I know I have mentioned this before, but I really want to dig a little deeper with specific examples. We the people, in our pursuit of happiness, have placed far too much value on our ownership of things. So much so in fact, that we have made the content of our pool of stuff (the things that we own), the very “merit points” by which we rate our “happiness.” Of course this is measured against a scale created by the authority figures in our lives. Is this not contrary to the whole idea of happiness; isn’t happiness determined internally? Measuring happiness by comparing ones pool of stuff to a pre-established scale is no different than saying: “I’m happy when my parents, the media, and the established social structure tell me that I’m happy.”
There are two specific items of ownership that I particularly find fascinating which people obsess about owning. I would like to discuss in a bit of detail, Real Estate and Automobile ownership.
Property (RE) ownership is something that I can understand. Real estate is usually a very lucrative investment. But is the time and money put into the investment worth all the money that will be gained out of the investment? I don’t always think so. If one only had to put money put into it alone? sure. Money in, for more money out is just a common sense good investment. But money holds very little value compared to time. Most real estate investments demand a great deal of time to maintain. Let’s consider all these time eaters shall we:
- Routine Maintenance
- Mow the lawn.
- Rake the leaves.
- Shovel the snow.
- Upkeep maintenance.
- re-shingle the roof.
- pave the driveway.
- Incidentals: replace the furnace, plumbing, electrical, water, air conditioning, central heat, etc.
- Potentially some home improvements.
(These are just some of the time eaters associated with owning a property that I can think of off the top of my head. A complete list would be too long for you to want to read here)
Over the course of the time that one owns a piece of real estate, the amount of time spent just to have it is enormous. Now if doing all this maintenance is something one is passionate about (they enjoy it), then God bless them. Personally, if I were to spend any extended amount of time doing this maintenance the first thing that would come to my mind is: “Wow, this time would be more productively spent with my family.” or “Wow, this is in no way improving my character. It’s a waste.”
Every minute we spend maintaining our stuff is time we spend away from our passions, away from our relationships. So this maintenance better be worth it. It better be worth it in the survival sense, not in the “I’m gonna be wealthy in the distant yet un-promised future” sense. There is no better investment than an investment in our relationships, and our passions. And do you know what, the return on those investments is usually more immediate and constant.
Everybody needs transportation. One way or the other we need to get to work, the grocery store, the mall, moms house, a friend’s house, and back home. The easiest way to acquire this necessity in modern times in a typical suburban town is by automobile. An automobile is a means to get from point “A” to point “B” in a expeditious manner. It’s a service. There are a few ways one can take advantage of this service. These include: Taking mass transit (the bus), taxi, or acquiring a vehicle to keep in their possession.
More often times than not, possessing a vehicle is the more convenient way to go. For the longest time the only option for possessing a vehicle was to buy one; to own one. When that happens, buying a service turns into buying an investment. But … a ….. negative return investment. A negative return investment that degrades over a very short period of time. But we still purchased vehicles because the convenience of possessing one still made it worth the worthless financial investment. Mainly because there was no other option.
AH EUREKA. Now there IS another option ….. leasing a vehicle. Now instead of owning a vehicle, one can just possess a vehicle for a monthly service charge (significantly less than a loan payment). Hey, transportation is a service again, not an expensive negative return investment! But wait, there’s more. After a small duration contract expires (2 years maybe) , we can swap the existing vehicle for a new one. So we get to avoid the vehicle deterioration problem too.
My point is: Why are so many people still buying vehicles when the option to lease exists? The answer: People are still so hung up on ownership to define them as wealthy and happy that they are willing to spend more money, and suffer the deterioration of their owned item. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the fact that a vehicle is a means, a service, not a status symbol, not a benchmark of happiness. Those people who use things to benchmark their happiness, will never actually find it. I promise that.
The only exception to this I can see is of course if automobiles happen to be ones passion. They race and/or spend a lot of time under the hood and underneath it. Constantly making mods and changes to it. Then it’s worth owning one. But for the rest of us, we are only really using a car for its service.