I’m always amused and perplexed by certain contradictions in life. Especially those that involve wealth and money.
MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT FINANCIALLY PREPARED
On one hand, I read about the low percentage of the population that maintains an adequate cash emergency fund. Here is another, the low net worth of the average US household relative to their retirement needs. Yet, it seems like most people have plenty of money.
THERE’S PLENTY OF MONEY OUT THERE
When I’m out in the world, shopping areas are crowded with folks spending money. Restaurants around my town are pretty packed. Delivery services buzz my neighborhood all week delivering online purchases. Additionally, the 2017 holiday shopping season produced record sales.
Here’s another example that goes back a few years. I was at an expensive restaurant in 2010 for a business meeting on a Wednesday night. I was surprised at how crowded the restaurant was. The tables were full of families of four to six people including kids. They were racking up several hundred dollar tabs with drinks, appetizers, dinner, tax, and tip.
That may not seem like a big deal, but remember it was 2010. It was right after the greatest recession and financial crisis of our lifetimes. Unemployment was at generational highs. Young adults graduating from college had high debt and bleak employment prospects. One or both of their parents possibly suffered a job loss during the downturn.
I remember thinking to myself that night. “If we just endured an economic crisis, what does prosperity look like?” By the way, I was downsized from my employer a few months later.
For all the negative stuff you hear, my personal observations suggest we are a very wealthy society compared to the past.
MY PARENTS GENERATION CAME FROM NOTHING
Here’s why I think that. My mom and dad were both born in 1928 about a year before the 10 years spanning the great depression.
My grandfather on my Dad’s side used to tell a story about one Christmas he remembered in the 1930s. He was out of work and had little money. He was distraught that he couldn’t provide Christmas for his family which included my Dad and his younger sister.
One day, as my grandfather told it, he was pounding the pavement looking for work when he found a $5 bill on the ground. He was elated. It meant there would be a Christmas that year. That’s right, I said elated over finding $5 to provide Christmas for his family! If that ain’t poor, I don’t know what is.
My Mother grew up on a small farm just outside of the town my Dad was raised in. She was the youngest of 9 children. Her father raised some crops to sell each harvest. They had chickens that produced eggs for sale and a garden that provided vegetables to eat in summer or to be canned for the winter. Between the chickens and a few cows, they had meat to slaughter. They pretty much lived off the land with an occasional trip to the store.
My Mom would tell stories about hobos jumping off the freight trains that passed near their farm. They would stop at the house and ask for something to eat. She said they were rarely, if ever, threatening. They were just men roaming the country in search of work and a better life. They offered what food they could and sent them on their way.
My mothers family had little money. She would say they had a roof over their head, clothes to wear, enough food on the table and a lot of fun with her brothers and sisters. But, not much else.
MOM & DAD
My parents met in high school and eventually got married. Neither of them went to college. My mother worked as a medical secretary until I was born. She then became a full-time Mom for my older brother and me.
After working long hours in a gas station, my Dad took over a small business which he ran for almost 40 years. According to my Dad, his early years were pretty lean. They lived off my Mom’s salary. But as time went by they figured it out and built a sizable nest egg to raise two sons and fund a comfortable retirement. Not bad for two depression era children that came from nothing.
TIMELESS WAYS TO BUILD YOUR WEALTH
I didn’t understand it growing up. But looking back now, my parent’s formula for building wealth was pretty simple:
- Common sense
- Hard work
- Frugal living
- Diligent saving
- Consistent and wise investing
For years, I applied the same formula to achieve Financial Independence Retirement Optional (FIRO). To leave you where I began here is one more contradiction in life that amuses me and summed up by a French teacher and writer named Karr:
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
BEFORE I GO, A QUICK SHOUT OUT
I found the term FIRO from this entertaining blog post by my friend Caroline over at Money Scrap. Be sure to check it out.
WRAPPING IT UP
But, before you go:
- What life lessons did your parents teach you?
- What contradictions in life interest you?
- Have you observed big changes in the world?
Leave a comment, join the conversation and let us all know.