Last month, I took a vacation trip with three wealthy friends.
Two of them are famous. All three are centimillionaires.
Folks of lesser means might imagine we spent our time yachting or driving exotic cars or tasting rare and expensive wines.
But, while we had a great time, it wasn’t like that at all.
I won’t keep you in suspense. Here’s what we did…
We spent a few hours each morning working. Not because we had to but because we wanted to.
All four of us enjoy what we do for a living.
We found time each afternoon to go to the beach, take a dip in the water and snorkel around a bit.
We also each brought a book and spent time reading in the shade.
Cost? Zero. (Or about 20 bucks if you’re a stickler.)
We played pickleball every evening.
We played spirited and highly competitive games of backgammon and spades.
We had several interesting discussions about where the world is headed and what we intend to do with our remaining years while we’re still in good health.
Over the course of six evenings, we watched approximately one hour of television.
(It was a movie starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. But it must not have been that great because we all fell asleep before it was over. I was the last to go with less than 30 minutes left.)
We cooked three delicious dinners – all three of my buddies are pretty good chefs – and had three dinners out at local restaurants.
Cost? Not very much. (I know this because I bought the meals out since I’m the only one who didn’t cook.)
Okay, a few things weren’t entirely ordinary.
We were on Nevis, an island jewel at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles. We stayed in a private villa at the Four Seasons Resort. And we flew there and back on a private jet.
But those are trivial details, really.
We would have had just as much fun if we’d taken economy class flights to Miami and stayed at the Marriott.
This trip was about just hanging out with friends and shooting the breeze.
The truth of the matter is that ultra-wealthy people don’t live very differently day to day than middle-class Americans do.
Elon Musk doesn’t have a more powerful iPhone than you do.
Oprah Winfrey doesn’t get a better filet at the local steakhouse.
Bill Gates doesn’t have an Ultra HDTV with a superior picture.
Warren Buffett doesn’t have more entertainment choices than the average Netflix subscriber, who pays between $7 and $20 a month.
Yes, these people may have yachts and private jets and expensive hobbies and celebrity friends.
But so what? If you’re not content without those things, you wouldn’t be content with them.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Affluent men and women spend their free time watching the ballgame, going to a movie, reading a book or hanging out with friends, just like people without many financial assets.
In New York City a few years ago, I had dinner with an uber-wealthy friend who was getting on in years.
I asked him how he intended to spend his fortune in his declining years.
“You know what I really enjoy?” he said. “An intelligent conversation with good friends over a great meal. That’s all I really want.”
Who isn’t able to enjoy that? No one.
How many people say that’s all it would take to make them happy?
The answer is the same. Essentially no one.
There’s a lesson here. And you don’t have to travel to the Lesser Antilles to find it.