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Just how important IS money?

Just how important IS money?

Old Jul 22nd 2007, 10:36 am
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Default Just how important IS money?

I thought I'd bring up this subject as it so often permeates a lot of the threads on here, and it has been on my mind a lot lately (as you may notice from me harping on about it in various threads).

A lot of people on here have been pretty messed up financially by their ping-ponging, usually due to (a) the money spent on emigrating and repatriating, and (b) the flickin' crazy behaviour of UK house prices while they have been away. For every person complaining about how broke it's made them, there are others who say that it's more important to be happy (i.e., in the UK) than rich.

But where do you draw the limit?

For those who don't know me, look at my list of locations at left, and be aware that I came back (again!) in July of last year. I have recently been doing the calculations and it's really depressing me just how much poorly off I am than when I was in the States. For example:

First off, understand that I've always been financially very responsible - no rooms full of toys (except my bicycles, which I look at as health insurance), no extravagant holidays.

I spent my life savings going through grad school in the US, and started from scratch in 1996.

After just 3 and a half years teaching uni in Tennessee, I paid off my car loan, and owned a house with only about $50,000 (25,000 quid) left on the mortgage, which I would have (EASILY) paid off within just a few years. I always had plenty of spare cash for little holidays, etc., and my employer had great benefits package so no health or insurance worries.

When I returned to the UK in 2000, after spending about 6,000 quid on the move (including 3,000 on the dog's quarantine), I lost almost all of my savings (about 10,000 quid), by putting it in the UK stock market for "safekeeping" (dumb, dumb, dumb). Two of the funds went broke and the fund managers are going through legal proceedings, and I have about 1,800 quid left after the others have made a weak recovery.

After 5 and half years in North Carolina, I again owned a house with only about $80,000 (40,000 quid) left on the mortgage and a healthy enough savings history that it would have been paid off within less than 5 years. Again, plenty of spare left every month to save and go on cheap holidays.

Now, here I find myself back in the UK, just 15 years from retirement with a 25-year 150,000 pound mortgage around my neck (to buy a 3-bed ex-council house), I had to cash in half my US savings at a stupid exchange rate for the deposit and the rest is sitting in a non-interest-bearing dollar account because I just can't bring myself to exchange it at today's rates. Moving back has cost me about 8,000 quid (again, about $3,000 on the dog, gotta love her).

My monthly mortgage and bills amount to over 80% of my take-home pay (again, I don't buy toys, clothes, holidays - this is just basic bills, mostly the mortgage). I'll retire 10 years before the mortgage end period and I can't see myself even being able to keep this house after I retire. I'll probably have to sell and downsize. I can't help but be really, really pissed off at what has happened in the UK housing market in the past 5-8 years as it has completely changed my financial situation.

The plus side is that I get to walk out of my front door and am on hillside walks within minutes. So, great free hiking opportunities on the doorstep - but is this enough to keep me going until (and past) retirement?

If I could click my fingers and be back in Tennessee, I'd do it in a moment. Am I crazy?
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 11:17 am
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
I thought I'd bring up this subject as it so often permeates a lot of the threads on here, and it has been on my mind a lot lately (as you may notice from me harping on about it in various threads).

A lot of people on here have been pretty messed up financially by their ping-ponging, usually due to (a) the money spent on emigrating and repatriating, and (b) the flickin' crazy behaviour of UK house prices while they have been away. For every person complaining about how broke it's made them, there are others who say that it's more important to be happy (i.e., in the UK) than rich.

But where do you draw the limit?

For those who don't know me, look at my list of locations at left, and be aware that I came back (again!) in July of last year. I have recently been doing the calculations and it's really depressing me just how much poorly off I am than when I was in the States. For example:

First off, understand that I've always been financially very responsible - no rooms full of toys (except my bicycles, which I look at as health insurance), no extravagant holidays.

I spent my life savings going through grad school in the US, and started from scratch in 1996.

After just 3 and a half years teaching uni in Tennessee, I paid off my car loan, and owned a house with only about $50,000 (25,000 quid) left on the mortgage, which I would have (EASILY) paid off within just a few years. I always had plenty of spare cash for little holidays, etc., and my employer had great benefits package so no health or insurance worries.

When I returned to the UK in 2000, after spending about 6,000 quid on the move (including 3,000 on the dog's quarantine), I lost almost all of my savings (about 10,000 quid), by putting it in the UK stock market for "safekeeping" (dumb, dumb, dumb). Two of the funds went broke and the fund managers are going through legal proceedings, and I have about 1,800 quid left after the others have made a weak recovery.

After 5 and half years in North Carolina, I again owned a house with only about $80,000 (40,000 quid) left on the mortgage and a healthy enough savings history that it would have been paid off within less than 5 years. Again, plenty of spare left every month to save and go on cheap holidays.

Now, here I find myself back in the UK, just 15 years from retirement with a 25-year 150,000 pound mortgage around my neck (to buy a 3-bed ex-council house), I had to cash in half my US savings at a stupid exchange rate for the deposit and the rest is sitting in a non-interest-bearing dollar account because I just can't bring myself to exchange it at today's rates. Moving back has cost me about 8,000 quid (again, about $3,000 on the dog, gotta love her).

My monthly mortgage and bills amount to over 80% of my take-home pay (again, I don't buy toys, clothes, holidays - this is just basic bills, mostly the mortgage). I'll retire 10 years before the mortgage end period and I can't see myself even being able to keep this house after I retire. I'll probably have to sell and downsize. I can't help but be really, really pissed off at what has happened in the UK housing market in the past 5-8 years as it has completely changed my financial situation.

The plus side is that I get to walk out of my front door and am on hillside walks within minutes. So, great free hiking opportunities on the doorstep - but is this enough to keep me going until (and past) retirement?

If I could click my fingers and be back in Tennessee, I'd do it in a moment. Am I crazy?
i am in about the same financial situation as your self. 17 years to retirement, just took on a £96.000 mortgage and up to date no permenant job. As a single parent Ive always worked but just about managed to keep my head above water. I came back from Aus £10,000 worse off, but did have my money in a high interest account so have clawed back around £4,000 of that.

However, as long as Im happy and with my family and can live fianacially within my boundaries I will be happy,

From your locations you seem to have has some great experiences and that is something money cannot buy.

Hope that you find some solace very soon.

regards

lolly
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 11:40 am
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Your question was "how important is money" and basically most of your post was about finances and money etc.
I think more importantly, you need to ask yourself what is your quality of life. Although you have high outlays, are you enjoying being there enough to warrant that? For me, if i was enjoying being where i was, even though the costs might be higher it would be worth it to me.

I dont think it is healthy to dwell too much on the past. Yes, you had all those things in USA, but you gave it up, and dwelling on it will do no good for you. In effect you are always thinking in the past instead of focusing on the future. There must have been a good reason as to why you decided to move. I think most of us could look back over the years wishing we had done this or that differently, but you cannot afford to keep doing it otherwise it will eat away at you.
Draw a line under it and focus on the here and now. Ask yourself important questions.

Am i happy now?

If i am not happy what do i need to do to make myself happier?

Will this mortgage be good for me in the long run?

If not, what do i need to do to change it?

The questions above should be utmost in your mind, not thinking back to what you did several years ago. Its over.

I wish you all the best. Its not easy making these decisions.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 11:47 am
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Hi

Well having that much of your wage going into just your mortgage/bills is not fun is it.
BUT..why did you move back from the states?
From other posts you seem to really love where you live - the hiking etc (dont blame you) & it is just the financial side of things thats your dilemma.
Whilst having disposable income is not only desirable but extremly helpful, there is more to life isnt there. If you focus on the money situ, it's going to get you (as it has) pondering moving again.
If you moved back to the states - what if you wanted to come back to UK in say 5 -10 years. You'd be in a worse situ than now in all probability.
Do you see yourself in UK to retire or US? Ideally, money aside.
Thats an important question I think. If you're equally happy to live long term in either place thats one thing but after all your moving (you deserve an award by the way) dont you want to stay put for a while.
You've only been back a year as well.
I just dont want you to move all over again, dont know why but I dont
Good luck with it all.
T
xxx
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 12:07 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Thanks for the helpful replies so far. A couple of comments:

My reason for looking at the past is as a guide to the future, rather than a "Look what I had back then" thing. I really am looking forward, trying to plan for the next 15 years professionally, and then into retirement. My only reason for describing my situation in NC and TN was to indicate that in my situation in both places, I had no worries about my financial future whereas now I have HUGE financial worries.

As for my reasons for coming back, well ... good question, but certainly part of my plans to come back were tied in with the idea I'd be financially secure and things have just not worked out that way at all. Even in the 12 months between my decision to come back and my actual move, house prices rose by around 25% in this area. Between my return and my being able to secure a mortgage they went up another 10-20%. I was hoping to be able to take a few trips to Europe, explore a little. Sh*t, I feel like I've earned the right to have some fun.

If I were younger I think I could take a more philosophical approach as I'd have time on my side. But bloody hell, I'm looking at probably still owing 80,000-100,000 pounds on my mortgage when I retire!
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 12:50 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
I thought I'd bring up this subject as it so often permeates a lot of the threads on here, and it has been on my mind a lot lately (as you may notice from me harping on about it in various threads).

A lot of people on here have been pretty messed up financially by their ping-ponging, usually due to (a) the money spent on emigrating and repatriating, and (b) the flickin' crazy behaviour of UK house prices while they have been away. For every person complaining about how broke it's made them, there are others who say that it's more important to be happy (i.e., in the UK) than rich.

But where do you draw the limit?

For those who don't know me, look at my list of locations at left, and be aware that I came back (again!) in July of last year. I have recently been doing the calculations and it's really depressing me just how much poorly off I am than when I was in the States. For example:

First off, understand that I've always been financially very responsible - no rooms full of toys (except my bicycles, which I look at as health insurance), no extravagant holidays.

I spent my life savings going through grad school in the US, and started from scratch in 1996.

After just 3 and a half years teaching uni in Tennessee, I paid off my car loan, and owned a house with only about $50,000 (25,000 quid) left on the mortgage, which I would have (EASILY) paid off within just a few years. I always had plenty of spare cash for little holidays, etc., and my employer had great benefits package so no health or insurance worries.

When I returned to the UK in 2000, after spending about 6,000 quid on the move (including 3,000 on the dog's quarantine), I lost almost all of my savings (about 10,000 quid), by putting it in the UK stock market for "safekeeping" (dumb, dumb, dumb). Two of the funds went broke and the fund managers are going through legal proceedings, and I have about 1,800 quid left after the others have made a weak recovery.

After 5 and half years in North Carolina, I again owned a house with only about $80,000 (40,000 quid) left on the mortgage and a healthy enough savings history that it would have been paid off within less than 5 years. Again, plenty of spare left every month to save and go on cheap holidays.

Now, here I find myself back in the UK, just 15 years from retirement with a 25-year 150,000 pound mortgage around my neck (to buy a 3-bed ex-council house), I had to cash in half my US savings at a stupid exchange rate for the deposit and the rest is sitting in a non-interest-bearing dollar account because I just can't bring myself to exchange it at today's rates. Moving back has cost me about 8,000 quid (again, about $3,000 on the dog, gotta love her).

My monthly mortgage and bills amount to over 80% of my take-home pay (again, I don't buy toys, clothes, holidays - this is just basic bills, mostly the mortgage). I'll retire 10 years before the mortgage end period and I can't see myself even being able to keep this house after I retire. I'll probably have to sell and downsize. I can't help but be really, really pissed off at what has happened in the UK housing market in the past 5-8 years as it has completely changed my financial situation.

The plus side is that I get to walk out of my front door and am on hillside walks within minutes. So, great free hiking opportunities on the doorstep - but is this enough to keep me going until (and past) retirement?

If I could click my fingers and be back in Tennessee, I'd do it in a moment. Am I crazy?

Life in the UK is much more expensive in our experience. We wondered why when income tax was fairly similar to Aus. I think it is the extras - +£1200 council tax, higher rate of VAT, many indirect taxes, high taxes on fuel. Plus expensive houses, expensive train tickets, expensive to eat out, expensive coffee... Not to mention an ever increasing consumerist society. Our levels of debt are now much higher yet I earn a high (and higher) income. At first we thought it was about the same, but experience has shown how many hidden costs there are to living back here. It is hardest for the Gen Xers. The baby boomers had it easy in comparison.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 3:10 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

I think that for those who have no money, it's very important, especially if you have had it and lost it.

Dunroving you have done a lot of moving around which has not helped your cause financially at all. We only did it once and it crippled us enough - I certainly wouldn't like to do it any more than that.

We were far better off in the UK than in Australia - earnings in relation to expenses for us were totally ridiculous. Whereas in the UK we could eat out, have loads of holidays, buy all the latest gadgets, nice cars etc., in Oz we became paupers overnight.

Although there are things that we do miss about Australia, we are totally happy here in the UK and will work our butts off to get back to where we were before we left - it will take time, but we'll get there.

I totally relate to your feelings about being pissed off at the amount lost. If you actually add up all the expenses of visas, shipping, flights, pet fees, house sales, loss of money through renting, loss of income when not working during moves, etc., the figure would be truly enormous.

I used to feel sorry for those people who got to 70 and say they've lived in the same house for 50 years. Now I'm not so sure. At least they would have had 25 years mortgage free living, be totally secure and have no money worries
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 3:54 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

I try not to think about how much we have spent or I would be depressed all the time.....between shelling out money to have DH immigrate to the US......selling houses he used to rent out over here to start up a business in the States.......having the property market over here skyrocket while we were in the States, then selling up over there, taking a huge hit transferring assets to the UK..........moving expenses, paying for me to get the proper Visas to the UK (that's a large chunk over the next few months because I got screwed and can't get Indefinate Leave to Remain until I get Further Leave to Remain for only a few months, then ILR and then a year later citizenship....then there's the fact that we bought a Post Office and may be closed down in the next year and if we aren't, we are tired of working 7 days a week to keep it going and want to move on anyway.......and we are thinking of moving on to Europe sometime in the next few years.........and oh wait........I forgot about the dog and moving her over here......and every holiday for the past 6 years has been either visiting his family here in the UK of my family in the States .......outside of a short trip over to Dublin ........I want to pull my hair out.

BUT.....we are still together despite the odds. We live in the hills of Wales so we have been lucky and not been flooded with the wonderful British weather this summer......and EVENTUALLy we will travel Europe.

After working like dogs the past year to make our business viable we are now able to take time off in small increments (a few hours here....a few hours there).........and EVENTUALLY it will stop raining for a day or two and we can work on our suntans.

Last edited by Scout; Jul 22nd 2007 at 4:25 pm.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 5:06 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by Scout View Post
I try not to think about how much we have spent or I would be depressed all the time.....between shelling out money to have DH immigrate to the US......selling houses he used to rent out over here to start up a business in the States.......having the property market over here skyrocket while we were in the States, then selling up over there, taking a huge hit transferring assets to the UK..........moving expenses, paying for me to get the proper Visas to the UK (that's a large chunk over the next few months because I got screwed and can't get Indefinate Leave to Remain until I get Further Leave to Remain for only a few months, then ILR and then a year later citizenship....then there's the fact that we bought a Post Office and may be closed down in the next year and if we aren't, we are tired of working 7 days a week to keep it going and want to move on anyway.......and we are thinking of moving on to Europe sometime in the next few years.........and oh wait........I forgot about the dog and moving her over here......and every holiday for the past 6 years has been either visiting his family here in the UK of my family in the States .......outside of a short trip over to Dublin ........I want to pull my hair out.

BUT.....we are still together despite the odds. We live in the hills of Wales so we have been lucky and not been flooded with the wonderful British weather this summer......and EVENTUALLy we will travel Europe.

After working like dogs the past year to make our business viable we are now able to take time off in small increments (a few hours here....a few hours there).........and EVENTUALLY it will stop raining for a day or two and we can work on our suntans.

Hey, Scout, any chance you could bottle your positive outlook? You'd have no money problems if you could market it.

Thanks for the positive post. Sometimes it helps just to know someone else is going through the same and surviving.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 5:43 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
Hey, Scout, any chance you could bottle your positive outlook? You'd have no money problems if you could market it.

Thanks for the positive post. Sometimes it helps just to know someone else is going through the same and surviving.
Okay, putting ALL your savings into equities at any time is foolish, and doing so at a time when the stock market was overheating was double-foolish........... but I guess you knew this already... But this probably would have happened wherever you were hanging your hat at the time, so no use crying over spillt milk.

Investing your life savings in grad school in the US... - this may or may not have been a good idea. But where would you be if you had not done so? And even if, financially/professionally it was not the bees-knees, was it worth it just for the experience?

Are you happy in your job now; do you like the place where you live? If so, can you focus on that, whilst making sure you maximise your earnings and use your cash wisely.

There are all sorts of ways of doing both - check out the Motley Fool for ideas - particularly the Living Below Your Means Board (www.fool.co.uk). Maybe you did not get the best mortgage rate when you returned to the UK - now that you have built up a credit history, why not check whether you can do better? (As well as the Fool, look at Charcol and MoneyExpert.)

Are you paying too much for utilities and insurance? Are you wasting money on lunches and take-out coffees etc? Could you take in a lodger, at least in the short-term, to give yourself some breathing space? Maybe even get a part-time job at a pub - this could be an opportunity not just to earn cash but also meet people.

And have you read this:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Money-Lif.../dp/0140286780

All the best!
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 5:52 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
Hey, Scout, any chance you could bottle your positive outlook? You'd have no money problems if you could market it.

Thanks for the positive post. Sometimes it helps just to know someone else is going through the same and surviving.

Hang in there Dunroving............the sun will come out tomorrow......maybe not in the UK but somewhere in the world.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 6:08 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
Thanks for the helpful replies so far. A couple of comments:

My reason for looking at the past is as a guide to the future, rather than a "Look what I had back then" thing. I really am looking forward, trying to plan for the next 15 years professionally, and then into retirement. My only reason for describing my situation in NC and TN was to indicate that in my situation in both places, I had no worries about my financial future whereas now I have HUGE financial worries.

As for my reasons for coming back, well ... good question, but certainly part of my plans to come back were tied in with the idea I'd be financially secure and things have just not worked out that way at all. Even in the 12 months between my decision to come back and my actual move, house prices rose by around 25% in this area. Between my return and my being able to secure a mortgage they went up another 10-20%. I was hoping to be able to take a few trips to Europe, explore a little. Sh*t, I feel like I've earned the right to have some fun.

If I were younger I think I could take a more philosophical approach as I'd have time on my side. But bloody hell, I'm looking at probably still owing 80,000-100,000 pounds on my mortgage when I retire!
I don't know at what age you plan to retire but as you probably know, even a fair percentage of those who've retired in the US end up having to return to work to maintain a standard of life.

Anyway, your circumstances in the UK right now are probably not that much different to many others of your age in the UK. However, you have the ability to compare retirement in the US as well as the UK and that's making you annoyed.

According to your profile, you're in Scotland. Thank goodness you didn't have to move to London or some other major city in England where the cost of living is plain silly.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 7:50 pm
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by dunroving View Post
If I could click my fingers and be back in Tennessee, I'd do it in a moment. Am I crazy?
No, you're not crazy. The trouble with the system we live under is that we become slaves to pieces of paper/polymer. How much we have in cash, stocks, property etc dictates what we can do and how we can live in the economic world. It's tied to our sense of security and wellbeing, and for good reason.

Those with money can afford to live healthier; they eat better quality and variety of foods, can access private healthcare, live in more comfortable surroundings, can take part in many social and leisure activites the poor can't. A better quality of life in many ways. Money means choice. I'm stating the obvious.

What is it you want for the rest of your life? What is important to you? Can you list/ rate/prioritise?

You left US and returned to UK for a reason(s), are they still valid?

Is fear of the future making you anxious/frustrated/angry/regretful/depressed?

I think maybe you need to stand back for a bit and consider what really is important to you and you can't live without? Financial security can buy you a lot of things, but happiness isn't one of them. Misery in comfort is though, I hear.

Decide what's important to you. If you had a year to live, where would you want to be and with who? How would you want to spend that last year of your life? How would you make every day count? Because that my friend is all that counts in the end: finding what really matters to each of us: it helps with attaining feelings of identity/belonging, serenity, fufilment and peace with ourselves and the world at large and finally, leaving this life .

Good luck,

Christina
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 8:10 pm
  #14  
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Have really enjoyed reading through this thread. Very interesting stuff.

To keep it brief, in answer to the question 'how important is money', it is only important if you don't have any (or bizarrely have too much apparantly). It also becomes increasingly important the less you have, because we all have basic needs that are financially related.

But beyond a certain level, it is not meant to bring more happiness. Although I'm not sure I believe that!

But on a more personal note, I can sympathise with your thoughts since with moving around, you have become worse off financially. I would try however not to worry too much about your situation in 15 years time, because whilst it is a good idea to plan for your retirement, I suspect you will be much more comfortably well off in only 3-4 years time, let alone 10-15. Just because I have found this to be the cycle of 'financial comfort' after readjustment following a significant financial outlay - house moving personally speaking, migration in your case. Have you experienced this before? Well hopefully you will notice this being back in the UK.

Good luck.
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Old Jul 22nd 2007, 10:18 pm
  #15  
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Default Re: Just how important IS money?

Originally Posted by uk+kiwi View Post
But beyond a certain level, it is not meant to bring more happiness. Although I'm not sure I believe that!
It can buy you new and different experiences, a better quality of life in many areas. These things relate to our level of enjoyment and an increase can make us happier with our lot, but that is not the same as happiness. Infact in some ways I think the concept and expectation of happiness is faulty, but that's another story.
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