Since founding Luthuli Capital, a start-up now in its 3rd year of operation, we have learned to live off very little money, and still feel relatively comfortable and happy.
Disclaimer: When we say, ‘learned to’, we mean ‘have been forced to’. It not easy making money in a start-up you know.
There have been several months over our entrepreneurial journey where we have earned dear sweet nothing. Bad months. The sort of months that make you question why you are doing this in the first place. Anyone who’s ever started a business and has had to survive on a fluctuating income will know what we mean.
The bad months are simply an inherent part of the journey and can happen for numerous reasons. Sometimes the work either just wasn’t there, nobody was interested in our services, or those that were simply didn’t have the required portfolio that would pay for anything more than overheads. Whatever the issue, it is pretty crushing to see zero return on a month, or months, of work.
It still hurts now. We cannot sugar coat that. It sucks to work your ass off and see little or no return. This struggle journey has not been in vain though. For one, it has shaped and changed our outlook and how we speak to our clients about money. The longer we have continued to build the business, the more we have realised that money is not the be all and end all.
Can money buy happiness
There’s no simple answer. It seems natural to assume that rich people will be happier than others, but money is only one part of psychological wealth, so the picture is complicated.
It is true that there is a strong correlation between wealth and happiness. Rich people and nations are happier than their poor counterparts; don’t let anyone tell you differently. What one need to note though is that money’s impact on happiness isn’t as large as you might think. If you have clothes to wear, food to eat, and a roof over your head, increased disposable income has just a small influence on your sense of well-being.
To put it another way, if you’re living below the poverty line, an extra R50,000 a year can make a significant difference in your happiness. On the other hand, if you earn R1, 000, 000 a year, an extra R50,000 may be a welcome bonus, but it won’t radically change your life.
So, yes, money can buy some happiness, but you must accept that it’s just one piece of the puzzle, not the one and true path to happiness. In fact, there’s a real danger that increased income can make you miserable—if your desire to spend increases in tandem with it (your wealth). But that’s not to say you must live like a monk. The key is finding a balance between having too little and having too much—and that’s no easy task.
Chasing the Dragon
We want to make this very clear: We’re not against money. We looooooove money. Money is wonderful, it’s FANTASTIC! There is nothing wrong with making tons of it. We’re not saying you should ignore money completely and just accept whatever comes your way. We’re also not saying that you must choose – that it can only ever be money or happiness. You can have both. But the way to get it is to cultivate a healthy attitude towards money. Which is this:
- Money is merely a tool, a facilitator. It’s not what motivates you or makes you happy. It’s a means, not an end.
- An unfair income has the power to make you unhappy – a fair one can’t make you happy.
- Never sacrifice your happiness in life for money.
This is a plea to acknowledge that there’s more to life than money. We must assign appropriate value to the intangible areas of our lives, such as our honour, personal relationships, peace of mind, and quality family time, to name a few examples. If we take these things for granted, and lose them as a result, we are on the road to personal bankruptcy.
It’s important to keep money in perspective. Do you spend more money satisfying your desires than fulfilling your needs? Do you let money dictate your activities, affect your relationships, and consume your thoughts? Is money a constant cause of anxiety and a source of stress? If you answer yes to these questions, you may be becoming a slave to your money.
When you look back on your life one day, will you gauge success by the power that you attained and the wealth that you accumulated? Or, will you measure the degree to which your life was rich in character and purpose? Will it matter that you led an honourable existence, made a difference in people’s lives, and left the world a better place for your children?
Albert Einstein said it well, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The choice is yours.
There’s more to life than money.