“Do you have the perfect life..?”

Miss Thrifty13 July 17, 2010

perfect life My day job (in media, dahling) means that I often get emails from journalists who are looking for case studies for real-life features in newspapers and magazines. A round robin email pinged through the other day, from a journalist on The Daily Mail.

QUERY: Do you have the perfect life? I am putting together a light-hearted feature
about a couple who fit the brief of a recent survey which describes the
‘perfect life.’…

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? So are you wondering just what the officially perfect life might be? A happy, healthy family perhaps? Debt-free, bucolic bliss? Sunshine and giggles?

Um, no.

Here it is in full:

QUERY: Do you have the perfect life? I am putting together a light-hearted feature
about a couple who fit the brief of a recent survey which describes the
‘perfect life.’ This is an ideal opportunity to promote a business or
products. You need to be married, have two children, and now are able to
work part time when you want. You need to earn over £100,000 a year, and
ideally have an Aston Martin! Or you can have another luxury car. You need
to take fabulous foreign holidays, and have a lovely home. Please can you
EMAIL me asap and we will mention your business or products which have
allowed you to have this lovely lifestyle. Please can you EMAIL me asap.
Many thanks, [name].

A bit of digging around turned up the survey in question, commissioned by Sky Broadband. According to this, you have to live in a £1.6 million ($2.45 million) home, work part-time for £100,000 per annum, go on at least one exotic long-haul holiday every year, spend four hours a day with your family and have an Aston Martin in the driveway.

Tellingly, 85 per cent of the 3,000 Brits surveyed reported that they were dissatisfied with their lives and felt a long way from achieving their goals. Ha! I’m not surprised.

At first this perfect life request struck me pretty ghastly and depressing. Actually, it’s rather interesting. The only one of those boxes that I tick is the married one, but I’m pretty content.


Then again, my dream home is a country cottage and if pushed, I guess that my dream car is not a whizzybang sports car, but something reliable and small (so that I would be able to reverse park with minimal public humiliation).

As longtime readers will know, I lost my reverence for thingsthingsthings when I sold off a lot of stuff, moved to America and lived out of a suitcase for a year. If truth be told, some of my happiest times were spent with that single suitcase in tow, driving around the States with my husband in a beat-up Mercury Sable and living out of Super 8s.

At the same time, I have encountered plenty of people who have ticked many of the boxes on that survey – and who haven’t seemed particularly happy. I expect that you have, too. The link between material possessions and contentment has been carefully explored within the relatively new branch of economics known as happiness economics. Time and time again, studies have shown that even when people enjoy sudden good fortune and riches, they become no more content than they were before. As personal wealth increases, desires and expectations rise commensurately.

As Newsweek explains, in an old but excellent article on the topic:

The golden rule of economics has always been that well-being is a simple function of income. That’s why nations and people alike strive for higher incomes—money gives us choice and a measure of freedom. But a growing body of studies show that wealth alone isn’t necessarily what makes us happy. After a certain income cap, we simply don’t get any happier. And it isn’t what we have, but whether we have more than our neighbor, that really matters. So the news last week that in 2006 top hedge-fund managers took home $240 million, minimum, probably didn’t make them any happier, it just made the rest of us less so.

So for those 85 per cent of people surveyed, who said that they were dissatisfied with their lives, I fear that an Aston Martin in the garage of a spacious mini-mansion wouldn’t make much difference…

Image credit: ogimogi.

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13 Responses to ““Do you have the perfect life..?”

Anna Foxall says:

Well to me it’s people that add to or detract from your happiness, but I always the one constant in your life is yourself so you’ve really got to be A o.k with yourself before anything else. Material possessions are not the answer, I certainly don’t begrudge people who have them or aspire to have them. I just believe there is more to this world than things & I wish people would stop cosuming so much, slow down & enjoy what’s around them. I’m not ‘perfect’ divorced after 15 years, one son, good job, rent a house, two cats, a dreadful tank of an old car – I couldn’t afford the insurance and fuel for the Aston sadly! But I’ve got some great people in my life & I count myself lucky. Sometimes I daydream about an ‘ideal’ & it can change from a life in the country, to a bohemian life in Bali, to doing Aid work in Africa or South America, so I just carry on & try to do my best with a smile!

July 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

Forest says:

Yeah this is a load of old BS….. Some of the most miserable friends I have had are the most well of and do all of the above more or less….. I would say money can help of course but it’s way down the list. As long as you have the cash not to be fairly comfortable, you stay away from debt and you make good friends life should be alright.

July 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

missthrifty says:

@Anna @Forest I quite agree – in fact, I think you have both summed up my own feelings perfectly!

July 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Jesse says:

That’s very interesting, but not surprising in the world we live in. I think earning things, the challenge itself, it’s stimulating to my brain. I love to get ahead, and take advantage of opportunities but then I use the money for sensible things like my kids college funds and saving for retirement. Money does provide options but certainly not happiness.

July 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm

mhairi says:

i shudder at the word “perfect” as i spent too many years struggling under its yoke. a “happy” or “content” life is what i’m working towards.

sad that so many people think they can’t be happy ’til they have the .

thanks for the interesting post, as always!

July 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Rebecca says:

An insightful post, and so, so true! Great work on spreading the message to the masses – the sooner we all realise that money/possessions/status won’t make us happy, the better!

July 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

missthrifty says:

@jesse Kids college funds v. a $2.45 million home and a sports car = no contest!

@mhairi Well, I think your philosophy is much better than all this “perfect” razzmatazz. A “happy” life isn’t always easy to achieve, of course, but at least the goal posts are moveable.

@Rebecca Thanks Thrifty Chick! Been enjoying your recent blog posts. 🙂

July 28, 2010 at 10:16 pm

PennySeeds says:

Wow, guess I’m nowhere near the perfect life, but oh well. Biding my time, making due, and making improvements. You know. ; )

People are never really content no matter what they have. That perfect person is complaining that they only got one extravagant holiday this year probably. Oh, well times are tough eh? ; )

August 8, 2010 at 7:15 am

Jesse Owen says:

Well, I guess I don’t fall into the perfect life category then!

But to be honest I’m not really worried – other things are more important than money and possessions.

August 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Vytas says:

A lot depends on our understanding of perfect. What perfect? Material life, family life, friendship or everything. I guess there would not be a single person on the planet that could say that she/he has a perfect life. How can a imperfect person have a perfect life…

August 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

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