I Bought a Feeling

As Cheung Wing-sing marvels at this latest innovation called “a gramophone,” a handsome man also seems interested in the American vendor’s magical music box. Unfortunately, the cute stranger spoils the romantic moment by accidentally scratching the record, and the salesman demands to be reimbursed.

Since she can afford it, Wing-sing squares the bill in his place. All she asks in return? To take the broken record home. When her sister later asks her why she bought a record that can no longer be played, Wing-sing says: “I did not buy a record, dear sis. I bought a feeling.”

I’m always fascinated by how far money goes with people as opposed to personal goals. If you want to save $10,000 as a safety cushion, $10 will feel like almost nothing. That same $10, however, can buy a friend a meal and make their day or even their whole week. It can buy flowers for someone you like or love, or a little toy for your children, getting them to beam with excitement and joy.

The kind of investing we do for ourselves — buying a house, saving to start a business, growing our stock portfolios — feels big. That is as it should be, for it is only in the long run that this kind of investing even works. Investing in people, however, is incredibly cheap, because it doesn’t take much to show someone you care. It is about the gesture — the feeling — more so than the amount, and the fact that you do it matters more so than how which, in turn, matters more still than what you ultimately buy.

In Cheung Wing-sing’s case, the wrong record bought at the right time would eventually lead to a lifetime of happiness. For you, it could mean a better relationship with your coworkers, more support from your family, or the undying loyalty of a friend. There’s no saying what any given investment will have to look like, but I’m sure you’ll recognize it when the opportunity presents itself.

What’s important in life rarely comes with a money-back guarantee, but sometimes, the best thing you can buy is a feeling.