The Difference Between Selling Happiness and Selling Materialism

A friend of mine has a very rich aunt “Gail” (her name was changed for this article). She lives in a beautiful house in the wealthy suburbs of Chicago – the kind of houses where 20 people can sleep comfortably.

Thing is — she’s the only one sleeping there. She never married. Instead, her solitude found its solace in material items.  She has two cars, the biggest TV I’ve ever seen, plush furniture, name-brand everything. There isn’t an item where the price didn’t matter.

Tragically, she is diagnosed with depression and goes into a month-long funk a few times a year. Every time comes out of it, she’s five to ten pounds heavier.

This same friend’s parents are nearly the opposite. He was raised in a small house in a blue-collar, manufacturing town in the western Pennsylvania woods. Both his parents worked full-time. He and his four other siblings didn’t have the latest toys. They shared three bedrooms between the five of them. They each started working part-time jobs early in their teens. The family was lucky if they went on a vacation every three or four years.

And this family couldn’t be happier. They all live and work productive lives now, and their parents are in the twilight of their careers – less than five years left before they retire.

Here’s a lesson I derived from that story.

Everything that is important in Gail’s life had a price tag at some point. And the moment she bought them, their value started declining – as does the high she gets from them. My friend says it best, “It’s quite remarkable how things that cost so much can be so worthless.”

Meanwhile, the most important things in my friend’s parents’ life never had a price tag, yet somehow their value only increased over time. Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy raising five kids (I know my friend couldn’t have made it easy!), but their hard work is what makes them believe that the most important things in their life don’t have a price. In fact, they are priceless.

Of these two sets of people: Which is more likely to have a need (or have had a need) for financial planning services, be it life insurance, college funding or retirement planning? Probably my friend’s parents right?

Well, here’s a wakeup call, most of the people that will step into your office will more likely be like my friend’s parents.

Suppose for a minute they are in your office, and you are touting the material comforts gained by your financial planning services. I can tell you right now that they’ll walk right out the door because you weren’t speaking their language.

Materialism has a price. Happiness is priceless.

Instead, here’s another approach. Show them the happiness they will feel as a result of, for example, of your college funding plan.

Paint a picture of their children as hard-working students, educated adults, and responsible parents. Paint a picture of them having the peace of mind that their savings was the finishing touch to their life’s work as parents.

If fancy cars and vacation homes were their desires, they would be deep in debt trying to finance them with their income.

And what a coincidence, you are selling debt-free college funding. Your product is a perfect fit for them, as long as you speak their language.

Kind regards,

John McCarthy
Managing Editor,


Related Articles:

The “Buy Button” – How to Emphasize the Value of Your Services

The Sales Push: “When Push Comes to Nudge”

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