Grandpa became a widower at the age of 55. He remarried within a year, to a single lady friend of the family whom we called Aunt Florence. Florence and Grandpa had a relatively short married life together—he died at age 65—but she remained part of the family. Florence lived a simple life, and when asked how she was doing, she always replied she was “content.” But she once offered some wisdom that’s stayed with me ever since: “When all is said and done,” she told us, “all you have left are memories. So make good memories!”
The culture in our consumer-led economy suggests that it's the acquisition of things that leads to happiness. One can argue that purchasing an object rather than a one-off experience like a vacation or a concert will make one happier longer because that item lasts longer than the experience. Research suggests that’s not the case.1
That study showed buying things makes us happy, but only briefly. The continual presence of what we bought makes it fade into our surroundings. The study also showed that among those surveyed, people’s satisfaction with buying things decreased, while those who spent money on experiences showed increased satisfaction over time. In part, that’s because experiences tend to become embedded in our identity. They also connect us with others on a deeper level than what we might feel with fellow purchasers of “things.”2
It’s summer time. Vacations and travel figure prominently on many schedules. So, it may be time for you to “make good memories!” To amplify the happiness from these experiences, remind yourself of four simple strategies for getting the most out of something like a family trip or travel overseas.
- Build your anticipation of the experience or trip. Talk with those with whom you’ll travel about what you'll be doing and where you’re going. Take time to study the history or current events surrounding your destination. It's a great opportunity to learn more about a part of the country or the world you may not know much about.
- Stay present and fully appreciate what’s happening while on the trip. Try hard not to limit your observation of everything from behind a phone camera lens. Take in and really absorb everything around you. Savor the experience, the landscape, the local people and the local cuisine.
- When you get home, reminisce, relish, and relive. Get together with your travel companions (virtually or in person) and share stories and photos. Consider putting up photos of your trip in your home or office. Change the image on the home screen of your phone to one from your adventure. With time, you might even reinforce the experience by reading a book set in or written about where you traveled.
- Talk about and share with others at every stage of the trip. By sharing at every stage (anticipation, experience, reminiscence), you'll prolong and enhance all the things you enjoyed about your experience. While you're on the trip, talk with your travel mates at each meal about favorite moments. Sharing also might mean writing or blogging about it, or posting visual and written snapshots on your social media accounts.
These ideas may prolong your experience and make it bigger than life, which ultimately will make you feel as though you've gotten the most out of your "investment." You can use these techniques to enhance the experiences you may have in store this summer, whether you spend $300, $3,000 or $30,000 on your adventure. So, go make some good memories! Aunt Florence would be proud of you!
Disclaimer: The information provided here is general and intended as educational in nature. It is not intended nor should it be considered as tax, accounting, or legal advice. Investec Wealth Strategies and its advisors do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. We recommend you seek the counsel of your attorney, accountant or other qualified tax advisor concerning your situation.