As an alcoholic, I have spent my time in recovery learning. I never want to get to a point where I believe I know it all. How arrogant that would be. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel once said, “Seek those that search for the truth and run from those that have found it.” We all need to be teachable. We all need a sense of humility.
Humility is being teachable. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but rather it is thinking of ourselves less.” Humility also relies on a strong sense of gratitude. What we have and who we are is directly due someone or something else in our lives. Ultimately all the gratitude goes to our Higher Power, because if it wasn’t for this deity putting someone or something in our life, we wouldn’t be who we are.
Presently, I know a couple of gentlemen who have come into some serious money, not because of something they did, but rather through inheritance. Yet, if you talked to either of these individuals you would swear it was because of their financial knowledge that they have what they have.
One is roughly my age. Since I’ve known him he has struggled to rub to pennies together. In the past he has been very impulsive with money. Very much like a kid in a candy store, he has to have it all. We kind of developed a love/hate friendship mainly because we were very similar with where we were with debt.
The major difference was his debt was self-inflicted. My debt developed through medical expenses. For me, it quickly spiralled out of control. My ex-wife had breast cancer and we were already on a razor thin budget when she started her treatment. In no time at all, my paychecks couldn’t cover the co-pays nor her prescriptions. So I started using credit cards to help pay these bills, which in reality, only made matters worse.
Here I was in my mid 50’s, with nothing to show for it. A house in need of major repairs. Cars that needed to be in top running shape so the ex could make all of her appointments and take me to work, and I had nothing in the bank. No emergency fund. 401-K? I borrowed the maximum I could on it.
At the same time, this friend of mine was using his credit cards to buy couches, stereos, and other junk, that in reality a person in their 50s shouldn’t be so obsessed with. The clincher was his purchase of a towbar for the back of his car. He wanted it so he could haul his boat to the lake to go fishing! All well and good, but he didn’t have a method to haul the boat, in fact, he didn’t own a boat, in fact, in didn’t own any fishing gear! Five years later he sold the car with the towbar! As far as the boat? He still hasn’t purchased one, I doubt he has gone fishing anywhere – from a bridge, shoreline, anywhere!
Just a couple of years ago, he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Anyone who knew him kept telling him this was where he was headed, yet he knew better. For a little while he had a little humility. That quickly disappeared when his mother passed away and left him with just under $100,000. The sad part was that she died with him owing her over $30,000. The debt was forgiven by his two sisters, so in fact, he stole from their inheritance.
A new sense of I’m king of the world appeared and he purchased a home. All well and good, yet I question the logic of a person in their 60s purchasing a home? I just look back at my own home adventures. If you are a somewhat good handyman the costs can be kept at a minimum. But all your free time evaporates managing this investment. If you hire someone to do all these household projects, than you will regain your free time but lose your money.
Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather spend some money on rent and not worry about managing a house. I find it very freeing not to worry about heat pumps or water leaks or anything else. Just a phone call away is the landlord and then it becomes his problem.
I will say the guy did follow a bit of my advice and saved some money. He put it in a long term CD, which doesn’t have the greatest return, but at least he is trying. Yet just a couple of years later and he is moaning about how tight money has become.
Through it all I have never heard a word about paying his sisters the money that is rightfully theirs. Through it all I’ve never heard a word how hard his folks worked to make his life more comfortable. At 60 years old, he is living for the first time without the safety net of his parents money. He has got it all now and when that disappears, which I’m sad to say will happen, I wonder which one of his sisters will support him.
He worries about his legacy, yet he has no humility to try a clean up the wreckage of his past. Humility would have given him the gratitude to see how much he owed his parents. Not just for his inheritance, but also the unconditional love they showed him since his birth. In theory, the humility that started it all would have taught him that he needed to change and rely on his Higher Power for guidance. That the largest enemy to becoming the best version of himself… was in fact… himself.
Forget the illusion of power, forget the competition, forget the material. Instead focus on the growth that comes with humility and gratitude.