Walking through a particularly nice part of Ballarat the other day, surrounded by beautiful houses, got me thinking about some houses I’ve been in over the years.
Because one of the privileges of making house calls was getting to see a wide variety of homes over the years. I’ve written of my mixed feelings about house calls before.
On one side, it’s a real privilege to be invited into somebody’s home to talk about the extremely sensitive topic of their finances.
But on the other side, it can kind of be a pain in the neck. It involves more travel, which costs both time and money. It’s inefficient.
But anyway – back to some of the houses I’ve been in.
Because I had some favourites.
There was the immaculate, architecturally designed, exquisitely renovated house from the 1980s.
The wonderfully chaotic, book-filled, timber-lined Californian with the leadlight porthole next to the front door.
The cosy, poky, old, musty third-floor 1960s apartment with the original kitchen, northerly aspect and thick walls.
And the Peninsula weekender with those views, that’d been renovated as part of the long-held retirement plans.
Yeah, But Why?
So as I was strolling along, in a cloud of histamines and nostalgia, I started wondering – why were these my favourites?
Why, of the dozens – hundreds? – of homes I’ve been in over the years, did these ones leave an impression?
And I realised it was all because of the light.
Not the abundance of it, but rather the shape, colour, manipulation and use of the light.
How it shone on to the new breakfast bar in the 1980s house, warming your hands and highlighting those little particles in the air.
How, when the time was right, it hit that leadlight and made the hallway glow red.
How the view across the rooftops of inner Melbourne was only part of the warming appeal of those big, wide 1960s windows.
How it flooded the entire living area but was, with clever architectural steps, kept away from the cosier living areas.
And, I realised, there is – as ever – a link to people’s money in these random recollections.
Because, I realised, it wasn’t ever about there being lots and lots of light in these houses.
It’s about how the light that WAS there was being used.
My view on money is the same.
Money and Light – It’s Not How Much, It’s What You Do With It
It’s not enough to just flood a house with light all day long. After all, fill a big room with midday sun and it loses all character in a flood of blinding blandness. Everything melds together and you wash away any character the room might have had.
Money’s the same.
It’s not enough to have boatloads of money if you don’t know what you’re doing with it. Simply working or living to pile up ever increasing lumps of money as some proxy for self-esteem or meaning is, to me, madness. There’s always somebody with more money, and somebody else with less.
Focusing on money for money’s sake makes for a life as dull as a thoughtlessly lit room.
Instead, I believe it’s about putting the money you do have to the absolutely best use possible.
Working within the constraints of your situation to make your life the greatest version it can be. Sure, we’ll stretch those constraints, but I believe constraints lead to creativity.
Which leads to personality and individuality and a notable life filled with meaning for you.
Lots of Money Doesn’t Equal Happiness
Which is why, when I think of the happiest people I’ve been able to work with, I don’t think of the millionaires.
Instead, I think of the long-working single mother who was able to retire on her own terms.
Or the diesel mechanic who never lived beyond his means, paid for his daughter’s private education and managed to pick up two investment properties over the years.
Or the divorcee slowly converting heartbreak and fear into excitement and hope.
Now, like good architecture, this is all easier said than done.
But if you want a house that people think about years later, as they stroll through a beautiful town, then think about speaking with an architect about how you can shepherd the light.
And if you want finances that you can think about with pride, speak with a financial adviser about building your best financial life.