Apr 272011
 

I’ve been accused of being obsessed about money in the past. My sister and her husband once accused me of being a heartless bastard who cared about nothing but money. While I disagreed with the heartless bastard part, I had to admit thinking about money dominates my thoughts at times. I think about investing. I think about minimizing my expenses and increasing my earnings. I spend time on Twitter discussing money with people. I’m usually thinking of either money, sports or boobs. I quite enjoy those three things.

Is my obsession with money a bad thing? At what point should I take a step back and stop worrying about money so much?

Meet David

Like that time I talked about the old man who works at Wal-Mart, I’ve got another money story that’ll bum you out a little. If you need cheering up, I’d recommend one of my Saturday Link Dumps. They’re usually pretty funny.

Unlike Leonard though, I don’t have to hide any details of his life. David was kind enough to tell his story to the LA Times. I bet all of you twenty bucks that he’s gonna regret it once he reads the comments. Wow, people are mean when hiding behind anonymity on the internet.

Since you’re all clearly too lazy to click through to the Times’ story, let me give you the juicy parts:

Schoolteacher David Moehlman has a money problem.

He has a lot of it — more than $1 million in savings accounts and mutual funds, plus half a million or so in real estate. And he has no debt.

Moehlman, 44, didn’t amass the vast majority of this nest egg through an inheritance or other windfall. He worked hard and made some good investments.

And he took savings to an extreme. For example, he eats breakfast and dinner every day at fast-food places where he always orders off the $1 menu, and lunch is usually a 75-cent microwave burrito.

At first glance, he seems just like another cheap guy, albeit one that can’t cook. But his story gets more sad.

He has a car, but it comes out of the garage only a couple of times a year. Otherwise he rides a motorcycle to save on gas. When the weather turns rainy and cold, he dons a snowsuit for riding.

But he worries constantly about money — especially that he will not have enough for retirement — and has made saving a center of his life.

“If I had $10 million I wouldn’t live any differently because spending money doesn’t make me happy,” said Moehlman, who lives in Moreno Valley. “I don’t know where it comes from, but I’ve always been this way.”

Most people would give their right pinky finger to have a nest egg the size of David’s. Yet he constantly worries he doesn’t have enough for retirement. Apparently he’s forgotten about the generous teacher pension he’s going to get.

Moehlman’s life has been marked by family tragedies. His two brothers were killed in separate traffic accidents. His father had a stroke and requires round-the-clock care.

The schoolteacher was married at one point, but his extreme saving habits contributed to the relationship ending in divorce.

He said he had dreams of retiring at age 55 or earlier and moving to Mexico or Ecuador for the more affordable lifestyle. He thought it could mark a new beginning.

“I think it would be good for me,” he said. “It would get me out of my box.”

But now he is the only sibling left to help take care of his father.

This situation is clearly not good. I’m not a psychologist, but David obviously has some pretty serious issues going on. Most people save up money so they have the freedom to partake in luxuries. David seems to be on some sort of quest to constantly add to the pile that is his net worth.

People Don’t Want To End Up Like David

There are cheap people out there and there are frugal people. David makes cheap people look like Donald Trump.

We all know David is too extreme in his saving. His lifestyle has actually driven people away from him who once loved him. This is unequivocally bad. David’s results are impressive, we just don’t agree with his methods. He’s achieved financial freedom, but at what cost?

Now put yourself in the shoes of your friend or family member who don’t give two craps about money. They look at you making your own laundry detergent (or whatever odd thing you do to save money) and think you’re absolutely insane. To them, we’re all just a bunch of Davids.  We’d all quickly step up and say David is the crazy one, that we have balance in our lives. But do we really, when so much of our time and energy are spent obsessing about dollars and cents?

Ultimately, these types of decisions are the personal part of personal finance. It’s up to you to decide whether you take your frugality too far. There’s a line in the sand you’ve drawn at some point, and you refuse to cross it. Maybe you refuse to shop at thrift stores. Maybe you refuse to live in your parents’ basement past a certain age. Or maybe you’re not above eating from the dollar menu every day. And while that line might seem normal to you, it would repulse someone who takes money far less seriously.

Are You Normal?

When it comes to money, I am certainly not normal. I’ve tried all sorts of crazy schemes to make extra cash and to save cash.

As I get older and more mature, I realize life is about more than just the money. I want to become wealthy and to build my passive income up. I want to pay off the mortgage on my house so I have somewhere to live for next to nothing. There are all sorts of financial dreams I still want to achieve.

Yet there are all sorts of dreams I want to achieve that cost money. I want to travel. I want to meet that special someone and grab her boobs repeatedly. I want little Uproars running around, just as long as they don’t bug me while the Jays are on. While having money makes these dreams much easier to accomplish, these are definitely activities that cost money.

At what point does a saver switch and start to spend their money? Where is the proper balance between planning for the future and living for today? No matter where you are on the savings spectrum, these are questions you must ask yourself. And maybe us savers are a little closer to being David than we’d like to admit.

Tell everyone, yo!

  15 Responses to “Obsessed About Money”

  1. Yeah, the people who say I’m cheap are people that borrow money from me and have a hard time paying it back…they have nicer homes, cars and crap than me but they’ll be eating dog food out of a can when I can at least afford spam and KD

  2. That’s your friend? SO COOL. I read the story a while back and while I admired him saving so much I thought — oh goodness I couldn’t eat $1 meals at McDonald’s to do it. :

    I think it’s more of the opposite swing of the pendulum towards obsessive saving rather than obsessive shopping and consumption.

    As you said, personal finance is just that — personal. What I find important is not what others do, and vice versa. We just have to muddle along in our lives the best we can and do the best we can. :)

    • For the record, I do NOT know David. I’d definitely hang out with him though. He seems lonely.

      As long as someone is comfortable with where they are on the spectrum, then they should be as cheap or as spendy as they want. It doesn’t seem that David is comfortable with himself though. Poor guy.

  3. That’s your friend? SO COOL. I read the story a while back and while I admired him saving so much I thought — oh goodness I couldn’t eat $1 meals at McDonald’s to do it. :

    I think it’s more of the opposite swing of the pendulum towards obsessive saving rather than obsessive shopping and consumption.

    As you said, personal finance is just that — personal. What I find important is not what others do, and vice versa. We just have to muddle along in our lives the best we can and do the best we can. :)

  4. Hey Uproar,

    You’re one of the funniest and clearest thinking guys I read. Keep up the great work.

  5. I really hope I don’t become David but some of the things that were written remind me a little too much of myself. To me, money isn’t something to be spent but rather something to be horded, stashed, invested, etc. I enjoy seeing my account balances grow more than I enjoy buying pretty much anything.

    I suppose it is all about finding balance, but to be honest since my friends and wife are no where close to leaving me (I hope), I think I feel much better being on this side of the savers-vs-shoppers pendulum! Good post though =)

    • I think guys like you (and me) are a lot closer to being David than we’d like to think. On a scale of 1-100, David is probably a 95. I’d describe myself as about an 80. I’m a lot closer to David than I am to people who spend too much and are in debt.

  6. […] Obsessed about money […]

  7. I’ve never heard of anxiety issues allowing you to save this much money. It’s sad that he likely won’t be able to enjoy all his sacrifice.

    In terms of being normal – I’m probably not. I was an extreme spender and now I’m the complete opposite. I’m constantly trying to find ways of saving money so that I can retire happily without having to worry about money again.

    And lol @ your ‘grab her boobs repeatedly’ comment :)

  8. I could never be as extreme as David. I like saving, I like investing but man, I do not want to have that level of anxiety over anything in life. Money is just that. You can’t take it with you. Unless of course, you have A VERY coffin.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  9. ” I want to meet that special someone and grab her boobs repeatedly.”

    lmbo love this!

  10. […] There’s a reason why you should be foolish while you’re young. It’s because you’ll have all sorts of time to make up for the decision. I’m not advocating going into credit card debt to pay for 3 months worth of backpacking in Europe. If you’re going to do that, you should spend the time and save up for the trip. But what’s more important? The memories and lessons gained from the experience? Or a slightly bigger pile of money for retirement? There is such a thing as being obsessed with money. […]

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