Written by David Campaigne, Sr. Private Wealth Advisor in Ronald Blue Trust’s Baltimore, MD office
Although deep down all of us know that accumulating more and more material possessions does not lead to lasting joy or contentment, we still continue to buy things that we’re told will make us feel better, richer, or smarter. Our culture places a lot of value on “things”— cars, homes, clothes, and technology. In a great book titled A Trip Around the Sun by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth, these words leapt off the page for me:
“Most of us spend our trips around the sun accumulating the wrong things. Possessions are a dime a dozen. Experiences are the currency of a life well lived.”1
An article on Forbes.com titled, “Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things,” echoes these thoughts. The article noted a 20-year study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, which reached this powerful conclusion:
“Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly.”2
It is also interesting to note the study’s findings regarding the paradox of possessions versus the power of experiences. Deriving satisfaction from possessions is a moving target and the happiness they provide is temporary.
The Paradox of Possessions
We get used to new possessions – what once seemed novel and exciting becomes the norm.
We keep raising the bar – we look for a better version of what we already have almost instantly.
The “Joneses” are always lurking nearby – we compare what we have to what our friends or neighbors have, and we constantly try to keep up with the latest trends. In contrast, experiences can provide lasting value and memories long after possessions are gone or forgotten.
The Power of Experiences
Experiences become a part of our identity. Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” On the other hand, our experiences become a part of who we are.
Comparisons matter little – we can’t compare experiences in the same way that we compare things because it’s difficult to quantify the relative value of any two experiences.
Anticipation adds value – experiences can be enjoyable from the very first moments of planning all the way through to the memories you cherish forever.
Experiences are fleeting (which is a good thing) – because experiences are temporary we tend to value them more, and their importance often increases as time passes.
Our family, for instance, is fortunate to live near a state park in Maryland. Taking hikes as a family with our young kids is something we do regularly at almost no financial cost. Being able to soak in the beauty of God’s creation and fellowship as a family means so much to us, and it’s not something we can put a price tag on.
We’ve also been blessed to be able to visit family in Bozeman, Montana, where we’ve camped near the majestic Rocky Mountains and enjoyed the beautiful and varied landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. A trip to Montana from the East Coast obviously costs more than a hike at a local state park, but both are experiences my wife and I treasure as our kids continue growing up. We realize we only have a limited time with them living under our roof; our goal is to make the most of that time and create memories now that they will cherish for a lifetime.
Experiences can be as simple as a weekly game night at home or a monthly Sunday dinner with extended family or as elaborate as trips to the beach, the mountains, or another country. The key is to prioritize and plan these experiences or else time and life somehow get away from us. Through these experiences, we get to know one another better and share our values with the next generation.
I have taken to heart the messages found in Ronald Blue Trust’s EVP and chief mission officer, Russ Crosson’s book Your Life…Well Spent. He shares about the importance of leaving a godly posterity (discipling the next generation in order to leave a lasting legacy) versus prosperity (financial success). Our posterity is the message we leave to a time that we will not see.
What experiences do you hope to accumulate? What choices can you make today to help pass along your values to the next generation of tomorrow?
If you need assistance and would like to talk to a Ronald Blue Trust advisor, please contact us at 800.987.2987 or email [email protected].
1Mark Batterson and Richard Foth, A Trip Around the Sun (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 37.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.