Your house will never be big enough

Your house will never be big enough

As a kid, I wanted to own a huge mansion with so many rooms you could get lost in it.

A mansion with its own basketball court, tennis court, and hell – golf hole. The bigger the better! This was THE goal.

But the irony is that I grew up in very nice houses. Not the kind I described above, but nice homes in nice communities. I just didn’t know how well I had it.

Growing up upper middle class

My parents both grew up with successful and hard working parents (my grandparents) in a middle to upper middle class lifestyle.

But everyone wants the best for their own kids, so by the time my parents had kids, they wanted to create an even better life for their children.

We went from living in a typical suburban neighborhood when I was a toddler, to slightly nicer communities as an elementary school kid, and finally to fancier more expensive country-club type neighborhoods during junior high and high school.

By the time I was ten, I was living in what some might describe as a small mansion.

Of course I had no clue, because this was just my normal life.

Anyone on the outside would envy the houses I grew up in and the lifestyle that my parents worked very hard for.

So my parents are wealthy right?

So you think my parents are wealthy right? Wrong.

They are house wealthy, but that is about it.

As an adult, I’ve realized how much my parents were living above their means, stretching themselves to look even more successful than they are.

You see, they were chasing the American dream of bigger and better, and chased it hard.

But the chase is leading to what will likely sub-par retirement result.

I’m not sure they’ll be able to retire they way they want to.

I don’t want to bash on my parents too much, because I doubt that they regret any of their housing choices or life decisions. That is not the main point of this article anyway.

I had a great childhood. I enjoyed living in those nice houses.

But it still didn’t stop me from wanting more.

The human condition: wanting more

When you live in a neighborhood with large custom homes, you can never not feel inferior.

We would walk around the neighborhood and drool over the even bigger houses, with even better amenities.

And that is how my dream of owning an even bigger, better house, came to fruition.

When you see it daily, you end up wanting it.

But having a big house as we have seen with my parents, does not necessarily mean that you are looking at a wealthy person.

A big house does not equal true wealth

The truth is that wealth is what you don’t see.

– Morgan Housel, The Psychology of Money

Morgan Housel’s quote sums it up very nicely. Wealth is what you don’t see.

The most likely wealthy people you know are the ones who practice stealth wealth as described in The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley:

Many people who live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars do not actually have much wealth. Then, we discovered something even odder: Many people who have a great deal of wealth do not even live in upscale neighborhoods.

– Thomas J. Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door

Indeed, the more you spend on the flashy things, the more likely you are putting your retirement and future plans at risk.

Evelyn from Better on a Budget has the right view:

True wealth is what you aren’t spending.

It is what you are saving.

It is what you are investing.

It is making the choice to NOT buy a bigger house, SKIP buying a fancier car, and REFUSE to buy all the things that are constantly marketed at us that we don’t actually need.

Wealth is hidden. It’s income not spent. Wealth is an option not yet taken to buy something later.

– Morgan Housel, The Psychology of Money

Finding Balance

I’m not saying that you should forgo everything.

In fact, I’ve never, ever, lived like that.

I still live in a nice house, in a nice community.

But I also know now that I have enough.

I enjoy where I am right now. I love my life as it is.

You must find the right balance between spending and saving.

Between paying for the things that bring you joy, and saying NO to the superficial things that do not.

So while, I still like to daydream about the nicer houses in my own neighborhood, I can rest assured that I have enough.

Someone will always have more money, bigger houses, and fancier cars.

You can either stay on the hedonic treadmill like my parents did, or you can choose to be happy with what you do have.

Thankfully, I realized the error of my parents ways early in my adult life, and I have lived a more balanced financial life.

Most of all, I choose to be happy with what I do have. I have enough.

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4 comments

  1. I enjoyed this post! I’m currently desiring a bigger house with an awesome amount of land for my family. I think buying the nicest house you can afford when the kids are at home is the smartest thing to do.

    At the same time, moving is a PITA! And borrowing lots more money to buy a bigger home doesn’t feel good at this stage in the market. We just bought our “forever home” in mid-2020, so it feels best if we enjoy it for several more years until we upgrade.

    Heck, maybe the property market will decline and we could get a better deal in three years. Who knows!

    I laugh at myself for wanting more. Maybe I should just clean my house lol. Like washing one’s car, it suddenly feels nice and new again!

    Sam

    1. Thanks! Yeah, we have a great house, but it’s not perfect and so we joke about how we’d like to move to the biggest house in our neighborhood. Man it is so hard to get off the hedonic treadmill!

  2. Wanting more is ingrained in our nature. We are so incredibly good at getting used to our surroundings, that they eventually always lose their luster, no matter how big or fancy.

    Realizing you have enough is so much easier said than done. But I also think different people’s “enough” has different definitions. I don’t necessarily care for bigger houses/nicer cars, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to write a popular book or blog. Not better or worse (I don’t think…), just different.

    For me, I’ve tried channeling the desire for more into being more productive/useful. Admittedly it’s tough to find the balance between being content and feeling like I have to be doing something all of the time haha. It’s a work in progress…

    Enjoyed the thought provoking post!

    1. You are 100% correct in that it is not all about houses. We want the big title at work, we want the popular blog that eventually leads to a book deal, or we want to be famous. These are all weirdly coded into us by society and human nature. So it is a varying fight against enough. But I think it is OK to want more, to achieve more. You just have to be OK and happy with or without it.

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