A little over three and a half years ago my grandma passed away. Without a doubt, she was the strongest and most wise woman I’ve ever known. Throughout her life she was always very dedicated to her family.
Within the last several years before passing away, I would always hear her say “I’m so rich…,” especially around the holidays when we were all together. She would then go on to finish her thought by saying “I’m so rich in love.“
Looking back, her and my grandfather lived a rather simple life. They had a house in the suburbs, three kids, and I think even a dog or two in there somewhere. He was a welder by trade (at least most of the time that I can remember) and she would say she was a “homemaker” (a.k.a a stay at home mom) although her house would tell a different story.
Their family of five shared an entire 875 square feet of living space and a single bathroom. Needless to say they spent a lot of time in close proximity to one another! I imagine finding some private space would have been next to impossible.
Five people in such a small space and sharing one tiny bathroom sounds super inconvenient. And yet, I don’t think in all of my years I’ve ever heard any one of them complain about that little house.
On the contrary, there was always an endless stream of fun stories my grandma would tell about raising her family in that house. One such story was a time where she ended up cooking something like 60 pancakes and feeding half the kids in the neighborhood (to the day she passed I don’t think she ever ate another pancake).
I’m sure life was not always rainbows and sunshine, but they surely made do with what they had.
Fast forwarding a bit until I was about six years old, my grandparents finally decided to sell the place they had called home for so many years and build a house “out in the country” on a couple of acres of land.
Not wanting to borrow money, they built their house as they could afford it. By this, I mean the structure was there but many of the finishes were completed one at a time as finances allowed.
There were a few summers where I remember visiting and getting out of bed to my feet touching cold concrete as they had yet to have carpet installed. And, in the afternoons we would sit out on the carport playing games while my grandma would cook dinner on a propane stove that had been setup in their outside storage room since they hadn’t yet purchased cabinets and a working stove for the kitchen.
Being a kid, it was kind of fun. It was like going camping where you get to cook your food outside only we never left the house! What was even better was the quality time we got to spend with my grandma while she was outside with us.
As simple as they were, I’ll never forget those days as long as I live.
What I didn’t realize then and quite possibly did not even fully realize until writing this post, is that I was witnessing some of the most valuable life lessons for building and living a rich life.
Spending Time and Making Memories
When my grandma used to tell me she was rich it wasn’t because she had a high net worth, it was because she was rich in love and meaning within her life.
This was a woman who married extremely young, held one or possibly two very short lived jobs her entire life, and basically dedicated the rest of her being for the good of her family.
Through it all she always gave one of the most valuable gifts you can give to another human being – her time.
She spent countless hours having conversations, playing games, and just fully being present for those she loved. No matter what we were doing she would always say we were “making memories.”
Today, many of us give more time to our devices (phones, tablets, etc.) than we do to our own loved ones. Instead of heartfelt conversations we text because it’s quicker and easier. Often our “memories” are more likely to have been experienced through the camera lens on our iPhone than with our own eyes. Our experiences have been sought out to ensure they are Instagram or Facebook worthy in order to share them with the rest of the world instead of being in the moment and sharing them with those around us.
I am definitely guilty of all of the above at times. For many of us this has just become our way of life because it’s convenient and makes us feel good.
As I journey toward Financial Independence I try to keep in mind just how important it is to be in the present. It’s great to plan for the future, but time is most certainly finite.
It’s ultimately the time we spend and memories we make with those we love that will leave us fulfilled and make us truly rich.
Finding Happiness Within Your Means
I have to admit, while it was fun and adventurous as a child, living without floors and a built-in stove even for a small time, doesn’t sound all too appealing to me now as an adult. I’m not saying I couldn’t do it, but it’s likely I’m just spoiled at this point!
That said, I have the utmost respect for my grandparents. From raising their family in a small house that they could afford to building a new home without a mortgage, they made conscious choices to act and live within their means. They stuck with it even though it was challenging and likely uncomfortable at times.
What stands out for me, however, is that through it all they were generally happy.
Of course there were ups and downs, but they were able to find happiness within their means – with themselves, each other and their family.
Several years back my wife and I were traveling and in the hotel where we were staying there was a sign. It read “Happiness Is Wanting What you Have.” We liked it so much that we found it online and bought one for our house. We placed it in an area where we would see it frequently as a reminder.
If you can’t find happiness in what you have now, then no matter what you acquire you’ll likely always end up unhappy.
And this also applies to Financial Independence. You may become happier once you are financially free or have the ability to finally quit the rat race, but if you haven’t figured out how to be happy with what you have or through the journey to get you there, that future happiness may one day be very short lived.
Final Thoughts On Living a Rich Life
I am very thankful to my grandparents for setting such a great example. Even though they are both gone, the lessons they have taught me and love they have shown me have left quite the legacy. I try to set the same examples for my children and only hope that they will one day do the same.
At the end of the day, if you want to live a rich life you have to look beyond the dollars.
You can live a wealthy life and yet, not live a rich life.
Creating financial security and independence is important, but don’t let it be your only goal.
Find love within yourself and others.
Be happy with who you are, what you have, and where you are on your journey. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Their journey is completely different from yours.
Spend time with people you care about and create everlasting memories.
Live within your means.
Enjoy the ride.
Do all of this and not only will you one day be financially free but you’ll also be living a very rich life! And, that in itself is priceless…