Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Four Illusions of Money

On Valentine's Day Jeremy and I treated ourselves to a complete day off - and a day of indulgence. We went out for lunch and dinner and dessert! (Of course, we always share a small plate so it didn't cost all that much.) We went to the zoo and we went to one of our local bookstores, just to browse for an hour or so.

Just as we were about to leave, I picked up a book that looked mildly interesting, Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City, by Christopher and Dolores Lynn Nyerges. I skimmed through it and in moments knew we had to buy it.

From the introduction:
Simply put, we have chosen to live lightly on the earth right here in the city, and to do so in a way that represents solutions to the problems that today confront everyone.

They live in the Los Angeles area on a fifth of an acre, grow lots of their own food, save water, recycle like crazy, use alternative energy sources, and so forth. We don't agree with everything they do (for one thing they have livestock animals but not for food, which Jeremy thinks is pointless) but they have some pretty incredible things to say.

They have a whole chapter about water and water conservation. We already have rain barrels and three rain gardens, but I feel encouraged to go further than this. I'm hoping sometime this year to work a little grey water recycling into our lives (stay tuned).

Then I got to the section on economics and their list of the four illusions of money:
1. A lot of money will let me be free to do what I want
2. People with a lot of money command more respect from others
3. I need more money for my family
4. Money is necessary for security in old age
Money has been a very difficult thing for us lately. How do we make more? How do we survive when there aren't any jobs? How do we pay for health care? How do we visit my family when it takes money to fly out west? How do we keep working on the house and our dream for it with no income?

Honestly, I spend an insane amount of time dreaming about all the things I'll do when I win the lottery - insane when one considers that I don't play the lottery!

But really I don't want to be obsessed with money. I certainly don't want my sense of safety to come from money. And then I read their statement about the fourth illusion:
Money is necessary in many ways, of course, but personal security, inner and outer, cannot be purchased.
The real security most needed by the elderly can be enhanced by money but can never be built solely upon money. Inner security arises with the development of deep friendships and with learning to be flexible and adaptable, for example, neither of which depend on money. In fact, one of the best ways to "prepare for old age" is to become the type of person, inwardly and outwardly, that others will want to be around and work with. This means being competent, helpful, flexible, honest, moral, curious, always willing to learn and share, generous, and so on - none of which are intrinsic virtues of the wealthy. Developing one's character is clearly one of the best ways to prepare for the calamities that might strike any of us at any age, even wars, depressions, and social chaos as well as a whole range of personal difficulties.

So that was a great reminder to us. We're not making any money, not saving for retirement, and we're not going to have kids to take care of us in our old age. But hopefully we'll keep developing our incredible community and we'll still be taken care of, one way or another, when we're a couple of oldies.

And in the present, we know how to live simply, how to grow a garden, and how to barter for things. For the rest, we just have to be patient.

We're still digging into this book, so you may hear more in the future.


Arika said...

Thanks for the resource- I will definitely be checking that book out- it sounds awesome! :)

Arika said...

Also, wanted to say thanks for commenting on my blog and sharing those resources! I think we do have similar situations/interests! I'm going to delve into your blog some more and I'd love to chat with you about where you are in the "urban homestead process' :) You're a great inspiration!

Adrian said...

It's easy to fall into the "money-buys-happiness" mentality. I fall into it myself. I also believe that the more money one makes, the more one "needs". This sounds like an interesting read. Thank you for sharing it.

Aimee said...

I agree Adrian. The weird thing about money is that feeling that there is never enough. If I can just get x amount of money then I'll have what I need, etc. But when you get x amount, you can see beyond that level and convince yourself there are more things you need, so you need to get x +1 level! Why is it so hard to be content with what we have??