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Friday, February 17, 2017

What Cost Wealth?

This whole popularism thing has gotten me down. I see all these wealthy politicians in  first world countries scrambling to grasp every last cent and protect them from "undesirables". They're rhetoric is freaking out the regular population and people are losing their heads. Does it help the people that they're scaring? No, all it does is line the pockets of the sabre rattlers and make the gap between that vaunted 1% and the rest of us plebes greater.

Our fancy Vancouver loft
Don't get me wrong - I grew up in the "ME" 80's. Partying, fast cars, designer clothes. I wanted it all. I came from a lower income household, but I went to a high school in a wealthier part of town. I was the kid in the no name clothes, without a car (sometimes we didn't even have a phone) and my only spending money was for buying lunch. (Usually around $20 a week, but a lot of the time that also had to cover my dinner, too.) Forget the "class" trip to Hawaii for spring break, forget shopping at Aritzia or Guess, that was definitely out. So that made me hungry for the "good" stuff. I was going to have a big house, Porsche and a huge (dare I say YUGE?) wardrobe with lots of accessories and a billion shoes. (Confession: I got pretty close on the shoes.)

As an adult, I've lived (for a short time) the jet set life, where I could buy what I wanted, spend stupid amounts of money on a single dinner and not worry too much where the money was coming from. But that's a voracious thing. Suddenly standard brands weren't good enough, I wanted Pink Tartan and Luis Vuitton. Sure, a BMW sounds good - we worked hard didn't we deserve it? One day, my husband and I looked at each other and we realized that we'd been sucked into the vortex that is consumerism. We were working to amass STUFF. It wasn't the life we wanted. 
First attempt to simplify
Fast forward to now. I'm quite a bit older than that 18 year old girl with dollar signs in her eyes. We live a pretty low key life on a small pension that would astound most people. Our clothes are the best quality we can afford, but most of our money goes to traveling; to building up EXPERIENCES instead of that intoxicating, addicting STUFF that seems to have its grip on most of the world. I see no sense in paying $6000 for a something that I can pick up for $25. Having Louboutins doesn't define me as a person - and why should it?

How have I come to this? Part of it was just personal revelation, but having seen many poor countries, I've come to realize that the accumulation of wealth has very little to do with happiness. Of course, having no money sucks...worrying about how you're going to feed yourself or your children is a nightmare, but once you have a place to keep you safe and sheltered (whether you rent or own), a reliable stream of sustenance and a means to educate your kids, you don't really need a lot more. (Okay, I'm fan of hot water and internet access, but I'm a spoiled North American.) 
The new digs...still not shabby
In my work, I saw people clawing and grasping to keep every penny that's in their account and I'm not talking about the poor folks. I've talked to people whose only purpose in life is to accumulate more: money, cars, houses, and for what? I've never met anyone who thought they had enough money, myself included. I've seen VERY large bank accounts and balance sheets and still it wasn't enough. What's worse is they were willing to throw less fortunate people under the bus to acquire more. Ironically, the more they had the more they were terrified of losing it. They were losing sleep, getting old and making themselves sick with the pursuit of it.  Sort of like drug addicts, actually, now that I think of it.  It is the thing that drives the world's problems today. If only we could all step back, look around and say "it's enough, I have enough" then we could make the world more peaceable, kind and just.
Travel is AWESOME (when we can afford it)
I know a lot of you are fighting the hard fight - that the ends seem so far apart that they'll never connect, I've been you and my only advice is that you must believe that you can do it. For the rest of you, caught in the hamster wheel of status, maybe take a moment and just be. Be grateful for your health (if you have it), your loved ones, the clothes on your body and the food in your cupboard. I'm going to paraphrase something I read online, but can't source now: "If you aren't happy with everything that you have now, why do you think that buying more will change that?" (If you know the source, please let me know!)


  1. I absolutely love this, how true it is, your sharing is very much appreciated
    Give my brother a hug for me.

  2. Excellent post! I was also the one without the name brand clothes in highschool. I so wanted to be the one that went away on holiday, but never did. Nor did my own parents... ever. I agree with you that experiences are more important than things. -Jenn

    1. Ah, a sister in humility! Thanks for the comment, Jenn.