Written by Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar is a popular personal finance blog that chronicle's one man's road back from overwhelming debt to financial security. Hamm declared the contents of the blog to be in the Public Domain in 2008 and available for sharing when attributed properly. We will share a couple of posts a week.
A few days ago, I watched a documentary on the football player Vince Young. I live in the territory of the Big XII football conference, so I still remember several years ago when Vince Young played football for the University of Texas and absolutely terrorized our conference. He seemed like a sure-fire star in the NFL and the Tennessee Titans agree, signing him to an enormous contract worth $26 million dollars guaranteed.
For those of you who didn’t follow Young’s story, he ran into a number of personal issues and he didn’t quite turn into the NFL star many (including myself) thought he would be.
Recently, it was revealed that Vince Young is broke. His $26 million in guaranteed money disappeared.
Whenever I hear a story like that, I can’t help but ask myself how that kind of thing can happen? How can someone blow through $26 million (at the very minimum) in seven years?
We could make a list of things. Expensive cars. An entourage. A very expensive house. Expensive clothing. Lots of travel. Personal trainers. The list goes on and on.
The thing is, all of those expenses add up to one central thing. They’re all trying to fix a problem that money can’t fix. They’re trying to bring fulfillment, but money and things and bought-and-paid-for friendships can never bring fulfillment.
One of the biggest keys to financial success is to wake up in the morning, look around your life, and feel as though you have enough. If you’re always feeling like there’s something else you need to have to be fulfilled, you never feel like you have enough and there’s always an internal push to spend more and more and more.
The thing is, “enough” doesn’t come from the money you’ve spent or the possessions you own. Once you’re past the minimum amount of money needed to keep food on the table, clothes on the body, and a roof over the head, you don’t really need anything else. The additional money you spend serves to improve personal convenience or to entertain yourself or to add extra luxury.
“Enough” simply means that you’re happy with your life without any of that extra stuff.
Some people easily find “enough.” They’re happy earning minimum wage. Some people never find “enough.” They blow through millions without blinking.
For me, a big part of finding the financial independence I now have was to effectively lower my definition of “enough.” There was a time where I never felt like I had enough. I always felt like there was something else to have.
What I discovered is that my sense of not having enough came from trying to fill a round hole inside myself with a square peg. There were other things that were missing from my life.
I was dissatisfied with my career. I didn’t feel as though I had made people proud and, if I had, I felt as though I had to put up a false front to sustain it. I didn’t feel personally engaged with the projects in my life. I didn’t know where my life was headed. I had broken relationships with some people in my life that I didn’t want to have a broken relationship with.
My life felt empty in many respects, and I tried to fill it with possessions and spending.
Eventually, I came to realize that no amount of spending would fill those holes. I would never have “enough” with the life I had then.
So, over the last several years, I’ve worked to fix those holes. I figured out a more satisfying career path. I came to terms with what others thought about me. I worked to mend some broken relationships. I dug into projects that brought me personal fulfillment (and some brought me financial gain as well).
Now, when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I have “enough.” I just don’t feel compelled to buy much of anything. Sure, I’ll pick up an interesting book once in a while and I have some hobby spending, but I don’t feel any drive or compelling need to do so and we certainly spendfar less than we earn at this point.
If you want to make a powerful first step toward getting your spending under control, start by working on the holes in your life. So often, we spend to fill those holes, but they often can’t be filled by spending money. They have to be filled by other changes in our lives.