I can so get on board with the “full photo album” concept! Having experiences which become treasured memories is a key part of happiness.
Helping clients plan these experiences is one of the best parts of my job. I strongly believe is that there is no point in having people live miserable, dull lives simply so that they can watch their net worth grow.
But I do think that “full photo album, not a full bank account” idea is a myth.
Not because it’s a bad idea to have a full photo album, but because it’s based on some faulty assumptions:
- It assumes (or ignores the uncomfortable fact) that your future self will be happy to live in relative poverty and simply to reminisce about the wonderful times of days gone by
- It assumes that you can’t have both a full bank account and a full photo album – you must choose one or the other.
- It assumes that there is an emotional reward for great memories, but no emotional reward for having money.
Assumption number 1 is a myth because no matter how old we get, how we feel inside doesn’t change. We enjoy what we enjoy. Your future self will feel just as constrained by relative poverty as you would today. Your future self will still want to experience photo-worthy moments.
Assumption number 2, that you cannot have both a full photo album and a full bank account is demonstrably wrong. Rich, meaningful and joyful experiences don’t have to cost a fortune. Unless the whole point of the exercise is to impress others with how much you spent in order to have the experience. In which case, the experience is probably not as rich, meaningful or joyful as the photo of it implies. It’s the connection with others, the break from routine, being in the moment and feeling truly alive that matters. You can get those feelings (and photos) without emptying your bank account.
Assumption number 3 is more subtle. The emotional reward of having money in your bank account is certainly different from the emotional reward of looking back on a vibrant photo album. You don’t linger over each dollar “Look! I remember when I got that one! That was a good day!”
The emotional reward of having money in your bank account is two-fold: There’s the sense of security of knowing that your needs and some of your wants will be taken care of. And secondly, there's the sense of freedom as you contemplate what you can do with your money.