Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are you surviving or living?

In thinking about our wants and needs, conventional literature always advise us to concentrate on our needs and forgo our wants. Resources are limited, hence we should ration the things that our resources can exchange wisely in case it runs out. We should budget what little we have and try to scrimp and save to make sure it last long and good. Excess and frivolous frills should be trimmed, reduced and eliminated. Get the smallest house that you can afford, do not overspend and buy a huge house. Get the cheapest furniture and get the barest renovation so that the money can be saved up for investment.

That is a way to survive, but is this the way to live?

I understand totally that all of us have different standards of living. I'm not advocating that we should model our standards of living after others, but we should really figure out what we want to achieve in our financial goals. If accumulation is the end by itself, then that goal can never be accomplished. There's simply too much to accumulate and accumulation as an end will never end.

There must be a balance between the two extremes - spending too much and saving too much. I know which side I'm on and which side I should be working towards. Finding that sweet spot that balances the two extremes will be a unique journey for one to discover. What is the right way to live? There isn't a right answer nor a wrong one, though there is a sustainable or an unsustainable way of living. In the face of such open ended possibilities that is inherent in life, what then should we do?

Walk the middle path, for the answer lies somewhere in between the extremes.

*This article is contributed to IM$avvy financial portal, which is managed by Central Provident Fund Board and supported by MoneySense. This site has a noble aim of promoting financial literacy to the general population.


coconut said...

short but right to the point, i like it. congratulate for the discovery.

balancing oneself is hard and impossible to achieve but that is not an excuse not to do it.

the goal is unreachable but the journey is far and rewards unlimited.

JonXP said...

I like to think of myself as living, but the truth is, I am still in the "surviving" region.
Let's hope with hard work (and a little bit of luck), I can work towards the equilibrium point soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,
It's really very difficult to balance our spending against our saving for the main problem is we don't know how long we going to live. Relatively speaking, it's best to save "too much" when young and able then to find you are short of money when you are too old & feeble. So accumulate as much as you can until you feel you can "splurge" occasionally without feeling the pinch. Ha! HA!
When i was young i was very thrifty until i make my first 40 or 50 thousand $ from shares. That is i don't spend until i have "extra incomes".

la papillion said...

Hi coconut,

Thanks! I think everyone can find their own balance. My balance might not be your balance, but it must be something that I can have inner peace. It's a struggle between delayed gratification and having it right now.

Hi JonXP,

I dun like to rely too much on luck. I believe in creating my own luck, haha :)

Hi temperament,

You're right, the uncertainty of not knowing when we're exiting makes it hard to do planning. In the event of uncertainty, err on the side of caution, just don't err too heavily, haha :)

I like your way of viewing spending. I found that as I get older and wealthier, I get looser and more generous with my spending :)

PanzerGrenadier said...


My own thinking as I grow older is that happiness with life is truly within oneself.

Stoicism or detaching yourself from the emotional highs and lows of gaining/losing things and circumstances is something I'm trying to read more about.

One can be materially rich or poor but so long as the basic needs of food, shelter, income, health are present, really the having or not having that additional "thing" in one's life doesn't make much of a difference.

Thus, I now seek to live within my means, accumulate less material stuff in my life but accumulate more interesting experiences before I pass on from this world.

Be well and prosper.

la papillion said...

Hi PG,

I agree with you...accumulate experiences instead of accumulating material things. Good and bad experiences will make life richer :)

Dividend Tech Warrior said...

Hi LP,

For me, I will always have a budget for entertainment. I dun have a credit card too. So, I dun need to worry whether I am spending recklessly. And I will make sure I enjoy myself and spend the money.

Being happy is the most important.

Actually, some people are equally happy with just surviving. E.g. the Vietnamese and Philippinos. They are poor but happy.

la papillion said...

Hi divy warrior,

I agree with you. Surviving or living has nothing to do with happiness. We can be surviving and happy yet be unhappy when living a lavish life.

So do you think you're surviving or living? haha :)

I find it's good to have credit cards. It helps me in my cash flow and there's also discount and rebates for getting things that you have to buy anyway. The danger lies in overspending, but that's the user fault, not the tool :)