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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MONEY

What you need to know about money

Walking through the office this week I noticed Ron, one of my regular clients, waiting by the front door.  Whenever I see him, I make a point to stop and chat.  We’ve shared many conversations over the years, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness, and his insights on life.  Ron’s an older guy, in his early to mid-seventies, so needless to say, he’s got plenty of life experience to draw on.

WAITING

Ron always has the time to talk, because he is waiting.

He’s always waiting.

You see, Ron’s in a wheelchair, diabetes having robbed him of a leg, as well as the sight in one of his eyes.  And so, in order to get home, he has to wait for the local Handi-Transit, or wheelchair accessible bus, to arrive.

Sometimes he waits for 30 minutes, sometimes an hour.  This week it was the latter.

When I saw him, it made me realize just how reliant he is on these services, on others, just to move around.

Ron’s always cheerful, always has a smile, but this week he seemed wistful as the conversation moved past the long wait for his ride home.

GRATITUDE

He told me about how tight things were financially, due to a very meagre income.  He spoke about his wife, and how careful she must be to manage their monthly spending, in order to make ends meet.

Ron told me how she tracks every penny, slowing his words to emphasize the point.  She pours over receipts from the grocery store, looking for errors made by the cashier.  And she finds them, all the time.  The customer service department at Walmart recognizes her phone number on their call display, because she dials so often to report an oversight on the bill.  When he spoke, I could sense the gratitude he has for his wife, and her ability to manage their money.

In total, Ron estimated that they recover about two to three hundred dollars every year from her relentless audit of sales receipts, and they need every single one.

There was a time when they had money, lots of it.  They had a successful business for many years, until the economy fell in 2008.  That was when they lost all of their material worth, according to Ron.

REGRET

When we spoke this week, he opened up about his feelings of regret.  But it had little to do with the failure of a business, or with money at all, regardless of he and his wife’s current financial hardship.

Rather, he felt as though his disability had prevented his wife from truly enjoying their golden years together.  He said that her every waking moment was spent caring for him. Not only has he lost the ability to drive, but to care for himself in so many ways.

Ron went as far as to say that he wouldn’t blame her if she decided to leave, to pack it in, and let him go.

A BURDEN

The idea that he could carry such a burden hit me hard, and I felt an incredible amount of compassion for him.  I found it difficult to imagine that someone could feel so insecure after spending a lifetime with their spouse.

Ron told me how they used to love going for drives.  To the lake.  The same lake that my wife and I drive to so often.

Along the river road, the same road my wife and I ride our bikes along on warm, summer afternoons.

These are the things he longed for.  He didn’t want money.  He didn’t mention wishing he had his successful business back, or any other worldly possessions he had lost.

All he wanted was a basic freedom, the mobility to share the simplest experiences with his wife, as they used to.

That’s when his words became very real.

I thought about my own life, my kids, and my beautiful wife, and how precious the time is that we have together.  I realized that no matter how much money we save, or how well our investments perform over the years, it could all be gone in an instant.

In front of me was a very thoughtful, smart man.  At one time a very successful businessman.  There was likely a time in the not too distant past, when he would never have imagined his life the way it is today.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MONEY

It’s important, but it isn’t everything.

You can plan, save, and plan some more.  You can try to construct all of the financial security you want…budget this, spreadsheet that.  And that’s all fine and good.

But always remember this.  Ultimately, the control we have over our future is limited.

Probably more so than each of us would like to believe.

So don’t spend all of your time planning for tomorrow.  Live your life today.

For every morning is a chance to wake.  To love, and to be grateful.

After every fight is a chance to forgive, and to grow.

SUMMARY

In the moment, I did my best to reassure my friend Ron.  I told him that he was very blessed to have such a great woman, and that I was sure she felt the same way.  She had proven her character over and over again, during the good times and the bad.

He smiled and nodded his head, as though deep down he knew it was the case.

Comments 33

  1. This is so beautiful; thank you for sharing. I’d go so far as to say this is the ONLY thing you need to know about money. Time and health are things that we can’t create more of, no matter how hard we try. And yet we sacrifice so much of it to the pursuit of money.

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      Author

      Thank you so much for reading, Mrs. P! You’re so right, it is the only thing. I’m grateful for having that reminder this week, I only hope I was of some encouragement to my client. : )

  2. Oh, thank you so much for sharing this story, MMM! 🙂 It’s easy to forget to be grateful for what we already have, especially when it comes to our health and relationships. All too often, we go about our days taking the most important things for granted. Each and every day we need to find a way to remind ourselves of how easily they could slip away. Your story was the perfect reminder for me today. Thank you!!!

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      Author

      Thanks Amanda! : ) You know, I feel as though I’m by nature a pretty grateful person, yet I’m realizing that I still need those daily reminders. It’s so easy to get lost in our routines and plans. They may be perfectly healthy, yet at the same time a distraction.

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      Thank you Melanie!! Yesterday I was pondering whether to share this story, and decided that I needed to document it, for my own benefit if nothing else.

  3. Thanks for a much-needed reminder that the scope of our daily problems is minor compared to those of many around us. We’re trying to be more mindful and enjoy each day of life we have. Great read!

    Ryan

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  4. Well that was heartbreaking. The internal battles that Ron deals with must be unrelenting and terribly brutal. Thanks for the reminder that we need to plan for a great life and not just a rock solid budget.

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      Author

      Yeah, I didn’t really address it in my post, but another thing that stuck with me was knowing that some of Ron’s struggles are very permanent, due to his age, and physical disability. While he always has a smile and a thoughtful word, it must be very difficult. Of course I realize many, many people are in a similar predicament. Thanks for reading, Ty!

  5. This is so beautifully put and so moving. Someplace deep down we know this, but we let the daily work and goal-making obscure it almost all the time. Money is great and it solves a lot of problems, but it cannot solve the only real human problems that matter. This will stay with me today…

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  6. I think there’s a saying “the poor sacrifice health for wealth while the rich sacrifice wealth for health”. Money past a certain point becomes meaningless. If you push yourself too hard, you end up sacrificing a lot of other important things in life.

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  8. This was the most important thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for sharing this.

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  9. posts like these are so important because it snaps people back to reality. we get caught up on optimizing our finances and our lives…sometimes you need to just live and take note on all the wonderful aspects.

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  10. Touching narrative and very real. Live for today, but also plan for tomorrow. I’m sure his wife does not find caring for him a burden because they love-one-another and have been partners in life. But if we are lucky to live to old(er) age, it may certainly come with limited capacities mentally and physically. It sounds though that since he is generally good spirited that he finds joy in simple things despite the tough situation they find themselves in financially. Thanks for sharing his story.

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      Author

      Great thought, N2S! This guy definitely has his priorities in the right place, unfortunately we all deal with discouragement from time to time. For me, it was a great dose of perspective, knowing that he has so much more to deal with than I do. Thanks for reading. : )

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  14. Wow – what an amazing exchange. You got some really amazing insights from that short exchange that really put everything in perspective. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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      Author

      Hey, thanks for reading Chris! I’m really glad I sat down and wrote about it shortly after it happened. I think it helped to make the conversation that much more meaningful for myself personally. Otherwise, the detail and the learnings would have faded rather quickly.

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  16. I’m coming here from an old Rockstar Finance link, but wanted to say thanks for sharing such a great yet melancholy story.

    It really is the “little” things in life that matter the most.

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  17. A poignant parable. This reminder comes at a time I certainly need it. Mindfulness meditation with the app Headspace and gratitude journaling are the most effective methods I employ to get myself to a more balanced state and to be present and appreciative of where I’m already at.

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