There is nothing like a drastic change in your life to start the wheels of your mind, pushing them into overdrive. In the last two months, I have seen the most abject poverty China has to offer, have accepted a new job which skyrocketed my realized and potential income, watched my hard labor begin to transform the last few rough spots of my home and seen my grandfather pass away.
Life is so wonderful, in all of its unexpected curses and blessings, its routine acts and indifferent meanderings. That last descriptor probably helps to illume the reasons I write this blog. I’ve known for quite some time that literature of all kinds, so long as they are excellent and/or novel, is to me as a bottle of cheap wine to an alcoholic. It is something which draws me with undeniable force, something which is at once creative and destructive as its fickle pen digs its nub into the depths of my snoozing mind.
Its the things of life which really drive all of these words out from my mind, through the nimble fingers and onto the screen. Something within me requires to be released into a form to share with all others. I can not write just to have something to say but it is the message behind the words which needs to be recorded.
All the change of recent months explains why I started journaling, or in popular vernacular, blogging. I found myself unable to release the pent-up thoughts in any other coherant fashion. Mostly, these thoughts have recorded the substantial external changes through which I have been traveling, but now I need to turn inward, to relate a discussion of more depth.
The new job and my grandfather’s passing, along with the passive experience of viewing China’s poverty, have really grasped my mind. You would have never know that my grandfather, the man who had not traveled more than 200 miles from his home in the last 20 years of his life, nor had he purchased any new clothing in that same time period, was wealthy. Me, being me, I had a pretty good grasp on this, given the droppings I had gleaned from conversations passing around my range of hearing. What was unexpected was his gift to me upon his death. Never did I expect, nor even dream, of receiving anything from his estate. I did not need, nor want anything from the items he left behind, least of all his money. Yet, I find myself in posession of his dining room furniture, the majority of his tools and a sizable sum of cash.
The physical objects have their obvious uses, ones to which I intend to use them to honor his memory. He was a man who loved to work with his hands, to see what he could envision with his mind and create with his ten fingers. He was quite good at it, too. No, nothing of his will ever hang in a museam, but they represented the works of a man who crafted for the joy of the craft itself.
It is the cash with troubles my mind. I don’t need it, nor do I have a use for much of it at this time. Besides the low interest loans for my house and education, I have no debts. My new job will cut my expenses in by at least 1/3 of their current level. I have no intention of going on any shopping spree as there is little in life I want and nothing of material possession that I need and do not have.
Add to the influx of cash, the decrease in expenses and the more than generous increase in cash generation due to the new job and it becomes obvious that the gift from my grandfather will soon be eclipsed by my own ability to generate wealth. It has taken a lot of long hours, hard work and study to get where I am now. Yes, I had a lot of help getting here, help from family and friends, for whom I am eternally grateful, and I just cannot imagine, again given the backdrop of my grandfather’s frugality, doing anything with this windfall besides saving it.
Then, the man who was so instrumental in getting me the new job, suggests I start reading a few books, to find out exactly what I should be doing with all of this monetary influx. I’m almost done with the first of two books, and it has ignited a fire in my mind the likes of which has not burned in quite some time. No, it is not the first spark of greed, but of the realization that I have been given a LOT and feel the need to make the most of that I can, just as my grandfather did.
I’ve always known myself to be very different from most people in general and Americans in particular. Nothing wrong with people or Americans, although sometimes I wonder if the two groups overlap or not, but in this particular issue, I must find myself being a poor American. Just as Richard Pryor failed to do in Brewster’s Millions, I couldn’t spend this if I tried. Pryor’s character wanted to spend the cash, but I don’t even want to do that.
Maybe I am becoming more ‘Jewish’, like my best friend, but probably not. I feel more as if I was just given a nudge back onto a track for which I had been heading for many a year. Long ago I said that, once I have enough money to live a life in relative comfort, not having everything of which I could dream but all of my needs and a few of the most important wants, I had no desire to earn more money. What had never occurred to me before now is that, despite my best efforts, I might some day earn more money than that comfortable cap. I hit that comfortable cap about 2 years ago and have purchased many more 'wants’ in the last few years than I knew were within me. It is time to nudge back to where I said I would go, to restrain some of my spending and begin to invest heavily in the future.
Last night was a watershed experience where I had two mind-boggling revelations. First, running the numbers as I was taught in my finance classes, given a healthy but not painful yearly contribution and a respectable rate of return, returned a number that left me oggling my own PC screen. Never would I have believed that I could save that much money. The number I picked for my investment was constant for the next 35 years and was a number that is easy to meet today and probably for the foreseeable future, even though my income is likely to increase much more given my education, background, drive and personality. If my consumption only increases at the rate of inflation, then the future looks a lot different than I ever imagined it could.
The second revelation of last night was that if I could make this happen, I can not do it alone. Never did I think I would need an accountant or an investment specialist, but now I believe that I will not be able to fulfill that future without one. How amazing it would be to see this happen.
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