Posts Tagged ‘wealth’

LEGACY 10: THE REAL VALUE OF MONEY (AND CURRENCY)

May 19, 2018

(Originally written 9/27/14)

I have been told I am one of the most generous people someone knows. I love to give. And that may be why I am where I am in life, as far as having not saved and having no cushion for retirement.

That may also cause a lot of people to disrespect my opinions about money and investing. So be it.

But I do not apologize for it. To me, the real value of money is its ability to bless people, to bring momentary happiness and satisfaction and relief from troubles—i.e., its currency, its ability to make relationships flow between people in good ways. Yes, it has propensities for evil use—and a lot of that is determined by its use, its application to specific situations. That application is a reflection of the morals, the values, the attitude of the person who is wielding its momentary and fleeting power.

The longer-lasting—indeed, eternal power, if it is to have any at all—is in giving. Giving graciously and gloriously—unexpectedly, serendipitously—gives money a real value (and here I think of the Spanish meaning of real: ROYAL). Money is at its best serving, benefiting, being used to add value to the overall human condition, furthering life and not death. This is why we honor philanthropists (even when their money has been ill-gotten)—somehow, they have laid hold of the principle of giving.

And in the final analysis, money is only one form of currency, often an expression of a truer one. Jesus commended the widow slipping her two meager mites into the treasure unnoticed as having more value that most giving—it reflected her heart, her desire to give all to God. We too can do that through the way we treat money.

He also commented on using this life’s resources to lay up treasures in another that will last immeasurably longer. One way to do that is to invest it in other treasures that will also be lasting into that realm—people.

One thing I frequently ask myself: What is the best way I can bless this person? Sometimes, if their heart is closed to me, the best way is to leave them alone. But more often, it is through the currency of kindness, of praise, of unexpected gratitude, of a different mindset—valuing them for who they are, who they are becoming, who they could be. And rarely is money the primary means of doing that—but it can be used as a part of a greater plan.

“Money is a great servant, but a terrible master,” someone said. Unless we have an underlying grid that tells us how to utilize money for good, money has no currency, no real or true value. But used for meaningful purposes, it can take on eternal worth.

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LEGACY 8: UNPAID AND PAID

May 17, 2018

(Originally written 9/23/14. As indicated before, the 3-year-old grandson mentioned here is now almost 7.)

Our culture makes a huge distinction between “unpaid” and “paid” in matters like services rendered. Perhaps this is due to an extreme emphasis on the supposed (attributed) value of money.

But as anyone in on their deathbed, or in a life-and-death struggle, will testify, money means little or nothing in such situations. Money is a currency of exchange, not a measure of worth. You can dignify it with fancy terms like wealth management, asset protection, etc., but in the final analysis, we seek security, significance, a sense of belonging, and other intangibles.

Net worth is not real worth. It’s that simple.

Why then do we denigrate what we do by saying, “I’m not being paid for it”? Some of the things I’ve treasured most have not cost a dime—the sharing of a bite of his cookie by my grandson, the beaming smile of my wife when I’ve surprised her with something she never expected, the simple pleasure of a fiery sunset that sets the evening sky ablaze with amazement.

Ultimately, everything is “paid” in some form or fashion. We become what we invest in, so even literally unpaid actions have dividends, sometimes tangible, but not seen as so until far down the road, or by others than ourselves.  Dan Ariely, in Predictably Irrational, makes a point that you can’t set a price on that incredible Thanksgiving dinner prepared by your mother-in-law—and that the moment you do, you cross social boundaries in ways that cannot be uncrossed.

So how do we overcome this bias towards bullion and bull markets?

  • Take the long view. Take Stephen Covey’s advice to imagine your funeral, and what 4 people in the different realms of your life are saying—then live your life in a way to make those 4 speeches state clearly what you wish your legacy to be. Starting with the end of the row in mind is one of the clearest ways to plow a straight furrow. Avoid being short-sighted in ways that will matter at the end.
  • Be thankful. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. As someone said, it’s “BE-Attitudes” that matter. Thankfulness transforms our lives in ways we could not have imagined, and keeps them fresh daily.
  • Clear up your thinking. Express yourself simply and authentically. Make sure you tell people you love them, and appreciate them. Value your enemies—they can help you improve your game.
  • Open up. Don’t wait until tomorrow to experience joy and laughter. There has been more laughter in our lives with this 3-year-old grandson in the last 2 years than in any decade of my life previous. Find delight in simple moments. Take snapshots to store in your mind—and on your electronics. Look at others’ pictures for clues on what you value.
  • There is a value in persisting that can only be found by persisting when persisting doesn’t make sense. You can only what’s beyond tomorrow by going there.

Margin, Poverty, and Honor

October 24, 2012

It is difficult for someone who lives hand-to-mouth to act honorably when faced with a choice which involves what they consider survival. I had a guy—we’ll call him Joe—working for me, 3 weeks away from finishing a big job, who was lured away by a competitor offering the prospect of longer-term employment. The competitor made it clear that his offer would not be there in 3 weeks. As a result of Joe leaving, I finished the job myself and made a mistake which ended up costing me a few thousand dollars, a mistake which, quite probably, Joe would not have made.

Joe lived in a rented mobile home. I don’t really know much about his situation beyond that, but I do know that most of the guys in the trade I’m in (electrical specifically, but it applies to much of the construction trade) are less than a month away from disaster financially. I know—I’ve been there. When you have that kind of margin—or, should I say, really don’t have any margin—it’s difficult to remain loyal to someone, or to act with integrity. You have to make decisions based on the pressures of the moment, and the prospects (as you see them) for the immediate future. You may say that you are honorable, but 99 times out of 100, the dollar will trump principle.

The dollar will also erode honor in one who is well off, or seems to be, but for different reasons. There is not the desperation there, but greed in its insidious manner gets hold of desire, and the greedy man finds himself justifying every decision based on financial outcome. Some who are well-off see themselves just as close to disaster as Joe did, even though in a financial crisis they could probably sustain themselves indefinitely (admittedly at a lower standard of living). The mindset of poverty is again at work in such cases—primarily through perception, which becomes reality for the perceiver.

Maybe that’s why the writer of Proverbs said,

Two things I ask of you, O Lord;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, “Who is the Lord?”

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.

“Neither poverty nor riches.” It’s hard to walk a line of balance in such a way as to avoid either extreme. But essentially, it comes down to attitude. True wealth is far more a matter of mindset than it is of possessions. The one who has the most possessions may feel totally impoverished—someone–Rockefeller?–once quipped, when asked how much was enough, “MORE!” On the other hand, the poorest man may own the wealth of the world, if he truly believes it so in the core of his being.