Why Minimalism Can Make You Wealthier
Today, I am excited to have Chad Gordon from GreenStar Advisors guest posting here to talk about money and minimalism. He believes that embracing a minimalist-inspired lifestyle can help us generate the wealth and mind-space to pursue our passions. Please give him a warm welcome!
I started working with people’s finances straight out of college. I was freshly married and crankin’ out babies like the best of ‘em.
As the sole breadwinner working in banks, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of envy when I came across those with substantial money in their bank accounts. In my mind, these financial achievements were emblematic of what I ultimately wanted: peace of mind.
Over those initial years, I saw an endless stream of people. It slowly dawned on me that these people didn’t seem any less stressed out about money than I was. I have a mental lineup of multi-millionaires expressing to me with complete sincerity that they were worried about running out of money. They weren’t certain if they had enough or if they could safely retire.
I’ve tried to talk people into being proud of their financial accomplishments, “Mr. Smith, you are a multi-millionaire. You realize that’s a big deal, right?” Each time it’s met with a shrug of the shoulders. Those shrugs are fueled by something beyond modesty. I’m often at a loss for words to persuade people into a rightly earned financial peace of mind.
The accumulation of money doesn’t always buy what it’s intended to buy.
Is wealth really that expensive?
What I found in my early 20s is that when you don’t have much money, it’s easy to envision wealth as “everything above you.” But whatever territory you tread, wealth continues to have an inner definition of “everything above you.”
At some point, this elusiveness must be reined in.
It is you that sets the price of what feels like wealth. It is you, influenced by the family you grew up in, your society, your ambition, your spouse, and your friends. The price of wealth is extremely subjective. Wealth doesn’t have to be as expensive as we may imagine. Minimalism is about making wealth cheaper.
Our lovely American society has pre-answered our natural biological yearnings with “get more money.” We yearn for shelter, stability, food security, and the power to do what we want in life. It is easiest to see wealth as the answer to this yearning because it does answer these needs.
However, it’s not the only answer.
The minimalist mindset shift: when having less means having more
I feel that part of stress is not because we have too little, but because we have too much.
All objects in our lives occupy some amount of space in our brains. They carry a sense of “need to take care of that thing.”
The less we have, the less taxing the “wealth yearning” feels.
This is counterintuitive to our indoctrination. Minimalism is about freeing up your mind. Thus far, our focus has been about maximizing your wealth using existing resources. While the expansion of wealth is intended to grow your ability to buy stuff, minimalism is about the deliberate choice to have less, regardless of financial abilities.
With the Wealth by Virtue book, I have various hopes for readers. The more obvious one is
comprehensive financial education. I hope to make what you should do with your money as clear as possible. I hope that these optimized choices increase your wealth.
But to me, this implies the question “Why?” I don’t just want you wealthy. Ultimately, I want you to be happy, feel peace, and reduce unnecessary stress.
This goal is why I feel minimalism is relevant.
Learning to let things go
Years ago, I heard about actors Sean Penn and Robin Wright’s house burning down in a 1993 Malibu fire.
They lost everything except each other and the clothes on their backs.
I remember Penn saying that once they got over the shock of the loss, the experience was cathartic. Years later he reflected, “Everything in life burned, except my family, and it was so liberating.” He said, “It reinvigorated my interest in a lot of things.”
In the past when I’ve moved houses, I have taken the opportunity to get rid of everything that I didn’t need—which was much closer to “everything” than I knew. I have found it oddly invigorating to have cabinets, drawers, and closets that were empty as a drum. That was the surprising liberty of minimalism: the freedom of having nothing.
Minimalism will mean very different things for different people, but wherever you are, I would challenge you to get rid of (give away, sell, or recycle ideally) as much as you can.
Start with your closet. Which items in your wardrobe have you actually worn in the past year? After you go through a winter, take an honest look at everything and simply remove anything you didn’t wear last winter (the same thing with summer). Pass it along. Things you’ve kept for sentimental reasons, but don’t wear: let them go.
Enjoy remembering what an item brought you and let it go.
Do you need all those shovels and landscaping tools? You use the newest and best, get rid of the rest. Do you have a storage unit? Get rid of enough so that you don’t need it.
Financially consolidate your accounts. Delete the apps off your phone that you don’t use. Unsubscribe from email newsletters you don’t read. Get rid of books that you won’t realistically read again. Get rid of movies you won’t watch.
Just get rid of it.
I am not saying this for financial reasons.
Granted, if you aren’t wasting money on trivialities, it helps your bottom line. But I advocate minimalism as a key component of "noise reduction".
Much of the trick of investing, for example, is strategically drowning out the harmful noises that cause stress. Noise in your life tends to cause mental clutter and catatonic indecisiveness. Noise makes it difficult to focus and ultimately take action.
With fewer mental barriers, look at what you want out of life and what’s important to you. Clutter mentally prohibits people from change. It prevents your active movement, and moving is living.
Remember: worry only about what you can control.
I believe that simplicity mixed with financial independence is freedom, and to me freedom is the landscape of happiness.
MORE ABOUT CHAD GORDON
He advises individuals, couples, and families toward wealth-optimized decisions using holistic financial planning, disciplined investment strategies, and proactive personal service.
He has a passion that clients operate by a long-term conceptual framework that guides them through all financial decisions.