All the Money in the World

All the Money in the WorldLaura Vanderkam

What people do with their money is a choice, and these choices reflect our priorities. If we sport diamond rings but claim we don’t have money for date night, we are essentially saying that jewelry it worth more time to us than spending time with our spouse. If we say we don’t have time to hang out with our kids because we have to work to pay the mortgage, we are saying that the house is more important than our offspring.

What a refreshing, clever and counter-culture finance book!  Like Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, Vanderkam focuses on how we can bring more happiness into our lives. And unlike many other personal finance books, Vanderkam makes some strong assertions about spending money for pleasure. Most books on managing your finances suggest that if you cut all the little pleasures from life (lattés being a favorite sacrificial cow) you will save oodles of money and your life with be wonderful and secure, you will have a big house and a wonderful retirement playing golf.

But what, asks Vanderkam, if lattés make you happy? What if, like Rubin’s assertions in The Happiness Project, little things can affect much larger things.  If saving the few paltry dollars you spend on your morning joe makes you nasty and crabby all day, why bother?  It can affect your job, your morale and how people act and react around you. What if you lost your job over a few dollars of coffee because of attitude? What if you instead bought your latté and bagged the mortgage? What if you planned to work in some capacity into your eighties?  What if you enjoyed life now by spending a little cash and assumed that you wouldn’t have thirty years of  enforced leisure to save for? What if you don’t even like golf?!

Yes, we do need to have certain things.  Food, shelter, clothing, lattés… But who says you have to have a big house or a mortgage? Who says you have to buy food at a supermarket or that you have to have a huge wedding and enormous wedding rock?  These are all societal norms.  Paying for various things, versus say trading for or creating them ourselves,  does free up time for you to pursue other interests and skills.  But so many of these cultural “standards” haven’t been around for even a century. We can find alternatives – renting, sharing, borrowing, buying used, down-scaling and even *gasp* doing without.

Another shocking suggestion Vanderkam makes is, what if you got more money instead of slashing your budget to the bone?  Why cut and hoard?  Why not increase your wealth? Why not freelance, get a part-time job, ask for a raise and or get advnaced training? Who says you have to wait for a boss to give you a raise?  Go out and seek wealth.

You can’t buy freedom or time.  And yet, you kind of can. You just need to want less. A very zen, funny, practical and upbeat book.