The following was written by David Campaigne, a Senior Private Wealth Advisor located in Ronald Blue & Co.’s branch office in Baltimore, Maryland.
Living in such a consumptive world, I think it’s very easy for us to value material possessions. This is not a trend that Christians are immune to. In a great book titled “A Trip Around the Sun” by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth, these words leapt off the pages when I read them:
“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.”
An article on Forbes.com in August 2016 titled, “Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things”1, echoes these thoughts. It 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.”
In a culture that promotes consumerism and buying things that will make us feel better, richer, or smarter, it’s interesting to note the study’s findings regarding the paradox of possessions versus the power of experiences. It’s clear that deriving satisfaction from possessions is a moving target.
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 our friends or peers, 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 hard to quantify the relative value of any two experiences. This is what makes them more enjoyable.
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) – the very fact that experiences are temporary makes us value them, and that value tends to increase as time passes.
While it’s true that some experiences require us to save up a bit of money, such as traveling overseas, others can be simple, low-cost, and close to home. In other words, experiences abound all around you.
Our family, for instance, is fortunate to live less than five miles from Gunpowder Falls State Park, one of Maryland’s top-rated state parks. Taking hikes as a family with our young kids (ages seven and nine) 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 me, and it’s not something you 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, enjoying the beautiful and varied landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. A trip out to Montana and Wyoming from the East Coast obviously costs more than taking a hike at a local state park, but both are the kinds of experiences my wife and I treasure as our kids continue growing up. We realize we only have a limited time with our kids living under our roof; our goal is to make the most of that time and create memories that they will take with them to adulthood. As I’ve heard it so well stated by a friend, “Time may be measured in minutes, but life is measured in moments.”
I’m also fortunate to work with a firm that believes in experiences over possessions, from the top-down. Our president and CEO, Russ Crosson, authored a book titled Your Life…Well Spent. In the book, Russ talks about the importance of leaving a godly posterity (discipling to the next generation in order to leave a lasting legacy) versus prosperity (financial success).
What experiences do you hope to accumulate? If you’d like discuss how experiences can impact your posterity, please contact a Ronald Blue & Co. advisor; we would love to speak with you.
May God grant you many blessings and cherished moments on your trips around the sun!