Thank$giving: A Money $tory

Thanksgiving A Money Story 11 25 2014Do you live in a bubble? Perhaps you live in a community where financial success is pretty much assumed. Where no one talks about money or hardship. Perhaps they even look at money as a symbol of their success.

It’s a bubble.

Meet Sam, who lived in that bubble, but never let it define him or alter his happiness.

He sat in our meeting room thinking about the question “What do you want your life to look like in retirement?”

Sam smiled broadly, “I have very few wants, other than to live simply and share my life with those I love. I don’t need fancy trips or fancy cars. I look forward to the day when my full time work career is over and I can continue to simplify my life. I’ll invest the extra time I gain with some of the organizations I care about. I have been mentoring some under-privileged kids in reading and math.” 

Sam’s financial picture was free of debt and his savings rate was high. His fixed costs were low compared to his income and his discretionary spending was modest. His family vacations were more about exploration and shared experiences: camping and hiking, visiting family in other areas of the country and exploring historic sites along the way. His kids all went to State Universities and some even received modest scholarships. His “Wheel of Life” showed his satisfaction with his Work, Finances, Home, Family, Leisure, Community, Learning and Inner Growth were all pretty high. The only rut in his wheel ? His health.

“What’s going on, Sam? I see there’s an issue with your health.”

After a short pause, Sam began,” I have been diagnosed with a pretty rare condition. Right now, I’m asymptomatic. But it looms over the horizon. My doctor says it could remain dormant for 6 months or 20 years. There’s just no way of knowing. So, I just need to focus on what I can control.”

There was a look of concern and worry on Sam’s face that quickly turned to his normal demeanor, as if he was refocusing the picture in front of him from negative to positive.

“I have a lot to be grateful for. I learned a lot when I spent two years in the Peace Corps. The idea of enough was reframed for me, living among people who have nothing. No running water, no education, no medical facilities. Food was dependent on the crops they cultivated or the animals they hunted or raised. People slept on dirt floors and lived in grass and wood shacks. But there was a sense of community and sharing that brought the meaning of life to me very clearly. I have nothing but bounty and have had a charmed life. Not too many people who live in this area understand this at all. They live in a bubble of wealth that has provided such riches. But their community is all about the strata of wealth or their address. There’s so much more to life than material possessions. That’s why I came in, to make sure that whatever time I have left on this earth reflects my values. I want to appreciate what’s really important.”

Thanksgiving for Sam is all about receiving—joy, happiness, satisfaction and peace of mind. His bubble has become global and his mission and his life have a crystal clarity that comes from knowing what he wants and why.

Money is a tool. It isn’t a symbol of success because success is defined by values, not by things.

Wishing you a bountiful Thanksgiving, filled with the happiness that comes from sharing time with those you love.