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It Is Not How Much You Make, It Is What You Do With It

Growing up, a common question adults ask children is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Most kids give the standard reply of a teacher, lawyer, doctor, fireman, veterinarian. Or, if you are my kids a Ninja. Nevertheless, we are conditioned from an early age to parrot a career that generates a large amount of income.

As parents, we sometimes omit the lesson that even if you make a lot of money, if you spend more than you make and are not wise with your investments or savings, you still won’t have anything when you retire. Although a ninja probably doesn’t have to worry too much about lifestyle inflation.

My grandparents would tell my sibling and I that it does not matter how much you make, but rather what you do with what you make. I vaguely remember not paying them much attention, thinking what do they know since they lived in a small southern country town, in a small house, with a black and white 13” CRT television. Whereas I lived in a metropolis, in a split-level home, and a 27” Sony Trinitron TV with a Nintendo 64 attached.

What I didn’t appreciate until I became older and had children of my own, was that my grandparents, that I tended to dismiss due to the reasons mentioned above, saved enough money on a janitor and teacher’s salary to provide a happy and healthy environment for their children and some financial assistance to those that wanted to attend college. The reason they were able to do this was because they lived below their means, even if it was on what people consider a meager income.

This recent introspection got me thinking about how I would raise my children in the age of Facebook, instant gratification, and the Kardashians. Would they understand that you can be anything you want to be and live a fulfilling life if you just live below your means?

I only worry about these things because I too am a recovering spender. To be honest, I thought I was saving enough if I had about $300 in my bank account. Fortunately, my grandparents’ nugget of wisdom must have implanted in my subconscious somewhere as I soon understood the folly of my ways.

Although I am a convert, the absence of this live below your means principle is more evident to me now as there are many people who I work with, that make a lot more than Mr. Fire and I, but often time live the expected lifestyle to match their salaries. We follow the principle that sleeping comfortably at night is paramount so we only buy what we need when we need it. What lessons have you learned from your grandparents that have shaped your financial ideals? Comment below.

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