My Money Mantra: Like Father, Not Like Son
Growing up, I received a very different message from my dad, a software engineer, who constantly regretted not having more money. And, for a while, I adopted a similar outlook: More money was worth striving for—it was the key to lasting happiness and an important benchmark for success.
I remember sitting with him one morning when I was around 14, reading the paper. There was an article about my school, which was one of the worst in town. I could see how disappointed he was—not just in the school, but also in himself. He told me as much, saying he was sad he couldn’t send me to a more prestigious school.
I also noticed his discomfort when we’d visit friends of my mom. They were doctors, and their houses reflected their sizable wages. My dad never felt at ease—and never invited them to our house. It was, he thought, too small and underwhelming.
In reality, my siblings and I had a very comfortable lifestyle. My family had two cars, we went on holiday every year, and we lived in a nice area of town. Looking back, my dad’s desire to want more prevented him from taking stock of what he actually had—a loving wife and kids, a spacious house, a job he enjoyed—and appreciating it.
If it weren’t for my life-changing trip, I might have followed in Dad’s footsteps—and become obsessed with chasing the happiness that’d surely accompany a bigger paycheck.
If it weren’t for my life-changing trip to Sri Lanka, I might have followed in Dad’s footsteps—and become obsessed with chasing the happiness that’d surely accompany a bigger paycheck.
In fact, just a year ago, I was offered a job that paid more than I’ve ever made in my life. But although I was tempted, I turned it down, opting instead to work for a lesser-paying but more exciting startup that also affords me time to travel, as well as the flexibility to work abroad and pursue my own happiness.
Why I Love Living the Non-Rich Lifestyle
Since my trip to Sri Lanka 10 years ago, I’ve lived in London, Buenos Aires, Bogota and Berlin—and I’ve traveled extensively in South America, Europe and Asia.
For the last nine months, I’ve been living in Berlin, working as a marketing manager for a travel-focused startup and earning around $1,000 a month. The money isn’t much by any account, but it allows me to be social, eat well and cover my $400 rent. It’s actually the most I’ve ever earned. In Bogota, where I lived for three years, I made around $800 a month, and it was even less in Buenos Aires—about $400.
You could argue that, with more money, I’d actually be able to travel more, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of lifestyle that I’ve come to love. Because more than just journeying around the world, I enjoy the challenge of being in a completely new environment—with minimal financial resources.
What I’ve come to learn is I don’t want experiences that money (or at least a lot of money) can buy. I don’t want my connection to people in Colombia, for example, to be a commodity—a brief sojourn into privileged areas of Bogota where I only meet people who are trained to show the best of the country.
I’d much rather sink into the culture of a country and find my way through it by making a living there. I want to earn my place. With more money, I might miss out on such rich, life-changing experiences.