"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."
-- Benjamin Franklin
Everyone knows that money, in and of itself, can't buy happiness. Thanks to a phenomenon called the "hedonic treadmill," we humans generally get used to whatever good things come our way and end up craving more ... and more ... and more ...
Worth more than its weight in gold
So if this true, then what's the point of all this stock stuff? Why invest for the fanciest of cars, the largest of lakeside homes, or the most majestic of yachts? Doesn't the evidence suggest that no matter how rich we are, famous we are, or how many toys we have, we'll almost never be satisfied? Well, yeah. We probably won't be. Pretty sad, isn't it?
But fear not, my fellow stock junkies and junkettes! Because there is a lasting reward that comes from successful stock picking. There is something that our investment returns can buy that will certainly, unequivocally, contribute to our permanent happiness. It's the main reason why the majority of Fools, including the more than 14,000 members of the Motley Fool CAPS community, unite and assist each other in making substantial stock market profits.
The reason is simple -- to be able to buy the most valuable and cherished commodity in the world: time.
Climbing the not-so corporate ladder
Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, observed that humans have a variety of needs that range from basic physiological necessities to those of "higher" psychological and spiritual ones -- such as the need to have a sense of belonging, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of purpose (highest on the list). Maslow found that the key to an individual's well-being lies in the ability to climb to the top of this "hierarchy of needs," which probably explains why we often feel a void in the most neglected areas of our lives. So, contrary to what the wisdom of P. Diddy might tell us, it's not all about the Benjamins!
Fortunately, the 21st century -- more than any other period in history -- offers us the very best chance to reach our economic, intellectual, and spiritual potential. But that doesn't mean it comes for free. Nor does it mean that we are guaranteed to meet all of these needs -- far from it. Although having a completely rewarding life doesn't require stratospheric talent or millions of dollars, it does cost great amounts of our time. This is precisely where investment acumen and great stock picks can come in pretty handy -- OK, very handy.
Times of our lives
We'd probably agree that purchasing things we really don't need -- in order to impress people we really don't like -- is an incredibly ridiculous waste of money! So, even though buying $10,000 worth of stock in companies like Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) in the early 1990s would have made you a multimillionaire today, there's still no guarantee that your life would be a more satisfying one today. That's for sure.
But what 40,000% gains would probably be enough to buy is more freedom than you and I could ever hope for. Money is storage for value; and it stores its greatest value not when it's keeping us up with the Joneses, but rather when it's being used to buy us time. Time to spend on the activities we love. Time to pursue the goals we are passionate about. And time to do all the things that bring meaning to our lives.
In other words, money can give us the luxury to scale Maslow's great mountain of needs. It will give us the peace of mind that enables us to make mistakes, slip, cliffhang, and even fall ... yet have more than enough time to recover and still make it to the top where we can find our calling, our "dharma," our life's purpose. Of course, this is a luxury that few are lucky enough to afford.
Unfortunately, planting a flag atop Mt. Maslow isn't exactly a huge priority for many people, and understandably so. In our hustle and bustle, stress-laden society, more pressing concerns tend to take precedence. When your daily worries are how you'll be able to keep a steady job, support a family, pay for a home, pay the bills, and have enough saved for the future, just being able to stand at the foot of Mt. Maslow is enough of a struggle!
But that's reality, right? Maybe so. But with some financial education, focus, and a whole lot of discipline, just a few wonderful investments can give anyone's reality a major makeover! In the words of Albert Einstein, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
Empires of time
When I started investing a few years ago, I had grandiose dreams of turning a tiny partnership into a billion-dollar investment empire, a la Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) or even Eddie Lampert of Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD ) . I thought joining the Forbes 500 list was one of the only ways I'd ever have enough resources to turn all of my own dreams, as well as my family's dreams, into a newly renovated reality. Obviously, that was all hogwash!
The truth is that most of us don't need to build a corporate dynasty in order to see our biggest aspirations come to fruition. Instead, all we really need is enough money so that we don't have to spend another second worrying about money. After all, each one of us has a personal mountain to climb, and the clock's a tickin'.
A Foolish paradise
So, to give you a head start, get going and try one of our investment newsletters free for a month. Click here to decide which service is perfect for you. No matter which one you choose, you'll find a team of stock-loving analysts who dedicate an inordinate amount of their time (and enjoy every second of it) to picking those wonderful investments that can indeed buy you, my Foolish friend, some precious time of your own.
As Vincent Van Gogh once said, "Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do." With the help of your fellow Fools and some wisely placed investments, you'll eventually find more time to complete the job you were destined to finish -- rather than the one that only pays the bills.
Fool contributor Brian Pacampara calculates the time value of money in his head with very little success, so he owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway instead. He holds no position in any of the other companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is never a waste of time.