The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post


Back when I had just graduated from college, my former roommate and I had gotten a bill for missing furniture that we’d never gotten in the first place (our room was too small to fit an easy chair they’d tried to deliver).  I had called up and complained and gotten the charge revoked.  My roommate’s father had just paid her half.  I don’t remember the exact amount but it was definitely over $100.

At the time I did not understand how someone could just *do* that.  If nothing else, the principle of the thing.  I’ve spent most of my life keeping track of things.  Billing discrepancies, missing reimbursements, accidental overcharges.  Even though I hate calling places, I would protest mistakes or make DH protest them.

And now… I just don’t.  I don’t notice them as much and when I do notice them, if the amount is small enough and not likely to be repeated I don’t call.  I do make DH keep track of our internet bill out of principle, and I would make him do the same for the cell if Ting wasn’t such a great company, because those companies would regularly cheat us.  In fact, shortly after starting this post our internet bill went up somewhat randomly, and DH called and… they refused to budge or let DH talk to a manager or anything.  We only have two internet providers in the area (this is down from 3– the major competitor no longer provides internet, only tv) and the other option is pretty bad, so this company feels like they have a monopoly on us.  Old us would have switched out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to talk with a manager (or at least gotten far enough along in the cancellation process that they offered us a deal).  But right now we don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Maybe this summer.  Or never.

This is a pretty new phenomenon for me… maybe half a year old, give or take.  This is the first time we have money and really nowhere to put it.  We’re not saving for a car or a house.  We’re not saving for leave or so DH can quit his job.  We have a full emergency fund.  We’re maxing our our retirement.  Our mortgage is paid off.  Our college savings are such that depending on where the kids go we might be over-saving (though fortunately with two children we can adjust after we know what DC1’s situation is going to be).  We’ve way upped our donations.  We can cash-flow the kinds of vacations we go on with DH’s family.  And our next “it would be nice”s are so far away that there just doesn’t seem to be much point– we’re not going to quit our jobs and move to a house we’ve purchased in a West Coast city any time soon because we can’t afford a house out there without high-paying jobs and we don’t have those jobs in West Coast cities.  That certainly doesn’t seem worth scrimping and saving for.

I like this diminished mental load.  I like not worrying about things.  I like being able to say, “Enh, it’s just money.”  I like being able to think, “maybe they need the money more than we do” (NOT something I think about our terrible big chain internet provider, but something I do tend to think about say, restaurants, or the piano teacher if she makes a billing mistake).  I like having a lot of money.

Don’t let people say money can’t buy happiness.  It can and it does.  Having more than enough (without going insane with stupid things because you want to keep up with the Trumps or whatever) decreases stress tremendous amounts as you go up the income ladder.  Yes, there is some point where you hit diminishing marginal returns on that de-stressing, and we’ve probably hit that point, but with every increase there’s been more and more we can just not worry about.  First the price of groceries, later the price of gas, now the price of letting small* billing mistakes go.  Not keeping track of these things is such a gift.

*Disclaimer:  I do still keep track of BIG billing mistakes, which is why I got big influx of late reimbursements in early October.

Are there things you just don’t worry about anymore because you can afford it?  What do you wish you could just ignore?

24 Responses to “The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post”

  1. rose Says:

    I am NOT in your economic circle. I just got charged a ‘late’ fee of 9.25 on my phone bill. As it was paid direct by bank I was instantly on phone and charge was removed as they could see they had the money in advance of due date. Please do watch out for such over charges because unless lots of people protest companies will ‘make money’ this way; the rest of us need your help too.

    But I also am grateful because I do have enough so I am not choosing between food and heat or medicine. I am deeply gratefully for the years of choosing frugality which made this possible. I do not live large but I can have basics; needs not wants.

    Ummm…. if you are having questions about where to put your ‘extra’ hard earned money: Please know your ability to contribute to politics of equality for all in this country, against caging and kidnapping/’adopting for profit institutions’ legally brought to this country minors, ethical governmental officials, equality in access to women’s health, etc, is very much appreciated by those of us who can afford less.
    I also appreciate all the time and intellectual effort you put into these posts and your Saturday links. I learn because of you. THANK YOU.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Maybe not, but you do live in a place I currently can’t afford to live.

      I am happy with our current increased level of charitable giving and the places to which we donate money and time.

      • rose Says:

        Because of age I bought decades ago. I could not afford to live here either if had to buy now or if property taxes increased like in most other states, they do increase here but not like property values have.
        Super appreciate all you do on behalf of charities and ethics and knowledge.

  2. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    I don’t worry about everyday expenses anymore becaus we’re fortunate enough to not have to. I am still worried about losing everything we’ve saved up due to an auto accident/other accident litigation or health scare. For the former, I guess we should get umbrella insurance and for the latter, I think we’re at the point where we could afford medical tourism for non-emergencies. But there are infinite low probability high impact potential risks, that it’d be bad for my mental health to go down the rabbit hole for every one.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      YES. Umbrella insurance is relatively cheap and totally worth the peace of mind if you worry about this kind of thing. We got ours way before we were at this point in our wealth journey (right before we started this blog, in fact, so almost 10 years ago). I think it’s like $300/year. It will cover a lot of those low probability high impact risks.

    • Leigh Says:

      Umbrella insurance is so cheap! We upped ours to $3M a few years ago (I like to have 10x gross income on it) and we paid $390 for our annual premium this year.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        As a note: it’s not cheap if you don’t need it ($390/year is a lot if you don’t have a lot of assets to protect), but if you do need it, it is way less expensive than the other insurances you need and so cheap for peace of mind. I kind of think it becomes cheap at about the point where someone would think you were worth suing for your assets.

      • Leigh Says:

        That is accurate.

  3. Middle class Says:

    Im in a HCOLA and only reached 60k income in my late 40s and have 2 disabled kids so I dont think I will ever feel comfortable letting fees or erroneous charges slide by.

    however due to some family help and years of saving, i am happy to report that i usually ignore increased gas prices, one time erroneous charges of it’s a small amount , and no longer go crazy chasing drugstore deals and coupon clipping.
    I do still hate late fees and overdraft fees. But i think i let one or two go uncontested ..something i would never have done a few years ago!

    • Middle class Says:

      Sorry for rypos…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I used to pay so much attention to gas prices! Even though I’ve always only driven gas-sipping cars.

      I remember the drugstore deals for toilet paper– I had a heuristic that if it were 25 cents/roll or less, I would stock up. (Similarly, if chicken leg-quarter combinations at the grocery store were 69cents/lb or less I would stock up to the extent our dwarf freezer could handle… I no longer buy leg-thigh combinations.)

      In the past couple years I’ve even moved everything but the credit cards to autobilling (before everything that could be sent to credit card was auto-billed before since I’d see problems on the credit card bill once a month), so it’s really difficult to get late fees now. And it’s easier to avoid overdraft fees when you have enough money that you aren’t chasing interest rates– I remember getting those too. (I also remember one of my graduate professors asking if anybody even paid attention to how much money they had in their checking account– he just kept enough in that he was never in danger of overdrafting… I still keep track! Though I don’t quadruple check quite as regularly to make sure I’m accurate to the penny like I used to.)

      With more money one can give up control because the consequences aren’t so terrible.

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Since we’re still in that HCOLA, we’ve still got a lot of that financial situational awareness going and I don’t anticipate it going away any time soon. BUT we are still very well off because we can choose our daycare based on what worked best for our family and not just on the cost, we are able to travel to see family 2-3x a year (though we can’t do more than that and it’s taxing), we are able to foot the cost of emergency travel when it comes up instead of having to stay home.

    I still contest all fees on the principle of it, I don’t think most companies deserve to keep my money, but I will let some price matching pass. I just found that PiC actually does own black pants and a black tie, but I think I threw out the tags for the set he just bought, so instead of making myself dig into the recycling bin which will be tough (it’s very tall, I’d practically have to climb in), I might just decide that have two sets of funeral clothes isn’t a bad thing and not worry about returning them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Daycare costs being gone has definitely helped us. But living in a LCOL area but earning as if we’re in a HCOL is where most of our excess is coming from.

      Last time DH went to a funeral we had to scramble and he definitely didn’t end up in a black suit…I think we went with black pants and a grey buttondown because that was the most somber dressy thing he owned Having two suits isn’t a bad thing, especially if the newer one fits better. (DH’s only suit is from high school and he doesn’t really fit in it anymore.)

  5. Leigh Says:

    I paid the $1 fee to pay our most recent property tax installment online after realizing that it basically equalled how much a stamp ($0.55) + a check ($0.17) + waiting for them to process it cost ($0.72 plus my stress). That saved so much of my sanity!

    We, uh, splurged on Gigabit internet when we moved to our new place. It’s $69.99/month for the first year when we were paying $86.95 for crappy speeds before at our old place.

    I flat out don’t worry about how much food costs. If I’m hungry, I eat. I find food near me and I don’t worry about it anymore. But like, even with not worrying about it, we spend about $1,000/month on all groceries/takeout/coffee food for two people in a HCOL, which is high, but not insane. The amount of mental energy that has saved me is incredible.

    We spend so little on gas that I don’t worry about how much it costs to fill up each time. (< $500 for all of 2018.)

    I don't think I'll ever get to a point of just paying things because of the Principle of the matter, but we certainly shop around a lot less than we used to. Like, the internet technician was late, so we followed up on the $20 credit for that (that was supposed to be automatic) and we still need to follow up on the fact that they were supposed to also waive our $89.99 installation fee…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve also decided paying a small fee is worth it for credit card billing.

      The first thing we did when we got real jobs is make a rule that we could buy whatever we wanted at the grocery store. That makes me feel so rich. And it’s not that dangerous since our grocery store doesn’t get that pricey for anything.

      I don’t think we’ve ever had an internet provider who wasn’t sketchy and didn’t require multiple phone calls to make things right.

      • Leigh Says:

        I tend to pay the credit card fee now when I’m worried about a vendor (deposit on the painters for selling the apartment, for example) or like we didn’t know where our checkbook was precisely, so we paid the fee for the movers too… (And got an earful from my mom on that we should always know where our checkbook is.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        credit cards do provide a measure of protection that checks do not!

  6. Debbie M Says:

    I still pay attention to charges because I don’t mind doing so. Also, sometimes they are tied to other goals (like paying less for electricity is good for my budget and correlated with using less electricity which is good for the planet).

    But I don’t worry about my checking account balance (except occasionally when I have to pay some big bill, ahem, property taxes, with a check). And I do allow myself to throw money at problems rather than just suffering (like renting a car if it breaks down on vacation). Having budgeted for maintenance means I don’t worry about when stuff breaks down. (Not only do I have savings, but I have everything I need, so I’m just in maintenance/replacement mode, so much easier than in build-up mode.)

    As far as passing the peak happiness that money brings, I think that mainly means worrying about stuff like theft and kidnapping, plus maybe you have to be more careful about where your charitable dollars go. It’s probably even worse if you’re famous or obviously looking richer than those around you.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Those are all good things! (Except property tax, which I guess is good for everyone else if you pay it.)

      I think I worry less about theft as we get more money. That’s also a reason I don’t consolidate our assets. Kidnapping I don’t tend to think of in the US, and it does seem to be more about spending and fame than income per se. And with more money you’re more likely to be able to afford ransom and private investigators.

      For any would be criminals reading, we don’t have enough to make it worth it, and most of what we have is in retirement accounts that are difficult to tap quickly.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    I remember getting a speeding ticket in college and it brought me to tears. It seemed like so much money to have a $200 unplanned expense. I am not even sure I know what the equivalent financial feeling would be now because I have so many insurances and buffers
    built in for catastrophes these days.

    I’ve been fortunate to have a job my whole adult life, but yet I am still always wondering when the other shoe will drop. The bad part of this is that I haven’t taken many risks but at least I realize this. Maybe that’s the next savings goal. Save up to do something risky like go out on my own.

  8. Matthew D Healy Says:

    I recently resumed working after a six month hiatus. Fortunately for me, the combination of savings, an employed spouse, and a recent move from an expensive coastal city to the Midwest have made this transition far less stressful than it would have been at times when our reserves were a lot smaller.

    Slightly off topic: NY Times has an interesting piece on how some people appear able to live well above their apparent means:

    “No doubt, most people could improve how they handle their finances. But better money management isn’t usually the culprit: When people seem to be able to afford much more than their income would suggest, it’s often because there is hidden wealth or hidden debt.”

    • First Gen American Says:

      In my town, there is a clear divide between the social statuses. We know who the really wealthy are because they underwrite non profits and their names are plastered everywhere for galas and things. I am actually very grateful these people live in our community because they spend very lavishly spend on the arts and support the community in many ways. Surprisingly, it seems more difficult to tap into these folks for things like education non-profits. They also pay a crap-ton of property taxes and use very little of the services as most are only here in the summer, which helps our school funding. They are mostly retired with grown kids.

      The upper middle class, many have more debt then we do, but they spend more, especially on cars, vacations and childcare. Most are like us and worked two jobs a long time and saved before having kids. ThIs segment is dominated by engineers, doctors and lawyers. They are all very down to earth, but like our engineer stereotype, we’re a bit stingier. We make a good wage and life is good but can’t spend with reckless abandon. We pretty much all moved here for the school system and pay a lot more for housing to do it. This is 99% of our kid’s friend group as well. This would be an interesting grumpies post. (Why and how kids gravitate to the same social status. It seemed random at the time but it really isn’t).

      The middle class here are the most snobby…and many of these people inherited their homes from family members or got them at a severe discount. Not all, but many of the townies are very uppity about their social status even though most of them couldn’t afford it otherwise. I thought the reverse would be true when I moved here…that the poorest crowd would be the most down to earth, but it’s the opposite. This group is very cliquey…both the adults and their kids so we don’t ever hang out with them. I had one mom literally turn her back on me while I was trying to get to know everyone when we moved here. It was so rude. Now I know where the term cold shoulder comes from. It’s so interesting how we subconsciously or consciously segregate ourselves.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hm, maybe that’s why I never had friends growing up… not many genteel poor kids in town. Though DC2’s friends have blue-collar dads and c;lerical moms. So not something we have much personal experience with.

  9. becca Says:

    On the one hand, I definitely noticed (and successfully contested) a $10 bank fee the other month.
    On the other hand, my partner had gotten a scary IRS notice that they were reviewing his taxes, and today he got the letter saying he owes $118. Maybe it’s more an illustration of the worries/expectations : reality perception phenomenon than our actual sensitivity to surprise bills, but we were both pretty happy about it.

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