable (or more so!) as money. I tutor some of the boys in math every Friday. And, finally, we give to our church and to our community.
We also set aside $100 per month for date nights as my family is of utmost importance to me. We take out my wife's 11-year-old brother every week. He comes from a broken home where his mother is addicted to drugs and brings new boyfriends home all the time. He needs a little stability.
I can tell you that I find so much more satisfaction seeing people's lives changed than I do watching my mortgage go down another $1,000. I find I am much wealthier than I can imagine, even if I might not be considered “rich”.
Now don't get me wrong: We are still saving and planning to pay off our mortgage early. Those things are very important to us. But without a purpose, they don't really matter.
Don't let the prospects of tomorrow come at the expense of today.
What's Your Purpose?
So I challenge you: What's your purpose?
If all of your dreams come true and you pay off debt and make millions of dollars, what's the point? Is it to satisfy your selfish desires? Or are you going to make a difference? Are you going to pursue those riches at the expense of your family? Or will you set boundaries in order to spend time with the kids, and to take your wife on dates?
Why do you want to be rich?
CJ's article reminds me of another guest post from last December, in which Jeremy M. asked, “What's your why?”