Last week, the bottom line of this column was that money really can't buy happiness.
Based on readers' responses, it appears that many agree. And even if some don't, they think we'll all be getting a dose of forced frugality soon.
Last week's column included comments from a financial adviser about a reader named Mike. Mike wrote to me a few months ago as he pondered why he had to live so frugally, despite a good salary, while neighbors with similar salaries seemed to be spending freely.
The adviser guessed that many of those neighbors were financing their luxurious lifestyles with credit or by sacrificing future savings. And even if they aren't, he said, Mike and others like him including me need to get our heads around the concept that having the best stuff won't make us happy in the long run.
One person who read the column online posted a comment in response about how hard it is to keep things simple and frugal, especially when your children are begging for games and gadgets.
"The temptation is to reason that we must have toys and nice things that money can buy so we can keep our kids around with their friends," this reader wrote. "If we don't have fun and nice things, where will our kids go? Especially as they broaden their horizons as teenagers. It's tempting to think kids won't stay at home or want to bring their friends around for you to meet and get to know.
"So I guess my question is, can we keep our kids close to us as a family if we don't have the boat, latest gadgets, nicest and biggest home? If so, then what are the things that do draw kids back to family and home?"
Personally, I think there are ways to make a home inviting to your children and their friends without spending a lot of money. But I'd be interested to know what other readers think of this question. Please send me your feedback.
Another online reader's comment focused on the different ways people think about money.
"I am a saver, and before I got married I thought the most part of the people were like me and shared my way of thinking," he wrote. "Well, now I can see that it just isn't the way it is. My wife, who I love very much, likes to spend money in a way I have never seen. It makes her happy when she spends money. She can't budget money, and credit cards are completely out of the question. She even feels bad after she spends the money, as if it was out of her control."
This reader wrote that his wife's habits were "driving him nuts" until he remembered that both of them had strengths and weaknesses.
"Because I had a strength of money management ...I should feel some obligation to figure out a way that both our needs financially could be met," he wrote. "Well, it took a lot of time and a lot of patience, but after many attempts working together, we have just started to work a system that works for both of us. It's not perfect, and we still work on it, but things are doing better."
Sounds like you've found a way to deal with this issue through cooperation as a couple. Well done!
Another online reader sounded a warning as he commented on last week's column.
"The economic problems our country is experiencing right now will teach all of us to not base our success so much on 'stuff,"' this reader wrote. "I just returned from a visit to a family member out of state who is forced into some drastic measures downsizing in every way because of the economic downturn."
"Economic challenges can happen to all of us," the reader continued. "We want the good times, but we have to learn to weather the hard times. We are not 'entitled' to stuff just because advertisers say so. Sometimes the challenges come because of mismanagement, sometimes health problems or family tragedies, but they do come!
"This generation, like others before, will learn to make do or do without. It will hurt, but we will have to do it. We can simplify. Our personal value lies in our integrity, not in what we have bought."
I strongly concur with that last statement. Do you?To let me know what you think of this issue, or to submit a different financial question, contact me at [email protected] or at the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.
E-mail: [email protected]