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The Truth about “Not Wanting A Lot” and its Impact to your Wealth

2 years after I started work in 2006, one of my co-worker who was rather inquisitive (and intruding my personal bubble a lot with her questions) told me about a lady friend of hers.

She says that this gal friend of hers struggled to find a good man to get married. Her gal friend have very simple wants, which is what puzzled herself why its so tough to find the right man.

She just want her man to:

  1. Make $4000/mth
  2. Drives a simple car
  3. Lives in a condominium

My Co-worker was befuddled because in the realm of “simple requirements” that does not border on simple.

I was more concern that I would not be able to find any mate in Singapore at that point then debate whether that is a simple requirement or not.

How much we want have profound impact on the way we spend our wealth and how much we need

La Pap from BullyTheBear shared this great article on Facebook (connect with me here if you haven’t!) on how the level of want we each faced affects a lot on how we live our life.

The author of the article is someone who aspires for financial independence and was rather inspired by someone who already did it and her outlook on spending.

I buy whatever I want, whenever I want. The trick is that I want very little.

I think all of us who are on this path would pause by how a simple phrase was able to summarize many important points.

It also made me remember that episode so early in my young working career.

I like the way she puts it as a trick.

It is a trick because most of us have lost touch with it so much that we have to re-learn something very common. For many of us, we never got “triggered” to learn this.

The nature of what we want affects our wallet. The duration between when our wants spring the trap upon us against also matters.

I had a want that is rather simple.

As long as:

  • I do a good job managing my wealth machines
  • my Pocket is filled with great long form articles for me to read any where I want, which is free
  • interaction with peers, close friends and family
  • fulfillment at work
  • putting out something that helps others at Investment Moats

I am satisfied. It is seldom about happiness but more so, it is a good enough day or week.

I would think that this “simple” and I note that not having an extravagant want have helped me build wealth immensely.

What happens when you want a lot

I saw this share on Facebook not too long ago.

I like that it deconstruct the path of destruction for many friends who went down this path of photography addiction.

For those wives who cannot understand how their husband’s little hobby can spiral out of control this is a good read.

Then you get an entry-level DSLR. And a cheap 50mm lens and play with depth of field. And you need a tripod. And an extra battery. And memory cards. And a zoom lens. And a remote. And a flash.

Then you try a friend’s mid-level camera. Then you get a mid-level camera. And now you think what’s really holding you back are your lenses. You start looking at good glass and realize there is no sense investing in lenses that don’t work on full frame cameras, just in case you make the jump.

You make the jump. You’ve got a full frame camera. An ultra-wide zoom, a slew of fast primes, and a 70-200 f/2.8. You’ve tried the cheap primes and the mid primes and now you’ve got the expensive primes. You’ve upgraded your tripod. You have multiple flashes and umbrellas and soft boxes. You have 8 batteries and a wallet of memory cards.

Photography, when you go deep is not a simple want, and I am glad most of my friends doing it doesn’t pretend to be.  I decided not to call out the female sex but they have just as decadent wants.

Your Attention and Focus Leads to your Path of Destruction

One noticeable trait in the narration was what a typical enthusiast would spend his time on:

You are a regular on classified sites and Facebook groups. The amount of selling and trading you’ve done is depressing. At least twice a year you think of dumping your whole kit to move to another system. Your insane friend sold his VW Golf to move to Leica. You thought he was crazy. Now you don’t even know anymore.

I realize the main problem for many is what they do with their down time. People in the past that slogged at work, have less time for their hobbies.

Rich business owners fell down the rabbit hole when they made it, have delegate the work to other people and have more free time.

It used to be the case we need to wait until we go home, then start our modem to surf net. Now we do not need to!

No matter how long our bus or train ride is, our trusty 3G/4G mobile phone allows us to surf all we want!

We spend our time looking through what our friends have, what the people we aspire to have on Facebook or Instagram.

Your wants become more extravagant, without us realizing it.

You imagine the world to be what you see of your friends on Instagram and Facebook, and you think that is crazy!

Then you rationalize you don’t want so much, your needs are very simple.

But you have already slowly been poisoned and this poison is running in your veins without you realizing it.

You step down what you want, but your step down wants is more than what you wanted had you not been exposed to it.

The main problem here is we are not busy enough.

Although we say we are busy, I don’t think we are busy enough. If we are, we won’t have the time to put our attention to these stuff.

When I used to talk to my friends at Goldman Sachs, who worked him like a dog (awesome pay though), he and I both come into agreement how much he missed the main world we lived in.

Curate your Attention and Actions

Does that mean that Kyith is advocating I work to my death?

Not really. The solution is to be more deliberate with how you spend your time.

Why your money budget doesn't work

In my previous article on why you should curate your beliefs and values, I shared that you should focus less on the money side of things, but improving the quality of your  beliefs and values.

Improving the quality of your beliefs and values affect your wealth in a good way and it also leads to a change in your identity.

The way to do that is to be deliberate in your attention and actions.

The trick here is you need to be aware that when your attention wonders to these shopping, easy and fun stuff, it is not good for you.

You have to view yourself from a third party, have a trigger that you are doing it and pull away from it.

Correcting this is not a “one day I will decide to do it and I will switch thing”

I fell off the wagon so many times and I got back on.

Be Busy for the Right Reasons

If we branch from being deliberate with your attention, you should focus on your work or a main side business.

I really hate the phrase “All work and no play makes Kyith a dull boy”

It has been shown that you gain satisfaction when you achieve accomplishment. And there are ways that you can achieve accomplishment again and again.

When you do the work that you think you ought to be doing, challenging and achieve some outcome, you gain accomplishment.

That was a reason I stayed on in this boring work. To others its boring, but I have a different metric for it.

The same thing when it comes to building wealth.

It is a profound game in that not doing well means losses over the long run.

When we are seeing the results over time when we minimize our mistakes, doing more things right, and our wealth growth, it keeps us on the path because that in itself is accomplishment.

And that brings satisfaction.

I realize accomplishments and satisfaction is often associated with deep work in different areas.

While the example I used looks negative on photography as a hobby,  I believe going deep into studying the art of photography can bring immense satisfaction as well.

Here is what he says:

Since it was originally published, my post seems to have spoken to lots of fellow photographers. Photography often starts as a hobby and quickly gets out of hand; it can be expensive, but of course it doesn’t have to be. If people are happy with their kit, I think that is awesome. Sometimes I am happy, too. But I also love staying on top of technology and seeing what’s next.

For all my purchasing, I’ve tried to be mostly level-headed about it, attempting only to buy gear that I know can help me create better images or work faster. I do a lot of research and testing, and only buy when I know it will fill a void.

Of course, I think some folks believe gear will magically make their photos better. It won’t. However, once you ramp up your skills and techniques, and gain experience, gear can make your photos better because you are able to leverage the benefits of that new gear.

Wanting a Lot is a Good Thing if Curated Well

The counterpoint to wanting too little is that, it depends on the kind of things you want. If it is something that provides happiness then its something that it is worth wanting a lot.

However, it is often being abused because a lot of things, if you are being frank with yourself, do not bring real satisfaction. Sometimes we were not able to provide deep satisfaction because we cannot comprehend what makes us satisfied.

I learn that for most people, it is best to only want a few things more than others. You have to curate those are meaningful things that you want.

Career would be one, having good and meaningful relationships are some other.

Would wanting a lot, even if its good, cost a lot? Maybe. Even good things in life cost a fair bit if there are extreme benefits.

More good ideas to re-design your lifestyle for the better financial you can be found here
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Early Retirement SG

Thursday 15th of December 2016

Hi Kyith, My goodness!! Totally can relate to "I buy whatever I want, whenever I want. The trick is that I want very little." I even have a post about that! So totally agree that most of us keep upgrading our toys and as we get deeper into a hobby or activity, it just keeps building up til you never realize that the expense builds up.


Friday 16th of December 2016

hi Early Retirement SG, that is a very unconscious way of living and what the author put out is a very conscious explanation. sometimes we practice it but couldnt put it to words. you and the author did a good job doing that.

thanks for visiting, i may link to some of your stuff.

Alan Lok

Monday 12th of December 2016

Another wonderful article Kyith!

That lady friend example which talks about looking for a "simple" guy earning SGD 4,000 per month, drive a car and living in a condo is quite "cute".

Obviously (at least to me), the maths does not gelled up at all.

When i was earning SGD 5,000 per month more than a decade ago, i still find going to restaurant only once per week; Taxi transport for me was a clear no no!

Living in Condo, you got to be kidding; no one can afford that with my kind of salary - i was staying in my parent's 3 room flat.

And with all these summed up together, i could only afford a saving of just SGD 1,000 per month.

In any case, your article really bang the table hard and should get most of us (at least me) thinking why what we have been all doing are so wrong....

Jared - SMOL

Sunday 11th of December 2016

Good Sunday morning Kyith and Andy!

Refreshing post and comment!

Interesting departure from the "crass" fixation on accumulation of money ;)

Got Values and Philosophy some more! Finally something for those of us who are right-brained!

And of course I appreciate giving investing the craftsmanship nod.

Investing and trading are indeed boring.

You either look at screens, chart patterns, mountains of annual reports, or rows of spreadsheets...

How fun is that?

But for those of us investing/trading to achieve, its not work :)


Sunday 11th of December 2016

Hi Jared,

I agree its looking too much from the money angle. that is what my friends said of me. At least I am upfront about it!


Sunday 11th of December 2016

So true.

What you share here is like what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”. The idea that the more we pursue feeling better through possessions all the time, the less satisfied we become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that we lack it in the first place. The more we desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy we feel, regardless of how much money we actually make.

Wealth has a lot to do with how we live and our beliefs. We're all investors, traders, financial jugglers (you name it), attempting to grow our net worth in order to gain more control over our time and possessions.

It's a two-part equation: Wealth minus wants and needs. Not enough attention is given to the latter half. When I convert my dollars into stuff, not asking myself whether I want it but whether I need it gives me a change in perspective and often results in not getting that stuff.

My belief is the easiest way to grow wealthier is learning to live with less, because living with less has a higher success rate than attempting to earn a fortune, and fortunes tend to push aspirations and desires higher anyway. And in that regard checking out other people's FB-brags is poison.


Sunday 11th of December 2016

hi Tacomob,

"The idea that the more we pursue feeling better through possessions all the time, the less satisfied we become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that we lack it in the first place. The more we desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy we feel, regardless of how much money we actually make."

that was an awesome comment! again it is a void that we are trying to fill!

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