While social distancing, quarantine procedures, and stay-at-home orders slowed the spread of COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, these protective measures worsened the effects of another pandemic: loneliness.
Loneliness and social isolation are some of the most well-documented predictors of poor health and premature mortality. Social isolation negatively impacts health, and recent survey results by the University of Washington* suggest feelings of isolation have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among young adults.
Currently, I am interning at APCM, but in a typical year, I would be attending college. As a college student, I have been frustrated by the mismatch between my present circumstances and my idealized vision of young adulthood. I was very satisfied with my social life pre-coronavirus; every semester, it seemed like my circle of friends grew wider and deeper. But when the pandemic took hold midway through my sophomore spring, the bull run ended.
My classmates and I were exiled from campus in mid-March 2020, and I spent the remainder of my semester taking online classes from my childhood bedroom. When school administrators announced that the 2020-21 academic year would be completely virtual, I had two options: I could either enroll and lose a year of in-person schooling, or I could take a year off, thus postponing my graduation and my entry into the workforce. I decided to take a year off. For me, the traditional college experience is worth the wait.
My gap year, however, has been far from frugal. I traveled to ten different states with my closest friends, started attending early-morning workout classes, went out to brunch more times than I can count, bought backcountry skis and spent winter weekends waist-deep in powder. I don’t regret any of my expenditures.
One thing I have learned during my time at APCM is that spending money on experiences elicits greater long-term satisfaction than spending money on possessions. This preference may seem counterintuitive because experiences are transient and material possessions are lasting. However, as written in The Atlantic, “It’s the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them.” Comparison is the thief of joy, and while we can easily compare our tangible belongings to those of others, it is much harder to compare our subjective experiences.
Furthermore, experiences are a launchpad for social interaction. We bond by experiencing things together and sharing stories about things we have experienced. Saving for the future is important but ensuring that you spend time and money with loved ones in the present is essential. If you hope to convert your hard-earned dollars into life satisfaction and longevity, consider spending your leisure budget on experiences that strengthen your social ties. Social experiential purchases are an investment in your health and wellbeing.
I am tremendously excited to be returning to college this fall with a wealth of personal finance knowledge and a fresh seize-the-day mentality. Until then, I am grateful to be interning at APCM, where every day I learn something new and interact with wonderful coworkers and clients. I could not ask for a better summer internship experience here in my beautiful home state.
* Lee, Christine M et al. “Increases in Loneliness Among Young Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Association With Increases in Mental Health Problems.” The Journal of Adolescent Health.