Thanksgiving – Wealth Is More Than Money!

It is that time of year when each of us should pause and reflect on the life we lead in the United States of America. While our nation is far from perfect, the freedoms, opportunities and rights we claim are superior to any other nation on the planet! I am often asked how I define “wealth”. Many people think it is about tangible goods (i.e., cars, houses, land, etc.) and intangible assets (i.e., investments, cash in the bank, etc.).

To me, to be wealthy simply means that I have the freedom to live my life in the manner I choose. An old friend, I will call “Bill”, was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live. He and I were talking and I thought I had known him pretty well. Boy, was I surprised with the words that came out of Bill’s mouth over the next thirty minutes!

By all outward appearances, Bill had a great life – money, land, houses, cars, boats, etc. When he started telling me about his life he quickly dismissed the value of his property, cars and investment accounts and began a story of loss in his life. His daughters had been estranged from him due to a misunderstanding when the girls were in the 20s. Now, with his daughters in their 40s and Bill dying of cancer, he realized the most valuable “asset” in his portfolio of wealth had been squandered many years ago. With tears in his eyes, I could see he was living a life of regret.

As I sat there intently listening, Bill continued his saga to define the difference between riches and true wealth. Although he had not worried or wanted for any material need during his life, his emotional void with his children had left him feeling that his life had been lived without meaning. I asked him a simple question, “Would you give it all away to spend some quality days with your daughters before your passing?” The biggest smile came upon his face and he nearly shouted, “You bet!”

After a discussion with Bill’s daughters, a meeting was established to reacquaint themselves. Bill and his daughters’ eyes were swollen with tears of joy as their family was reunited. Bill only lived a few more months but his daughters conveyed to me that those few months were the most happy he had been his entire life.

Remember, a thankful and kind heart is an asset that can’t be bought with material goods. I often define wealth to people as “those things in life that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.” Seek out the true “assets” in your life and enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving Day with family and friends!

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Your Health — The Greatest Asset You Own

If you are concerned about running out of money during retirement, there are several steps you can take now to avoid this catastrophe. Healthcare costs continue to rise at an alarming rate in the United States. Based on estimates provided by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), total health care spending grew by an average of 4.6% in 2017, reaching nearly $3.5 trillion. Prescriptions are arbitrarily sacrificed by some retirees as if they had a choice in taking this life-extending medicine. The reason for such a drastic decision is the required choice some people make to purchase food, shelter and car fuel instead of their medications.

To mitigate the rising cost of healthcare, start making a few small changes in your lifestyle. One simply has to look around to notice many of us carry far too much weight on our body. This result was not realized overnight. We suffer, or enjoy, the results from our choices we make. 

As a teenager, I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, hash browns, fruit, pancakes and, sometimes, chocolate gravy (more on this delightful dish later). I consumed, at least, four thousand calories per day and could not gain weight. Oh, to be young again. Eating this breakfast today would be tantamount to physical torture for my knees, hips and feet. A more sensible approach to eating must be subscribed to at the age of 54. Now, I eat high fiber, low fat meals that are limited to 1,500 calories or less per day.

Another area of choice is activity. Unless you are physically incapable of walking, this form of movement is one of the easiest and best exercises anyone can perform. You can lose a pound of weight for every 3,500 calories you burn walking. Simply calculated, if you burn 350 calories a day, you would lose one pound every 10 days by doing nothing more than walking.

How does this relate to retirement planning? As a retirement expert, we use a factor of 20% of the person’s retirement income for medical purposes. This may seem like a lot of money but the rising cost of healthcare could require significantly more of your income in retirement than you think. Included in the 20% factor would be medicine, physician costs, dental costs, nurses aide expenditures, and, potentially, nursing home needs.

Oh, back to the chocolate gravy. This southern dish consists of Hershey’s Chocolate Baking Powder, sugar (lots of sugar), flour and pure vanilla extract. Mix in a big stew pot on the stove, add water and stir until it boils. Take from the stove, add a hot, home-made biscuit with lots of butter and you have a rib-sticking delight that is out of this world. Also, this is obviously not healthy. So, I only allow myself this treat for breakfast at Christmas. To offset the effects of the calories and sugar, I run a 5-K or complete a CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD). Don’t tell my doctor!

If you wish for your money to last longer than you, make some simple changes in your lifestyle. Consult your physician before starting any eating or exercise programs. Hope to see you out walking and exercising in our Southeast Oklahoma outdoors!

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