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The fool who wrote of the new luxuries could not have been more right. I was a wise person for many years: I drove a new Cadillac, BMW, or Mercedes every year (the brand varied with the decade. First-class travel, shirts from Sulka's--it was a long journey to foolishness.

Funny, but none of those luxuries afforded me any satisfaction once they were acquired. Okay, the first Mercedes gave me some feeling of achievement. But after a few dings and scratches each car became nothing more than transportation.

Only after I saw several friends retire did I realize my mistakes. Both were less successful than I, yet both stopped working when their investments topped one million. I hadn't any idea. I used to berate them for being cheap. Yet both lived essentially as well as I did. They bought their suits and shirts on sale, and drove less expensive cars which they held onto at least four years before trading. I though they were motivated by a lack of confidence, worried about job security. I wasn't worried about such things. I thought I was a star and my expensive cars and clothing were necessary investments calculated to inform others of my status. All that time my friends were saving and investing, steadily and cautiously. They didn't even know each other, but they were identical in their behavior.

I thought they were fools. I, however,was wise.

Now my friends live the good life. They still invest, and they still spend cautiously. I'm still a star, but I'm still working. They travel, work on their golf game, and they enjoy the greatest luxury of all: freedom. Their time is their own. Jimmy Clavell, author of "Taipan" and "Noble House," created a character, a corporate type, who had saved her "F*** You" money. She enjoyed her work because she knew that if the work ever became unbearable, or if her boss was insufferable, she could say, "F*** you!" and walk out.

Financial security is freedom. Freedom from worry, freedom to use your time as you see fit, freedom even to keep working if you so choose. The workplace is a great deal more pleasant if you are there because you want to be and not because you need to be.

So now, I am happy to say, I too am a Fool. I sold my expensive house (made a good profit), and bought a smaller one in the suburbs which I like just as much. Instead of a 740 BMW (great car), I drive an inexpensive SUV with good tires. And every month when I get my statement from my discount broker, I feel a sense of satisfaction that a $60,000 car never accorded me. I enjoy following the market, studying different companies, and choosing my own investments. Some of my choices could have been better, but I'm learning fast. Fortunately my two friends are three years older than I, so I still have time to catch up. Already I feel a sense of security, a feeling of control over my destiny, that I never had before.
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When Life Gives You Lemons
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