Father’s Day

June 17, 2007 will be remembered as one of the great days in my lifetime. It was my first Father’s Day.

A question that has puzzled mankind for eons is, “What is the meaning of life?” But all Dads know the answer when your little baby girl smiles at you. As I was puttering about on Father’s Day, reflecting on the blessings of family, my mind brought back the memory of a recent conversation that I had with a local high school class about such things.

Regular readers of this column may recall that I rarely turn down an opportunity to speak to a group of young people. I relish the opportunity to be able to tell young people about things like the power of compounding, and to live within your means. These are powerful things that can have a significant impact on what the quality of their lives will be.

So at the end of my presentation about wealth and how to create it, we did the Q and A, and this bright young lady contributed something along the lines of “Yes, but money’s not the most important thing.”

This may surprise you, but this is something that I agree with completely. Money can’t buy happiness. Can’t buy me love.

At the time a famous celebrity was in the tabloids because she had entered rehab / her marriage was breaking down / was in a custody battle for her kids / whatever. The details of why she was miserable weren’t really relevant to my story – my point was that she had the world by the tail, had all the money she could ever spend, but was she happy? Didn’t look like it to me.

So let’s agree that “family” is much more important than “money”. The thing about it is, in order to take care of your family, you need money. Family and money are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are inseparably intertwined.

Money, in itself, is not even a little bit important. I mean, think of a $20 bill. What is it good for? You can’t eat it. It doesn’t make you smarter. I suppose if you got cold, you could use it to start a fire. Essentially it is just a piece of paper with some pictures on it.

So the value of money is not in what it is, but in what it allows us to do. Money itself isn’t important, but money allows us to do the important things.

Food, clothing, and shelter all costs money. Educating your kids costs money. Covering your parents health care bills costs money.

Sure, there are examples of great things that don’t cost money. Take the kids to the park on a sunny day.

Sure, there are examples of spending money on things that don’t really add anything tangible to anybody’s quality of life. I know little Billy really wants a new MP3 player, but at the end of the day that’s still a discretionary item.

What I am talking about are the Great Goals in Life. And for the most part, money will facilitate, if not actually being a critical component of, you reaching your own Great Goals.

What is a Great Goal? Here are some examples. Being financially stable so you can enjoy time with your family. Having a retirement income that you can’t outlive. Ensuring your family will be taken care of if you are hurt or sick or killed. Helping with your grandchildren’s education, or caring for your aged parents. Leaving a legacy to your favorite charity. These are Great Goals, and they are worth working for. So while money for money’s own sake is comically unimportant, money in the sense of what you can accomplish with it is vitally important. And this is why you want to get your financial act together. Just having money? Who cares? Any idiot can have money. It is knowing what to do with it that really counts.

This article was posted in All Columns, Money Management.
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