Toys, Toys, and More Toys

Sitting down for coffee with Michael, a client who’s contemplating the purchase of a $2.8 million yacht, I started in on the age-old “money can’t/can buy happiness” theme. As a rule, I wouldn’t raise the issue with my wealthy clients for fear of striking a sensitive chord, but this client is my close skiing buddy, and he is always happy to share his insights on how the wealthy think. Without hesitation he told me that he couldn’t be certain of it unless he had ample opportunity to test the theory himself. “Sure, money can buy happiness, but happiness is fleeting.” He went on after a sip of coffee, “What it can’t buy is contentment, which is what we all want; but for people who have the energy and resources, it’s ever-elusive.” He then added this clarification: “Ben Franklin was once asked what his definition of a wealthy man was, and he said, ‘He who is contented.’ When asked who that is, he said, ‘Nobody.’” For Michael, his contentment will not come from his pursuit of money, rather from his pursuit of his passion, which is sailing.

He happily admitted that the yacht is an expression of his status and his success. He is an avid sailor and has been for most of his life. He has owned the whole gamut of boats—from an 18-foot Sea Ray to a 36-foot sailboat—all of which have brought him great joy. But just as he has never been content with his level of success in business—which is why, he says, he will never stop working—he has never been content ...

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