Am I depriving my family of the best (materialistic) things in life? Of course, I am. Do I feel guilty about it? Not at all. Mrs. RB40 and I are both naturally frugal and we don’t feel deprived. For us, financial security is much more important than luxury purchases. We splurge once in a while, but most of the time we spend moderately and enjoy the middle-class lifestyle. We’re both fine with that. Life is already pretty good with occasional luxuries. We’re both wired that way. Yes, I won the spouse lottery! We have a loving marriage and we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary next year. Hey, why change if it’s working, right?
Earlier this week, there was a very interesting discussion at Financial Samurai – Common Blind Spots on The Road to Financial Independence. At the end of that post, Sam featured B’s comment about wanting the best for your family. Here it is.
No matter how disciplined you are, you always want the best for your children. It hurts to see other kids have more than yours and get to experience better things in life. This is much more so when you have $6,000,000+ in the bank. You know you can ‘afford’ to give your kid anything. You are choosing not to. It seems selfish at times even if you know in the long run it may be the right thing to do.
For men, this is also true for our wives. I know many on this site have frugal spouses and they don’t ‘want’ the finer things in life. Mine is certainly willing to live without. But, I don’t like seeing my wife do without, knowing I have millions in the bank. All within reason of course.
For the record, I disagree with much of this. Let’s talk about kids first and then we’ll discuss spouse later.
Kids need more than the best
I think B is wrong about kids. They shouldn’t get the best of everything. If you give your kid the best all the time, then they will miss out on the budget-priced experience. They need to see that life isn’t luxurious for everyone. B is robbing his child of “grit.” Everyone needs to go through some adversity while they’re young. Hardship will build up their grit reservoir. They will need it.
Unless I can guarantee that RB40Jr’s life will be paved with gold and honey, it’s selfish to soften him up like that. The rich family is always the first to die in a zombie apocalypse, right? I know that’s not real, but you need some grit to survive when the SHTF. No matter how rich you are, your kid will encounter many serious difficulties in life. I want RB40Jr to be tough and resourceful, not spoiled and entitled. He needs to know there are many ways to solve a problem and hopefully, he can be resilient as well. Money helps, but it can’t fix everything.
Let’s talk about some specific situations.
Travel with RB40Jr
We don’t have $6,000,000+ in the bank, but we’re pretty comfortable. I can splurge when we go on vacation because we only travel 3-4 weeks per year. That’s a short window to spend. Splurging on vacation wouldn’t impact our finances much. However, I want to experience the destination from various viewpoints. I want a glimpse of how the local people live too. That’s the point of traveling, isn’t it?
Last year, we visited Cancun and split our experience. For the first part of the trip, we stayed in El Centro, where the local people live and work. I booked a cheap (for Americans) hotel near Mercado 28. All the guests at Suites Gaby were travelers from other parts of Mexico. Everyone spoke Spanish and we didn’t see any foreigners at the hotel. This was good because it gave Mrs. RB40 a chance to practice her Spanish.
I had to ask for a room change because our room was next to the stairwell, windowless, and smelled like an old ashtray. We moved to a much nicer room the next day and the rest of the stay was nice. RB40Jr played with local kids at the playground and he had a great time. The mom-and-pop restaurants and food stands served great Mexican food, too. Lastly, it was very interesting to see how the locals celebrate Dias de los Muertos. You don’t get this kind of experience in the Zona Hotelera.
For the second half of our trip, we checked into the Hyatt Ziva, an all-inclusive resort. Now, this is a vacation! The beach was beautiful, drinks were bottomless, and we could eat in a variety of restaurants in the resort. Life was easy and we enjoyed it.
The second part of our Cancun trip was much more luxurious than the first. However, I enjoyed both sides. I liked experiencing the grittier side of Cancun too. (It really wasn’t that gritty…) The all-inclusive resort was lovely, but it really could have been anywhere in the world. Everyone spoke English. The food was good, but eating tacos at the Parque de las Palapas was way more authentic. Families that go straight to the Hyatt Ziva missed something. Luxury is nice, but the “real” side is much more interesting to me.
Sports and activities
What about sports and other activities for the kids? This fall, I paid $59 for RB40Jr to play in the basketball league at our community center. That’s a great deal and he’s having a ton of fun. I also signed him up for extra practices for about $80. This is the first time he plays team basketball and he needs to learn the rule. RB40Jr is the only kid from our school in the Park & Rec. league, though. His elementary school is located in a well-off neighborhood.
Alternatively, I could shell out $15,000 to join the posh country club and send RB40Jr to their basketball program. I’m sure they have better coaches, a much nicer facility, and less crowded classes. But is it really worth the money? Is playing basketball at a posh country club better than at the community center? I’m not so sure. Let me check with the parents and I’ll let you know.
Nevertheless, I want RB40Jr to mix it up with kids from various backgrounds. There are a few minorities in his basketball practices, which he doesn’t see at school. I’m 99% sure there isn’t much diversity at the posh country club either. I think it’s very important to expose him to all types of people while he’s young. He won’t be a basketball star anyway. The genetics just isn’t on his side. Of course, if he ever shows a talent for it, I’ll consider paying a professional to help him improve.
What about clothing? I feel a bit bad for getting most of Junior’s clothes from Walmart. I’m a stockholder, though. I like supporting Walmart and Target. The problem with kid clothes and shoes is that he destroys them so quickly. His shoes last only a couple of months and the clothes about one season. I tried Nike and Adidas and they fell apart even faster than the Walmart tennis shoes. In 2nd grade, the kids don’t care about clothing anyway. Most kids’ long pants have holes by March and nobody cares. Well, maybe the Tesla drivers do. Who knows?
Anyway, I’ll buy brand name clothes for him when he’s a bit older if he really wants. I’m sure brands will matter much more when he’s in middle school.
*Read more about my dividend income here.
Kids need tough love. I’m giving RB40Jr a wide range of experiences that he can learn from. He needs to know the poor as well as the rich side of life. Life isn’t going to be easy for him so I want to toughen him up. I didn’t have many luxuries when I was young and I’m happy with who I am today. I have enough grit to become financial independent before 40. That’s pretty damn good.
Is this wrong? Maybe rich kids who live in the lap of luxury turn out just fine, too. I don’t know any rich kids so let me if you have a good example.
Now, on to spoiling your spouse
I gave a short response to B as follows.
I won the spouse lottery because my wife is super frugal too. However, she is starting to loosen up as she gets older and makes more money. Now, she wants to buy nice work clothes and nice shoes. One of those nice dresses costs more than my annual clothing budget. I think it’s crazy, but I tell her to buy whatever she wants. As long as she’s working, that is.
She’ll have to cut back after she retires. She wouldn’t need nice work clothes anymore. Fortunately, I don’t feel any guilt for depriving my family of the luxurious things in life. Moderately priced stuff is good enough for us even with millions in the bank.
I typed that on the fly so it wasn’t that well thought out.
Here is part of the response from B.
For me, the North Star for happiness has come from spoiling loved ones, which ironically is anti-FI in a way. I didn’t feel guilty depriving loved ones of luxurious things until I had “enough.” But, once you have “enough,” why is “moderately priced stuff good enough” for loved ones? To be clear, I’m not talking about being wasteful and buying something frivolous. If there is enough money saved for your family to be comfortable for life, why not work to make extra money you don’t need for the purpose of spoiling loved ones? This is not personal to you Joe, as I don’t know your situation of course, but my complaint with the FI community is they seem to have a singular focus on reaching FI. The FI community, in my opinion, often appears to be “missing the point.” Saving for the sake of saving is bizarre to me.
Not providing my family with luxurious things, when I easily can, deprives me of the very reason I get out of bed in the morning these days. Why not take my wife on one more amazing vacation she will remember for the rest of her life? Why not see her face one more time when she opens that little blue box? Why not send a kid to an amazing (and expensive) baseball camp if that’s what he loves to do? The FI community (some at least) vilify people like me for being “wasteful.” My lifestyle would make most on this blog cringe. They say another million in the bank makes much more sense. I say a million in the bank past what you need is selfish, and likely has more to do with ego than most folks are willing to admit. But, as Sam pointed out in this blog post, I’m very interested in listening to what others have to say. I’m confident that I still have a lot to learn. That’s the reason I attempt to contribute.
There’s more, but this is the gist of it.
I don’t think B is anti-FI or being wasteful at all. It’s their money and they can do what they want with it. They are rich and they should enjoy it. Financial independence doesn’t preclude spending money on luxuries. I think spending is good as long as it doesn’t impact their finance. B is doing it right, but let me play the devil’s advocate for a bit here.
Well, I can only think of one thing wrong with B’s mission.
Ikigai aka the reason to get out of bed
Isn’t this a shallow reason to get out of bed in the morning? To shower your family with luxuries? Sure, it makes them happy for the moment. But it doesn’t sound sustainable to me. You’ll have to keep going over the top again and again. Snorkeling with the parrotfish probably isn’t much fun after you’ve swum with the whale sharks. (That’s one of the experiences B and his family enjoyed recently.)
B is desensitizing his family. They’re still young (30s?) and there is a lot of time left. At this rate, they will have done everything under the sun by the time they’re 50. What then? Hasn’t it been shown that spending more money doesn’t make you happier? There must be a more sustainable way to increase your family’s happiness the spending on luxury.
Of course, I’m probably wrong. I’ve never lived it up like the crazy rich Asians. Maybe you can find the meaning of life through spending lots and lots of money.
That’s all I got. I’m really on B’s side here.
Spouse is different than the kid
Anyway, it’s different when it comes to your spouse. Mrs. RB40 doesn’t need tough love anymore at 45. RB40Jr needs to go backpacking and see the world, not her. She has suffered enough and she should enjoy some luxury. She would hate slumming in a hostel on Khaosan road now. She’s been there, done that.
That’s why I’m taking Junior to a hostel when we’re in Thailand next month. Mrs. RB40 will be staying home so she won’t have to endure it. Ha! Backpacking was so much fun when I was young and broke. Let’s see if it’s still fun now that I’m 45, probably not…
At this point, Mrs. RB40 can use her income any way she likes. Our passive income + my online income are enough to pay the bills. She can use her income to buy nice clothes or take a nice vacation if she chooses to.
We’re still frugal
The problem is we’re still frugal. I’m not quite ready to spend $2,000 to swim with the whale sharks yet. I’m pretty sure my wife isn’t ready for that either. That’s a lot of money even if we could afford it. Isn’t there a budget package? I’m trying to loosen up, but I’m still a cheap guy at heart.
Maybe when we have $6,000,000 in the bank, we’ll feel differently. In fact, I’m sure we’ll loosen up a lot in 10 years. By then RB40Jr will be in college. We’ll be 55 and our net worth should surpass the $6,000,000 mark. (I’m a lucky optimist.) That’s the right time to let loose. At that point, I’ll be more certain that we won’t run out of money. Right now, we’re too young to splurge on luxuries all the time.
Meanwhile, we’ll mix it up and experience both sides of the tracks when we travel. We still have plenty of time left. Let’s save most of the luxury for later. It’ll be sweeter when we get there. The anticipation is better than the arrival, right?
Now, it’s your turn. Do you feel guilty for not giving your family the best when you can? Am I wrong to make RB40Jr suffer a bit? He needs to toughen up and learn that life is not always easy.
See my credit card page for travel hacking tips and which card to sign up for today. Our trip to Cancun was fabulous and almost free!
Image by rawpixel and Baan Gaysorn Hostel