As the year comes to a close and I become another year wiser, I realize more and more how secondary money really is in the grand scheme of life.
“Most of us” know this to be true about all the cliché things like bigger homes, more expensive cars, luxury jewelry, and so on.
But what’s harder to define is that grey area in the middle … the place between having just enough for both now and the future, but not compromising our other priorities in life.
This is a difficult line to walk. In general, a lot of us believe that striving to work harder and earn more is a good thing. Most of the time it is … so long as we are not missing the mark completely.
Want to know what I’m talking about? Hop in the car and go visit the local nursing home. After that, everything will make sense.
The Irony of the Nursing Home
Recently my wife’s grandparents were both moved to a nursing home after having entered a new stage of Alzheimer’s disease. We decided to go and visit with them on Christmas Eve.
A nursing home is an interesting concept. It’s full of people who have spent their entire lives being independent, raising families, taking care of spouses, fighting in wars, building careers full of great accomplishments, etc.
But now they are almost like children. They eat, sleep, and play when the nurses tell them to. They are under constant watch and supervision. They are all slowly becoming more and more dependent on this facility to take care of them.
It’s a great equalizer. In a nursing home, I’m old. You’re old. We’re all old. We all are in wheelchairs and need help doing some of the most basic of human functions.
All those illusions and the superficial sense of security that we thought money would bring us suddenly falls away. If you use money or your position as a shield to not talk to someone or be kind to another human being, in the nursing home you’ll soon find yourself naked and exposed.
Money may pay the bills. You may get a slightly nicer nursing home than other people. But that’s about it. Money is not going to pull up and visit you in your room. Money is not going to bring you flowers or drawings from your grandkids. “People” will do those things.
Who Will Visit You?
As we pulled up to the nursing home in our vehicle, there was another older woman in one of the windows staring off into the distance outside. I’d like to think that she was expecting someone to visit her today.
As we mature in this life, you realize that the greatest investment we could have ever made was that of human capital. Those we loved, those we touched, those we made a difference to. Those people who will come to visit us when we’re old and in a nursing home.
Though money can certainly improve our lives in many respects, it’s difficult to remember that’s it’s not an absolutely necessary requirement when it comes to making your impression on others. All the times you gave someone attention, helped them when they were in need, made them laugh, or just plain interacted. THOSE are the kind of things people will remember. Not the number you wrote in your checkbook.
Planting Your Seeds Now
As young Moms and Dads trying to wade our way through this labyrinth of parenting and life, I think we sometimes tend to lose sight of ultimate goal. We get so wrapped up in thinking that earning or simply having more money is going to solve all of these problems.
But it doesn’t. And it never will.
Being someone who has made a difference is not something that can be purchased. It’s something you have to strive for on your own. It’s an importance that you have to realize for yourself, and work for over time.
Just like saving and investing can pay off big over time, so too does planting these small seeds in “human capital”. A smile you gave. A friendly conversation. The time you lent a hand. All of these small actions have the potential to grow and bear fruit that you might need one day.
As the New Year approaches and we make the typical resolutions to “work out more” or make more money, ask yourself:
- What am I really doing to invest in others?
- How am I laying the foundation to leave my mark?
- When I’m old, in the nursing home, and staring out the window for someone to come and visit me, is anyone coming?
Absolutely! But only if you make that a certainty. Only if you work on it now.
Happy New Year!
Featured image courtesy of Flickr | zeitfaenger.at
[email protected] says
This is outstanding! Maybe it’s my connection to the Alzheimer’s part of what you wrote and the thought of putting my own father in a nursing home for that dreaded disease in the next few months. Sometimes we all become too focused on money and not on each other. People need to come first – money later. Beautiful post!
Thanks Vicki. Alzheimer’s certainly is a strange condition that erodes away the person you once knew. If anything can come from this experience, its that we should all get to know the people we love before diseases like this take them away.
This motivational articles is really amazing to change my mind set. I think this is the perfect new year post for inspire other that what they are doing and investing.
Thanks Junaid. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says
Great realizations, MMD. It’s what we do to others and who we are to them, and definitely money is really secondary. People in this world should realize how equally important it is to build good relationship with other people. Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to you as well, Jayson.
Wow this was powerful and sometimes unfortunate that people should make more efforts to visit family. I would prefer to not be in a nursing home when the time comes, but the way the world is moving now (fast pace) I foresee more people living in these facilities. Good message and brings us back down to earth.
Thanks EL. I think most people would prefer not to end up in a nursing home if they can help it. But sometimes you develop conditions that your family or even visiting medical personnel are simply not equipped to handle. Financially, it is devastating. As I’m quickly learning, you have to either hand over about $8,000 per month out of pocket or deplete all of your assets so that you can qualify for Medicaid. It’s quite a system.
Joanne Mahoney says
I know what you mean. My mother in-law is in a nursing home. She is suffering from dementia. Unfortunately, from undiagnosed high blood pressure (long story). Going to visit her is an eye opening experience. Suddenly, everything you thought was important, isn’t so important.
I make this joke to my daughter in-law and son, “I have to be nice to them, because some day they will be deciding my future.” I love both of them, so it isn’t a stretch to be nice; but it is true…
I totally agree – that’s no joke. It’s crazy to be helping my father in law make decisions about my wife’s grandparents. Life truly is like a circle.
Hung @ Wealthy Education says
Thank you for this wake-up call! While we all struggle to increase our wealth, we forget the most important capital of all, human capital. We should always remind ourselves that aside from investing in our finances, we also have to invest in others and spend on experiences. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to increase our wealth that we forget to invest in ourselves.