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This is an argument I often have with a very good friend of mine, who tries very hard to come as close to Homo Economicus as possible. I'm a lot more of a "happy medium" sort of a person - and this is why:

Life is too short.

That really basically sums it up. This weekend, I had a friend of mine, an old boss, actually, pass away. He was a wonderful person, worked for the same company, quite successfully, for 34 years, had built up wealth and was prepared to spend a happy, long, loving retirement with his wife, in the house he built near his children, dandling his multiple grandchildren on his loving knee.

He had been retired for four months when he had a stroke, which put him in a coma for more than eight weeks. That was this summer. Although he came out of the coma, he was terribly debilitated and passed away this Sunday.

The basic rhetoric here at the office, where he was pretty much universally beloved is "It's not fair." And it's not. He did everything right and never got to truly enjoy it to the fullest. He loved his work and he lived every day to the fullest, and he did manage to balance work and family, but he had decided it was time to retire, and move onto another phase. One he was looking forward to. And it ended far too soon.

This is just the most obvious and top-of-mind example of "life's too short". Homo Economicus may plan to leave his decedents with a wonderfully detailed will and impeccable estate planning, but was he happy????

There has to be a balance between building wealth and everything else. One of the most important balances we need to strike is with TIME. Why do most people want to be rich? Because that means they can buy more free TIME. They can buy the expensive convenience items, someone to clean their house, someone to mow their lawn, someone to do things that free up their TIME.

Which has a lot to do with perception as well... the $15 calculator vs the $10 is a 50% savings (!!!) but the $120 jacket is only 4% off. A 50% savings is "worth my time."

That's why I have life insurance - but I also bought the floor-model big screen TV with my husband when our old 27" finally died. It makes him happy on a daily basis.

And after all, what is life but a series of days? You can never get back a sad day - it's done and over with, never to return. You can compromise on how much money you're saving if it means that your every day is just *that* much brighter as a result.

Of course, anything taken to an extreme tends to be - well, extreme.
And usually not a good thing in either direction. But in many cases, if something is going to make you *that* happy - then, if everything else is more or less in hand - go for it!

It's about having the basics and being comfortable - and knowing that you can provide those basics pretty much no matter what. Past that - it's all up to you. Some people's basics are different than other people's - I believe it's up to me to be able to pay to send my child o college anywhere he can get into and wants to go. And I will save so that when he says "Princeton, Mom?" I can say "Sure, honey, no problem. You deserve it." Some people have other ideas on that, and that's fine too.

But that's why we do what we do - because, at the end of the day, life is just a series of days - and that series can end without any warning.


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