Saturday, October 11, 2008
My piggy bank is half full.
Like most of us, I've been watching my 401k bounce around and disappear like spit on a griddle. It's caused me to rethink a conversation I had when things were a bit more stable. I told someone that I wished I had understood the importance of money when I was younger, because then maybe I would have made an effort to make some. I suggested to her that money makes an enormous difference in what we experience in life, and in how well we weather hard times. And she said, 'that's it, isn't it; it all comes down to money.' Now, in retrospect, I think I misled her.
I had a time, long ago, when money would have meant the difference between having, and not having, food and shelter. But those necessities aside, most of the time we talk about money, we are really talking about extra money.
Obviously, extra money can smooth the way, but the whole Wall Street fiasco has forced me to think more about money than I usually do, and to feel more grateful for the things I already have.
Looking back, once the rent, utility and food bills were paid, it's true that money would have made travel and adventure easier for me. But it was fear more often than money that held me back. Fear of letting other people down, fear of being a fool, fear that I would lose my hard won sense of security, fear of not being able to support my children, fear of traveling alone or hurting some one's feelings if I left them behind. There is always an available excuse not to do what you want to do.
Looking ahead, the main reason I would like to have money is to do things for my children and grandchildren, and for the freedom it would give me to take my next job on the basis of (some yet undiscovered) passion rather than just for the paycheck. Shopping last night with my sister, I saw a million things I would have loved to buy, for my kids, my grandchildren, my sister, a baby girl that my nephew's friend finally had after 3 boys -- but I didn't see a single thing I need for me.
Not that I don't appreciate what money can do. The one vacation I took where money was no object was absolutely wonderful. But I've had plenty of good times that didn't cost a penny and, over all, most of my joy and laughter has been priceless, but not costly. And that's a good thing for me to remember, because a foundation of love and thankfulness is a lot more dependable than the value of the dollar.