My grandpa died this past week at the age of 95. Since his passing, I have found myself thinking a lot about my memories and impressions of him. I was not very close with Grandpa, but, obviously, have been profoundly influenced and affected by him. After all, he raised my father. I have been blessed to have a solid example of responsible, frugal money management from my parents and extended family. My grandpa certainly played a large part in helping shape this.
I never had a conversation with Grandpa about his view of money and its importance. My sense is that his perspective of money and its role in identity, success, and responsible living was slightly different from my own. It seemed that success (in the classic American sense) with money carried more weight for him in the measure of a man than it does for me. Although, I should say that the difference may be more in how I define success (freedom from constantly thinking about money). I absolutely would agree that our management of money is a concrete reflection of our values and character (as uncomfortable as this may be) and, as such, one measure of our lives. I do respect my grandpa’s success and example and am thankful for the legacy he has left for me in this area.
In listing the characteristics of my grandpa’s money habits that I observed, I intend to avoid much reflection of his philosophy regarding money, since I did not discuss this with him. That being said, one could certainly intuit certain pieces of his philosophy from his noticeable habits. My other caveat is that these are my impressions and may in some respects differ from actual reality. Regardless, the impact of a person on our lives is largely a result of our impressions, accurate or not.
Without further ado, here are some of my observations of Grandpa’s practices with money:
Understanding Value: My impression is that Grandpa was very aware of value and its relation to buying and selling, an essential attribute of a successful investor (and an attribute that I did not inherit). It seems that he knew what to buy, when to buy it, and when to sell it. Some people just seem to intuitively get this concept and I think he was one of those. It’s easy to speculate, it’s much harder to be consistently right. He also lived during an era when classic investing strategies were greatly rewarded. My observation is that few people truly understand value and the ones that do tend to end up with some money on their hands. One of the most basic pieces of this concept is identifying assets versus liabilities and spending as much on assets and as little on liabilities as possible. This could obviously be its own post. My grandpa would have been much more qualified to write it.
Generosity: Last week, when writing about what I want my children to learn about money, I mentioned the value of generosity and, along with it, the freedom to give when and where they feel led and to not give when they do not. Manipulation and guilt trips should not direct our giving but, rather, conviction. My grandpa generously supported causes that aligned with his convictions. He was never bashful about examining a cause before determining whether he would give. Giving, to him, was not something done lightly or blindly. It was, however, done often. I appreciate this model of responsibility and accountability in an act that for many is simply a vehicle for feeling better about themselves, regardless of the merits of the cause.
Education: My grandpa was a lifelong educator and valued education highly. This was reflected in his management of money and his giving. Beyond his own formal education and the professional roles (teacher, superintendent, etc.) he served in, he and Grandma purchased a property in Michigan with a big barn and a pond that, for many in the family, served as part of our education in caring for animals, working with our hands, fishing, constructing, riding horses, etc. They loved this property, but I think they loved even more to share it with their large family and use it as a valuable teaching tool. This also reflects my grandpa’s value for education in all forms, not just formal and academic.
Vehicles: My grandpa loved driving in any way, shape, or form. He loved mowing his enormous lawns with his John Deere mowers/tractors. He loved transporting things on the farm with the hauler (the first vehicle that I, and many of my cousins, ever drove). He loved American made luxury sedans. These were, from my observation, some of the few luxury items that grandpa spent considerable sums on. I do not share his passion for nice vehicles, but can appreciate his allocation of some of his hard earned money towards hobbies/passions.
Simple joys: Thank you Grandpa for all of the delicious Chinese food that you treated us to. Loved the ice cream too. Enough said.
Travel: Grandpa enjoyed traveling. Other than wintering in Arizona, this was usually to visit his children in different parts of the world (a value for international travel is prominent among his progeny). He and Grandma picked up and hauled off to serve 3 years in Indonesia to help with agricultural education when they had 7 kids!!! Travel, for Grandpa, was not just about recreation, but service.
Yet above all of these things, probably the biggest testament to my grandpa’s legacy in this area is his kids and grandkids. In my extended family, I have nothing but good examples when it comes to working hard, achieving success, and living within means. While some accumulation of money has been the inevitable result, you would never know it. Money has not been an end, but more a result of living value-driven, principled lives. This too is something that I appreciate.
I, and many others, will miss my grandpa’s presence. We will continue to benefit from his legacy in many aspects, finances included. Grandpa, like us, was far from perfect. There are some characteristics that he possessed that I do not aspire to emulate, even when it comes to finances. As a whole, however, his perspective of and actions related to finances are saturated with insights that many in our culture can benefit from greatly.
There are several things that can be done with a person’s legacy. We can completely forget it. We can constantly recount it while never emulating it. Or, we can evaluate it, sift it out, and reap the rewards of putting the positive lessons of this legacy into practice in our own lives, while further adding to them and enriching them. I hope for all of us that we can do the latter with the legacies we have inherited.
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This post was linked to Welcome Home Link Up at Raising Arrows, The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead, Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network, Better Mom Mondays Link Up at The Better Mom, WLWW at Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins, Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom