Things Money Can’t Buy

Typically, this column focuses on the wealth creation, tax savings strategies and estate transition planning. At this time of year, it is critical that we take a different perspective in providing you guidance as to the definition of “true wealth”. We work hard all year focusing our efforts generating income and support for our families, communities and charitable organizations. What actually is your net worth based on “true wealth”?

To define “true wealth” one must understand what is most valuable to her and focus on increasing the value of the item through commitment of mental and physical energy. For example, relationships that are important in your life (i.e., children, parents, grandparents, friends, etc.) require investment of time to truly yield the greatest return. I am not implying that you should expect any return from your input of respect, consideration and friendship but it is a typical response by someone who receives these “investments” to return the contribution in similar form.

Another asset of “true wealth” is charitable giving. How does this process help grow your wealth? By giving of yourself, you will receive an internal increase in your self-esteem. This process of giving was instilled in me by my parents. When I was a very young boy, my dad asked me to go with him to a pie supper. I did not know what a pie supper was but the word “pie” had my interest! My father, responding to my rapid-fire questions such as “Will they have a chocolate pie? How about a pumpkin pie? Coconut cream? Finally, as if I were badgering a witness on the stand in a courtroom, my dad relented and simply told me to get in the truck to see for myself.

Upon arrival at the high school gymnasium in a small Oklahoma town, I was shocked as to the number of people who liked to eat pie. I observed the gymnasium floor covered with tables that were filled with pies and a small stack of paper in front of each one. My dad walked over to a pie and wrote on a piece of paper. He then walked to another, and another until he had written on several pieces of paper. Now, I am really confused. He wrote on pages for pies that I don’t even like to eat! 

After what seemed like four hours (but was really about one hour), a man started picking up the pages in front of each pie. This man, with a boisterous, deep voice, started yelling out names and amounts. Intrigued, I asked my dad why did he call your name and say $50.00? My dad explained that he bought the pie for $50.00 and our family would be taking it home to enjoy. I was only 7 years of age but I knew the value of a dollar in 1972 and told him mom would be upset that we spent so much money on a stinking, apple pie. He just smiled and told me to listen as other names and amounts were called.

After all the names had been called, I quickly added up the total of the amounts called after my dad’s name and it was $200. Oh my goodness! This was time in our country when $100 of groceries would fill a pickup bed and new Converse Chuck basketball shoes cost $16. We just spent $200 on pies?!?! 

Once we loaded all the pies in the truck, my dad explained to me the purpose for the pie supper. A family friend in our little town had lost their home, furnishings, clothing, everything in a house fire. The proceeds of the pie supper will help the family with needed items to continue to survive. My dad told me that he had not “spent” any money today but rather “invested” it in his friend and community to help others.

My eyes were opened that day to charitable service. This Thanksgiving Season many families will not be as fortunate as you. Consider giving in a manner that aids those in need to experience the passion and compassion of our community. 

To me, “true wealth” is all about family, friends and charitable investments. Trust you will enjoy the best of the Thanksgiving Season and help others to do the same. 

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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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