Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Getting a Life
Finding financial freedom is not an end. It is a beginning. If you are an American, it is in your genes. Although these words mean different things to people of different political persuasions, I don’t think I have ever met an American who would disagree with the committee of five who edited Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If you are reading this, you are alive and at least have a measure of freedom (access to the Internet). That means you are at least able to pursue happiness, although there is no written guarantee that you will ever catch it. Wealth is not the goal. It is a means that allows you to pursue what makes you happy at a higher rate of speed. That’s all it is. Wealth is not life. It is just a tool that allows you to have a life. What makes you happy? Really happy? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all good places to start, but not good places to end. I am old enough to know that I won’t live forever. In fact, as I watch my parents’ generation die, I know that I don’t want to live forever, at least not in this physical body. Wait, it gets worse, I am beginning to bury men of my own age. In fact I have buried two friends and coworkers who were younger than I was at the time of their death. It is beginning to dawn on me that I don’t have all that much time left. Neither do you. If you are alive, you are headed for the grave. If you follow the basic, proven, principles of financial responsibility, there is a high probability that you will find financial freedom. People, this stuff works. It really, really, works. Then what? It is time for you to become a blessing. You shouldn’t wait until you find financial freedom, but being a blessing is a lot easier once you and your family have enough. There are no excuses. You can either choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem. That means you personally. If you choose to be a victim, you are not part of the solution. Waiting for some politician or religious leader to give you life, liberty, and an opportunity to pursue happiness is a trap that will rob you of your life. I am not telling you not to vote your conscience or participate in our political process, I am telling you to stand up, become a man or woman of God and make a difference. At the end of time, it is what you do, what you personally do, that matters. You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to be a blessing. Go ahead, put a quarter in a parking meter that is about to run out. A small gift to someone you will never meet. If you eat at a full service restaurant, tip at least the customary 15%, more if the spirit moves you. How would you like to live on a server’s salary? How much are you giving to charity? God instructed the Jews to give 10% of their increase to his temple. In Christianity you are free to give or not to give as much or as little as you wish. Are you and God OK with your giving? If you, personally out of your own pocket, are not giving a reasonable amount to the charitable activities that you believe are important, I don’t want to hear anything you have to say about how much I should give the Government to support charitable activities that you won’t support with your own hard earned cash. God says—emphatically and repeatedly—that debt is a curse; that the ability to lend is a blessing. So, lend something to someone while you are still in debt. See what happens? A long time ago when I was young and relatively ignorant, I helped some friends in the ministry with their car loans. I didn’t understand that it was up to me to choose to step out from under a curse and experience what it means to be part of the blessing. In retrospect, I understand these and other similar acts were foundational in my quest for financial freedom. Your responsibilities don’t end with the grave. You have a duty to be a blessing to next generation. While you are still alive, help young people find their way. Don’t rob them of their opportunity to become responsible adults, making them victims dependent on you or the largess of the Federal Government, but do look for ways to help them, encourage them, and show them the way. If you open your eyes you will discover that God will give you opportunities to help young adults in a time of trouble with a well placed gift or a no interest loan. If this is done with discretion and sensitivity, they will be more likely to listen to your instructions on how to get a life; how to pursue and ultimately capture that elusive creature, happiness. If God blesses you with a measure of his wealth, plan on how to best use it after you pass. Blend this paragraph with the previous paragraph in your mind. If you help young parents open a 529 for their children’s college tuition, you are helping, not only in the present moment, but in a future that you may or may not live to see. If you help plan for a child’s retirement with a tool that we have been given, like a Charitable Remainder Trust, you will have the opportunity to be a blessing not only to the next generation, but also to the works of God, all tax free. Become wise. Learn about these things. Ultimately, you will find happiness in what you—personally—have done to improve your life, your family’s life, the life of your community, and the life of the world. For a Christian that means entering into the Kingdom of God. Where is the Kingdom of God? That would be anywhere God is King.