Broke vs. Poor – Life Lesson 44 of 50


Broke vs. Poor


So often we use the word “poor” to describe our financial state when what we really mean is “broke.” What’s wrong with that? Well, these term refer to two very different situations, and using “broke” vs. “poor” interchangeably minimizes the very real experience shared by millions of Americans.

Being broke is a drag

Most individuals have experienced being broke at one time or another. I know I have. In my simple definition, “broke” means having a roof over your head, food in the fridge (even though you might think you never have anything good to eat in the house), clothes, shoes, and a car or bike—but your phone might be a few years old, and you make your own coffee before you head to work, and you probably aren’t taking lavish vacations.

Broke means not having enough money for the miscellaneous items we want in our life—the newest iPhone, expensive meals, or designer clothes—but, ultimately, getting by and hoping for brighter days.

Being poor is a crisis

On the other hand, poor means not having a roof over your head or knowing where your next meal is coming from. It means that a single surprise, accident, or medical issue would be catastrophic. It means hope is as hard to come by as a decent night’s sleep. Poor is a life-threatening condition that affects entire families across the country. I pray you and I never experience it.

We may not all have the newest car, shiniest toys, or top-of-the-line devices, but you know what? That’s OK. We can complain sometimes about not having the things we want, but we should be respectful of the difference between broke vs poor so we’re not silencing the struggles of so many Americans.

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Share Your Blessings by Giving Back: Life Lesson 43 of 50


Share Your Blessings by Giving Back


Photo by Elaine Casap

Whether or not we recognize it every day, you and I are incredibly blessed in our lives. But wait: How can I possibly know this about you when I don’t even know who you are?

Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? This means you have either access to the internet or someone who cares enough about you to have printed this out for you. Either is a blessing—and when you share your blessings with others, you’ll only increase their return.

How to give back

For many of us, a monetary gift is the easiest way to give back: we just pull out the checkbook, sign our name, and put the issue out of our minds until the next round of charitable giving. However, giving back can take many different forms. More difficult in this busy world—and therefore potentially more rewarding and more personally impactful—is giving your time and talent.

Here’s a list of just a few possible things you might do to leverage your time and talents for the greater good:

  • Volunteer at your place of worship.
  • Offer tutoring or childcare services to local schools or after-school programs.
  • Organize a book donation drive for your neighborhood or install a Little Free Library on your property.
  • Ask your local library, food pantry, or animal rescue service how you can help.
  • Contact a nonprofit organization whose mission resonates with your passion and offer your time and skills.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list; look to the needs of your community and your own unique strengths and skills, and you’ll come up with plenty of new ideas for giving back.

    Share your blessings, multiply their effects

    However you choose to be impactful in the world, know that you aren’t just benefitting others with your service; you’re multiplying the blessings in your own life.

    Some of your most significant and impactful experiences will come from helping others. Giving benefits both the giver and the receiver, and those blessings can ripple out into the community in unexpected ways.

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    Shit Happens: Life Lesson 42 of 50


    Shit Happens


    No matter how prepared we think we are, life always seems to have a trick up its sleeve. We can protect ourselves with all the insurance, savings, and safety nets we can afford, but the potential for unexpected life events and challenges to derail our carefully laid plans is always present.

    Life constantly brings us new surprises, many involving loss: the loss of a job, a loved one, money, car keys, passport, cabin or air pressure—the list goes on.

    We can’t prepare for every possible contingency, but there are some basic steps we can take to keep from going under at the first hint of trouble.

    Build a safety net

    Your landlord hikes the rent. Your insurance didn’t cover as much of that hospital bill as you expected. Your daughter is making her surprise debut as a new mom. Lots of people think they’re prepared for potential life changes…right up until things change. That’s the wrong time to realize your preparations are inadequate.

    If you don’t have an emergency fund, make today the day you start one. Find one lifestyle change you can make to free up some cash; if you’re having difficulty carving out the extra expense, ask your bank to automatically round up every purchase and siphon the change into a new account. Every little bit helps.

    Respect the contingency plan

    You can’t predict everything, but you can take steps to make yourself more resilient in the face of unexpected obstacles. Nobody likes paying for things they don’t need, but health and life insurance are some of the most important ways to protect your financial future and those of the people you love.

    We live in a country where a single accident or unexpected medical event can send a family into financial ruin. It’s easy to believe we’re immune to these shifting sands until our own lives are swept away by them. If the worst happens to you, those pesky or even painful monthly premiums you’ve been paying suddenly won’t feel so cumbersome.

    Don’t stress what you can’t control

    After all the preparation and planning, there comes a point where we just have to let go and roll with the punches. (If we don’t, we’ll never leave the house!)

    Life will change, sometimes in ways you expect, frequently in ways you don’t. If you expect the unexpected, do what you can to prepare, and trust in your own financial and emotional resilience, you’ll be able to manage any hand life deals you along the way.

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    Your Money or Your Life? – Life Lesson 41 of 50


    Your Money or Your Life?


    Society tells us that accumulating money is what life is all about, but you and I know that isn’t the whole story. We’re all trying to survive, but making a living isn’t just about accumulating as much money as possible—it’s about living. When it comes to the guiding force in your life, you have just one choice to make: Will you choose money or your life?

    It may sound odd to hear this from a financial planner—someone who makes his living by helping others manage their wealth—but it’s the truth. In my experience, more money tends to lead to more stuff, and more stuff leads to more stress.

    As the Notorious B.I.G. once observed: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

    It’s not like this is the first time we’ve heard this, though I know I still need to be reminded of it myself at times. We’ve all been told to buck this materialistic trend. That long-term happiness isn’t about stuff; it’s about the people we surround ourselves with, the connections we form, and the difference we make in the world.

    No one’s asking you to choose a life without money. I’m simply asking you to choose life.

    Work on building a fulfilling life, one with more focus on family and friends, God, and meaningful experiences…and less focus on having the right material stuff to impress others.
    After all, you can’t take your stuff with you when you go, but you can make a lasting impact while you’re here.

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    The Benefits of Having Children – Life Lesson 40 of 50


    The Benefits of Having Children


    Our messy, beautiful lives are filled with many blessings, but those of us who are parents know that children are perhaps the greatest blessing one can know. Parenthood may not be right for everyone, but the benefits of having children and guiding their growth into adulthood are beyond measure.

    But that’s not to say parenting is without its challenges.

    Parenting: great challenges, greater rewards

    When you first have a child, you’ll learn right away that parenting isn’t easy. There’s a lot of moving pieces—any one of which could end up in Junior’s mouth the second you turn your back—and for every time-honored method of parenting, someone’s there to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

    It’s challenging, let me tell you. The internet is a modern wealth of information, and bookstores are packed with well-intentioned parenting guidebooks and resources, but at the end of the day, every family has to navigate their own journey. And that journey doesn’t always involve a lot of sleep.

    The benefits of having children

    Despite all the challenges, parenthood is incredibly rewarding in ways that only another parent can understand. Here are just a few of the ways in which having children enriches our lives.

    • You get to raise a responsible, caring citizen who can help make the world a better place.
    • You get a front-row seat to (and crucial role in) the complete development of a real live human being.
    • You get to build a family and cultivate a sense of love, security, and shared commitment.
    • You get to pass your genes, your surname, and your stuff down to another generation (whether it wants them or not).
    • You get a built-in support system to care for you in your old age.
    • You get grandkids (if you’re lucky).

    The cycle repeats

    When you have children of your own—and I’m talking about the two-legged kind, although the furry and scaly ones also greatly enhance our lives—you’ll reflect on how your own mom and dad parented you. You’ll review all the mistakes you promised you wouldn’t make when you became a parent. You’ll consider how often you made them anyway.

    And then you’ll hug your children, tell them you love them, and strive to keep doing better. What else can any of us do?

    To my children

    If you’ve been following these life lessons on the SCA blog, you know that my purpose behind these lessons is really to speak to my own children and give them some insight into who I am and how I view the world. I would like to close today’s lesson by addressing my children directly.

    Maybe one day you’ll be blessed with children of your own. If you are—meaning your mom and I will be grandparents—I will have about a million things to tell you, advise you on, and suggest. But for now, I have this single warning:

    Those kids will be so spoiled that all you’ll be able to do is shake your head. Please understand: it’s just our way of getting back at you for all the stuff we had to deal with when you were kids. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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    Looking for Unconditional Love? Get a Dog: Life Lesson 35 of 50


    Looking for Unconditional Love?


    Photo by Atanas Teodosiev

    When you get a dog, there’s nothing like the unconditional love you’ll experience—and if you already have one, you understand how dogs enrich our lives and brighten our everyday experience.

    When you arrive home, a dog is excited to see you. They ask no tiresome questions about your day. They don’t pester you about how much money you made. Instead, they just show their love and enthusiasm with giant eyes, an eager tongue, and a tail that won’t stop wagging.

    This lesson isn’t about money, it’s about having a lifelong friend. And friends take care of each other—I have my dog in my trust: no distributions are allowed from our trust until our dog is financially secure. (My wife won’t let me leave it all to the dog.)

    And a dog takes care of you just as much as you take care of your dog (even when they’re hogging the bed). I call it the “presumption close”: a dog is willing and able to go wherever you’re going, eat whatever you eat (without cleaning up after the meal), even go to work with you (where they have no intention of working).

    In today’s world, I think people are lonely. Get a dog and no matter what is going on in your life, wherever you are going and whatever you’re doing, you’ll have a little buddy right there with you wagging his tail.

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