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Buy experiences

Johnson's Rule of Savings: The person in the nursing home with the best stories, not the most money, wins.

When we participants in a recent workshopwere asked to place ourselves into groups that represented how we felt about money, I was a bit torn. Our choices were Saver, Spender, Avoider, and Monk. The first two categories are self-explanatory and the Avoider perhaps should be called the Procrastinator. But the Monk, as I understood it, believes thinking about money is somewhat irrelevant. I was the only person in that group.

I don't much like thinking about money. It's boring. I can't tell you how much my networth is or my annual salary (very accurately anyway). Long ago I set it up so I automatically max out my 403B contributions and I don't see what goes into my state retirement fund. I make my mortgage and no-interest car loan payments every month. I always pay the balance of my credit card. I like money for what it will buy, not as a means of keeping score or rating one' success in life. I just want enough money to buy everything I want - and pray my needs and wants remain fairly humble. When I croak, my plan is to neither be a burden nor a jackpot to my family.

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Research (and personal experience) shows that spending on experiences rather than things makes a person happier. I spend money on travel, on books, on technology toys - and on my grandchildren. Increasingly, I try to find ways to purchase experiences (or future experiences) for them as well: vacations, summer camps, swimming pool memberships, college costs, theater performances, etc. As precocious 11-year-old grandson Paul wrote recently: "Thanks for the toys, books, and food, but especially for the quality family time." He gets it.

A question that has been at the back of my mind is "When we buy computers are we buying things or are we buying experiences?" While they are virtual experiences to be sure, the ability to create, to inhabit a virtual world, and to communicate all are more about having an experience than having a device. Pretty good rationalization, huh?

But I'll make dang sure the virtual experiences don't ever replace the physcial ones.


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Reader Comments (3)

Well said - and may we both win the lottery so we can buy all of the experiences we can!

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Not sure our "dang sure" will resonate after we're dead--my hope is that we remind our children and our grandchildren what matters.

Which reminds me--I need to buy a clam rake for my nephew. Had he never been on a tidal flat, he'd never know he wanted one.

I like your idea of buying "experiences," but packaging life's moments into experiences is like meta-hubris. I mean that kindly, I do the same thing.

Not sure you need these rambling words, but I maybe here's the part that matters--that Paul gets it at 11 yo means the rest of us can depart a little easier. So long as a few children get it. we're going to be OK.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Doyle

Hi Kenn,

Maybe I could handle winning the lottery at my current age, but I honestly think doing so would have ruined my life if I had done so when young. I'd probably be dead of a drug overdose or disease and certainly not have known the pleasure that solving problems at work could bring. I cannot envision not having lived a life of work and challenge.

Of course I wouldn't turn the money down today. I suppose it would help my odds if I actually BOUGHT a lottery ticket, huh?

Thanks for the comment,


Thanks, Michael, for the thoughts. And yes, I need and appreciate them. As you could probably tell, posts like this are more about thinking aloud than coming to conclusions.

I suspect my "packaging" experiences into vacations etc. with the grandsons is partially a result of being a 7+ hour drive away from them and trying to cram as much living into the time we have together as possible. Given the choice, I would live next door to them and spoil them just a little bit each day.

Go buy your clam rake and have a feast!

Thanks for the comment,


April 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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