DEBT SUCKS. After only three posts, I am reduced to talking about money. I guess your dad was wrong to think that I had much to tell you that was worth hearing. However, this mundane subject is one that I do know something about. Having spent a significant amount of my life managing money badly, I can tell you what not to do. Some debt is probably necessary. To get an education or buy a home or car may be impossible any other way. Emergencies do happen. Spending tomorrow's money to have more toys today will guarantee you a crappy tomorrow, and carrying the load of debt will ruin today so you won't even enjoy the toys. I know all this because I've been there. Your grandma and I probably spent more time arguing about money than we ever did about anything else. Now we have lived debt free for a number of years and I can only say that we should have made it happen sooner.
There is no doubt we enjoy having things. There is pleasure and pride in having a beautiful comfortable home. When we are children we love getting toys. As we get older, we like different “toys,” and most of them we have to get for ourselves so we devote a portion of our time to getting the means to have them. We work. We put in long hours doing things we don’t much care to do in order to have the means to do and have things we do want. The trick is balance. Don’t let acquisition become the focus of your life. The lesson of “A Christmas Carol” is not only that we should care more for our fellow man. It is also that we should not lose our life by trading it for the acquisition of things.
The breakthrough in dealing with money came for me in one small insight. With the exception of a few necessities, the stuff that money can buy for us is all just stuff. We think we are the ones doing the gripping, when in fact we are letting the things get a grip on us. We let things (stuff) get so important to us that we lose sight of what really matters. I know I’m just reciting the same old cliches, but friends, health, love, self-respect and peace of mind all are worth more than anything you will ever buy with money. A little further on in this series of essays, I tell about the richest man I ever knew. Take the lesson of his life to heart sooner rather than later and you will keep “stuff” from running (and ruining) your life.