The millionaire who shops at the thrift store

Can money bring you happiness? Only to a certain extent, I say. Only until your basic needs are met. IfSuv
you have to walk three miles to work, buying a Honda Civic may make you happy, especially if the boss gives you a parking spot. But after you’ve driven the Civic for a year, don’t think you’d be much happier if you bought an SUV. Sure, you might be happier for the first week or two, but after your friends are done complimenting you, your level of happiness won’t be much different than before. It might even be lower, when you realize that to afford all the extra gas you’re using, you have to eat Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that some people give all their money away and live a somewhat ascetic lifestyle.

Travel company operator Hal Taussig buys his clothes from thrift shops,
resoles his shoes and reads magazines for free at the public library.

The 83-year-old founder of Untours also gives away all of his company’s
profits to help the poor — more than $5 million since 1999. He is
content to live on Social Security.

Taussig takes a salary of $6,000 a year from his firm, but doesn’t keep
it. It goes to a foundation that channels his company’s profits to
worthy causes in the form of low-interest loans. (About seven years
ago, the IRS forced him to take a paycheck, he said, because they
thought he was trying to avoid paying taxes by working for free.)

If he has money left at the end of the month in his personal bank account, he donates it.

At a time of the year when many people are asked to give to the poor, Taussig provides a model for year-round giving.

”I could live a very rich life on very little money. My life is richer
than most rich people’s lives,” he said. ”I can really do something
for humanity.” [Link]

Taussig could afford to have a limousine take him to work every day, but what does he do instead? He rides a bike. So if you happen to see an old man riding a bike, wearing resoled shoes and second-hand clothes, try not to look down on him — no matter how high your SUV is.

Photo by greenfantasy

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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