As it turns out, living like the typical rich person isn’t that great. At least it wasn’t for me.
A few weeks back I was on a business trip with a couple executive management big shots and a vendor. Who was trying to sell us a product. That costs three million dollars. When you combine a salesman who’s trying to make a deal with corporate higher-ups who are accustomed to a certain lifestyle, you can bet that some serious “buttering up” money is going to be spent. On the absolute dumbest shit. And Markie was just along for the ride (and to pass judgements which he’d later write about in his blog 🙂 ).
Here are the highlights of the aforementioned dumb shit – we stayed in a five star hotel that went for $400/night. We essentially spent $400 for a bed to sleep in – because that’s all a hotel room really is on a business trip. Each of us may have been awake in our rooms for a total of five hours the entire week we stayed in this palace.
Of course we went to high-end restaurants for all of meals. And we essentially ordered everything on the menu. If someone thought something sounded mildly appealing, it was ordered.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention – we hired a driver to take us wherever we needed to go. And get this. We paid the dude to sit in the parking lot while we ate. I’m not sure if I should feel sorry for or be jealous of the driver.
So in this spree of ridiculous spending, the expense that was most laughable to me was a coffee purchase. This was actually a duo-occurrence, one more nonsensical than the other. Here’s how shit went down the first time.
To end one of our absurdly elaborate lunches (it was really important that we have a seafood-spread at noon), we ordered desert and coffee. Some of us drank a full cup of the delicious restaurant-quality coffee, others took a few sips, and there was one individual who didn’t touch his. We paid the bill, rang for our errand boy, and took off. Well, we were actually in the SUV for too short of a time to do any kind of taking off, as the mother fucker who didn’t touch his coffee at the restaurant saw a Starbucks and requested we stop… for a fucking coffee. I damn neared pissed myself. I mean, I’ve heard about these wackos who only drink coffee from Starbucks in the movies, but I thought they were fictional – like E.T. or Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. But here I was sitting next to one of the clowns who’s too good for non-Starbucks coffee. I was too busy crying to notice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the lunatic put creamer in his drink. May god bless his soul.
The second coffee fiasco is very similar. Each morning we ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant. They offered a wonderful spread with every brunch item imaginable. Which of course includes coffee. Not to be outdone by his Starbucks-loving friend, another one of my colleagues declines coffee when it’s offered to him at the hotel, but goes out of his way at the airport to find a coffee shop. A whopping twenty minutes have passed since we left breakfast. What gives? Are these nut-jobs trying to prove a point? Trying to outdo each other? Or are they just oblivious?
Your goals and your expenses – are they in line?
As much fun as I’m having mocking these corporate bigwigs, that isn’t my primary reason for writing this post. I’m sharing this with you because while I only was able to partake in that lifestyle for a few short days, throwing money around like a typical wealthy American (hell, Americans who aren’t wealthy spend money very similarly) left me totally unsatisfied. Which is why when the time comes to walk away from what I imagine will be a fairly high paying job and into an early retirement, it’ll be an easy* decision for me.
So many of my peers are striving to be like the corporate execs that I was traveling with. They (my peers) see the important sounding titles, see all the fancy toys that their money brought them, and label them as successful. I’m not saying that they aren’t successful – I honestly don’t know enough about them to make a determination like that. What I do know is that labeling someone as successful just because they spend a lot of money is silly.
The typical American worker puts in her asinine 90,000 hours of employment, makes piles and piles of money, and exchanges most of that money for unnecessary things. In short, it’s become the norm in this country to trade time for luxuries. Those luxuries are the goal for so many people. They’re probably the goal for most people. And in my humble opinion, such a goal can be qualified as empty. The mindset that I have toward obligatory work is as follows: I’m going to work for an employer for the least amount of time required to maximize my freedom**. I’m predicting that amount of time to be roughly thirteen years.
And I get it; I could work for thirty additional years and make a lot more money. But what will I need more money for? The way I’ve calculated it, the money I make from thirteen years of employment, if invested properly, will be sufficient in covering everything I want and then some. I’m not a minimalist (how many times do I have to say it?!), it just turns out the things and experiences I want are a hell of a lot cheaper than what the average American wants.
Let’s take a look at the big ticket expenses we incurred on our luxurious week-long business trip. Outside of plane tickets (which we didn’t have the ability to shop around for or choose the destination), these are typically the large expenses on any trip, for leisure or business:
2. Food & drink
To me, there really wasn’t much value returned for the money that we spent in any of these three areas. Sure the hotel was beautiful, but it wasn’t particularly comfortable. I didn’t get a single good night of sleep for the entire week we were there – and providing a good night’s sleep is the primary function for any accommodation in my mind. If the trip was on my dime, I would scratch the hotel completely, and find an Airbnb or a hostel to stay in. These are cheaper in that the nightly rate is far less, and as a bonus, they provide access to a kitchen so I could prepare some of my own meals. Speaking of meals…
The restaurants we visited were also extremely nice, but I didn’t find any of the meals overly memorable. Instead of going to the most glamorous restaurant around, I would have opted for a spot recommended by a local. I would also make a point to grab street food a few times and definitely cook for myself using fresh, local ingredients.
And needless to say I would never hire a personal driver. Public transportation is cheaper, and a hell of a lot more fun. You stop feeling like a tourist when you commit to public transportation.
Where I find real value
The big takeaway from my week playing make-believe millionaire is the following: I find value in experiences and the people joining me in those experiences. I don’t care how bubbly the champagne is or how rich the caviar is, I’d much rather eat burgers and drink bud-heavy if the company is good and the experience is memorable (or not memorable depending on how much I partake 😀 ).
The beauty behind valuing experience and people over things and consumables – you don’t have to be a millionaire to take advantage of them. Listen, I can’t, nor can anyone else tell you what you find value in. Maybe you get real value out of staying in ritzy hotels or driving Range Rovers. If that’s the case, fine. Just know that you’ll have to work a hell of a lot longer to maintain your lifestyle than someone who is satisfied by B&B’s and bicycles. And I would encourage everybody to deliberately evaluate that very trade-off. Ask yourself, does driving nice cars and staying in stylish accommodations justify losing out on years of freedom? I’ll give you a hint – the answer starts with “F” and ends with “uck you for wasting my time with such a stupid question.”
*Easy in the sense that I won’t care about all the future income I’ll be walking away from.
**I’m going to work post-retirement. But it’ll only be on things I’m really passionate about. I’ve identified that I need a certain level of structure in my life to really appreciate and get the most out of my free-time.