The Canadian money-management columnist and TV host Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a straight-shooting woman who brooks no nonsense from financial reprobates who even consider spending an unnecessary nickel now that she's on their case. I've seen her take delusional couples to task on her TV show "Til Debt Do Us Part": "No, $70 for Friday night dinner out is not on. Pay down your mortgage."
I was struck by a quote from a recent interview with her in the Globe and Mail ("Accidental Guru" by Sarah Hampson, January 11, 2010). Vaz-Oxlade was, until recently, "very security oriented."
But then she witnessed the death of a close friend, which changed her. She said:
"You have to not only take care of the issues so that you have the money, but you also have to have a great life... If we can't learn to appreciate the life that we have and enjoy the small joys then we'll continue to sacrifice what we do have for what we think we need."
I put down my cup of French roast (one of the small joys) to reflect. Every day, I read sales pitches oriented to 50+ people that imply, not very subtly, "Get it while you can", or "You've worked hard, you deserve this, so buy it."
I, too have fallen for this seductive message. I like to say I want to see more of the world before some tour company has to drag me there. But at the same time, I have a nagging feeling of being led to something I don't wholly want.
If my Bucket List is all consumables, what is the point, because things will not make me happy, and bigger things won't make me bigger happy.
A strand of South Sea pearls would impart a contented glow– but not above that caused by good health, cherished relationships and simply being here. Or being here, simply.
After years of elder care, I've noticed that money (for most of us) and time are limited, but money won't buy you a lot more time.
Small joys need only slowing down to savour. Big ticket joys–whatever big ticket means to each of us–require judgment disabused of hype and fake promises.
Does the purchase represent my priorities or the vendor's image? Will it place me smack in front of discovery, wonder, beauty, peace or adventure? Will it connect to what I deeply value, or is it another example of what C.S. Lewis called "The American Dream: Work. Buy. Display. Repeat."?
Thank you, Gail! I'm placing your words at eye level at my desk.