Creating Abundance in Your Life

Al Jacobs

Every so often it’s advisable to focus on the factors making life worth living. I’ve identified four qualities that produce an agreeable result: 1) Consistent good health, 2) Material abundance, 3) Enjoyable interaction with friends and relatives and 4) Days filled with purpose. This is not an either/or set of requirements; it’s a package deal. If any of them are missing, life is less than sweet.

Though my writings regularly touch on each of these subjects, my specialty is material abundance – or more bluntly, money. I’ve long advocated the value of thrift, described methods of shopping wisely, outlined techniques of sound investing and stressed the importance of asset accumulation. Perhaps it’s finally time to examine how these money-making manipulations result in a life of abundance and by abundance I refer to far more than acquisition of things, but rather to achieving personal satisfaction.

Before I tackle the basic question, let me digress just a bit. Consider my friend with mid-six-figure annual net income, who is healthy, generally well-liked and highly productive. He owns a principal residence, two vacation homes, four autos, three boats, a four-passanger airplane (he’s currently negotiating the purchase of a six-passenger plane) and a collection of whatnot. He may be enjoying life, but I think not. Despite his many possessions, which he handily affords, they don’t seem to qualify as evidence of abundance. Rather, he treats each as a disposable imposition. If his income triples over the next five years – and I suspect it will – I don’t believe he’ll be any closer to his goals.

By contrast, a delightful woman with whom I’m acquainted rents a studio apartment, drives an eight-year-old Toyota and meets her monthly obligations thanks to three part-time jobs. She nonetheless seems thoroughly pleased with her life, enjoys inexpensive entertainment in the company of friends and contends she lacks nothing. She appears to be the personification of material abundance.

The point of this comparison is you cannot assign a dollar value to personal satisfaction.

Let’s now get down to figuring out how we attain material abundance. It’s my belief an important part of it is state of mind. Past illusions, sometimes no longer consciously remembered, can induce profound cravings. I recall, as a child, the photo of an admired and prosperous uncle posing with a large cigar. For some years afterward I aspired to smoke cigars so I, too, would be admired and prosperous. I’m suggesting our perception of well-being may relate less to checkbook balance than in fulfilling aspirations.

If you’ll permit a testimonial, I’ll flash back many years ago to the time in my life I first acquired a bedroom of my very own. As I grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s my parents could never afford an apartment with more than the single bedroom they occupied. For much of the time I slept in a Murphy bed in the living room. For those of you not familiar with this, it’s a bed, devised in the 1920s, which may be folded or swung into a closet when not in use. However, when I was 11 years of age, circumstances evidently improved, for we moved into an apartment with a second bedroom. I now had a space all to myself, with a bed and bedspread, a dresser and a small circular rug. This seemed as close to nirvana as I might ever hope for.

From then on, every morning, I religiously made my bed, carefully covered it with the spread, swept the rug, dusted the exposed hardwood floor and kept my possessions in the dresser in immaculate shape. This was to me material abundance; perhaps, not surprisingly, I’ve retained these habits every since.

A logical extension of this is captured in those lyrics by character Eliza Doolittle from the Broadway musical My Fair Lady:

All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair, Oh . . . wouldn’t it be lov-er-ly?

Lots of chocolate for me to eat, Lots of coal light and lots of heat, Warm face . . . warm hands . . . warm feet, Oh . . . wouldn’t it be lov-er-ly?

I’m suggesting you must first come to terms with your aspirations and then parcel your assets to satisfy these wishes. Of course, coming to terms may prove to be the hard part. For many persons, irrationality is a significant part of life. Were it not so, consider the many highly profitable businesses which then cease to exist: cigarette companies, timeshare projects, Indian casinos, bottled water distributors, tattoo parlors, hard liquor vendors, diet programs, motivational seminars, illicit drug dealers, variable annuity issuers, $750 ballpoint pen manufacturers and state lotteries, to mention just a few.

No rational persons purchase any of these products. However, this doesn’t necessarily make the world a better place, for an element of personal satisfaction may be a touch of irrationality. If, for example, you derive immense pleasure in sporting a $49,550 Oyster Rolex wristwatch, perhaps it’s a justified expenditure despite the fact a $25.20 Timex Expedition keeps time every bit as accurately.

What truly matters is your spending decisions actually satisfy innate desires and are not merely the result of marketing pressures.

This gets us to the point where we must reconcile our aspirations with our wherewithal. In doing so, I suggest you consciously scale your fantasies to fit your budget rather than the other way around. If crouched behind the wheel of an elegant auto is your passion, simply convince yourself you look as fancy in a 2004 Corvette for $12,998 as you do in a 2018 Maserati Gran Turismo for $183,809. Though it may smack of self-deception, if you can satisfy your yearnings in this manner, you achieve material abundance at a price you can afford.

Please bear with me as I now issue two caveats. First, in achieving a sense of abundance, you dare not play the game known as keeping up with the Joneses. If you obsess over the perceived prosperity of others, you’ll never be satisfied with what you’ve achieved. It’s far better you concentrate on your own accomplishments while ignoring the actions and opinions of people who cannot affect your life.

Secondly, you must keep a watchful eye on the future. Time tends to creep up on us while we’re otherwise distracted and what may suffice as abundance in your third decade of life may prove inadequate a quarter century later. In general, an individual’s discretionary expenses do not decrease with advancing years. For this reason, you must strive continuously to increase your net worth so your potential passive income will likewise increase. As a rule of thumb, you’d do well to grow your assets at a rate not less than the official annual cost of living increase.

I’ll conclude with these final thoughts: It pays to reflect regularly on how you live your life. Make certain your efforts in the present insure contentment in the future. Most importantly this means your expenditures consistently remain less than your income. Nothing leads to despair more than a realization you can no longer afford the life to which you’ve become accustomed.

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues a monthly newsletter in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it on


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