A platform, rigged high above to trusses on the roof, ascended. [You] better have my money echoed from the stadium speakers.
Rihanna’s long-anticipated Super Bowl halftime performance was here.
Rihanna hadn’t performed in concert since August 2016.
“As a superstar of popular song,” Washington Post music critic Chris Richards wrote in his Super Bowl review, “she prefers shadows to spotlight, still holding on to that one thing that cannot be bought: mystique.”
“In a digital era when shameless overexposure seems like a prerequisite for any kind of stardom,” he added, “…Rihanna remains cool and unthirsty, operating on her own terms and timeline.”
Can we say the same about ourselves?
Money often tempts us to favor spotlight over shadows.
We use money to signal our “success” in life. We buy a certain car or clothes to convey some status. We go on a vacation or move into a house to keep up with our neighbors and friends.
We may do so subtly. We may do so unconsciously. But we do so all the same.
We may find a way to rationalize these choices. Ultimately, though, that doesn’t mean they reflect who we are or what we actually want from life. We’re just spending visibly, for others to admire.
We fear what people will think of us if we stick to the shadows.
“Which,” the Post’s Chris Richards wrote, “brings us back to mystique.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mystique as “an air or attitude of mystery.” In Rihanna’s case, the mystery was well-documented. Why did she largely walk away from music at the height of her popularity?
With hindsight, we can better appreciate the answer. We can understand what “her own terms” meant. She simply preferred different work, with different demands, benefits, and impact.
Richards notes that mystique “thrives in silence.” And he argues that the silence “gives us space to anticipate, to speculate, to imagine, to wonder, and ultimately, to be.”
For us, satisfaction with our financial lives can come out of this same silence. We need space to think through what lives we want to build for ourselves and our family. And in that silence, we can understand the unique ways in which money will best serve us.
To conclude his Super Bowl write-up, Richards asked: “Remember that ancient quote frequently credited to Claude Debussy about how music is the space between the notes? Miles Davis eventually gave it a nice twist — something like, ‘It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.’”
For us, it’s something like, “It’s not the money you spend; it’s the money you don’t spend.”
Almost anyone can buy an oversized car or an Instaworthy vacation on borrowed funds. But this type of financial overexposure isn’t a game that we need to play.
True wealth is what you don’t see.
It’s passing on potential expenses that won’t make a dent in your quality of life. It’s consistently adding money to an unsexy index fund each month. It’s accumulating flexibility and control of your time.
And from an outsider’s perspective, it all appears to be a bit of a mystery.
About the author: Kevin Mahoney, CFP®
Hi, I’m Kevin. I’m a financial advisor in Washington, DC. I’m also the founder of Illumint, an independent financial planning company in the District that specializes in financial planning for Millennials like you. I empower our generation with the confidence to invest an inheritance, financial gift, or extra savings. If you’re new to Financially Well, welcome – you now have access to the leading finance podcast for Millennials. I encourage you to read, watch, or listen to the ideas I’ve shared about making your money work for you. And then when you’re ready, please send me your thoughts & questions!