Most people know the story of Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling. She was really worried, and it turned out, she was worried about nothing. In our family, we like to remind eachother of this sweet little fable when worries are getting us down.
One of the biggest worries that EVERYONE has is about money. And that includes me.
I’m not going to pretend that money, and all that it means and can purchase, is no longer a concern to me. I am neither a billionaire nor a Trappist monk. I like the green stuff. But over the past six decades, I’ve learned a thing or two about having it, and not having it.
Please let me share some anecdotal advice with you:
Even a pauper can save something
My first job as an adult was with Ringling Brothers Circus as a First-of-May, a new clown. I made exactly $90 per week. (So I wasn’t exactly raking it in.) But it was an interesting job, and I got to travel to every state in the Union.
I made up my mind at the beginning of the season that I would save 10 percent of my weekly salary, no matter what. (That's $9.) Each week, I sent it to my account at the Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Savings Bank.
At the end of two years, with a little help from “cherry pie” (my second job selling coloring books during intermission), I had enough funds to enroll in a prestigious pantomime school in Mexico during the winter lay off. It was both a vacation and an investment. When I got back to the show, they promoted me to traveling in advance of the circus for promotional appearances.
I have never been without a savings account since then - an ACTIVE savings account. It’s a great comfort in good times and bad.
Don’t teach your kids that money is a god
My parents were both the products of the Great Depression, and they knew how to squeeze a coin until it screamed for mercy. But they also knew that money wasn’t everything.
When I was old enough to drive a car, they left it up to me to decide if I wanted to work a part-time job in order to buy one myself, or if I wanted to spend my free time doing something else (in my case a lot of reading) and go on foot.
They wouldn’t buy me a car, nor would they nag me to get a job. They left it up to me to decide whether or not I wanted to turn my free time into money for a car or continue to revel in hours of reading.
I learned from them that I was in control of the money. The money was NOT in control of me.
A helping hand never grows poor
A few years ago I moved to Thailand in order to teach English. It was a fun job, and I enjoyed making an above-average wage in a land where living was inexpensive.
While teaching in Bangkok, I was asked by a church to volunteer some time to teach English to children in Klong Tooey, one of the bleakest slums in all of Southeast Asia. It meant cutting down on my private tutoring, which was very lucrative. But I figured I’d give it a shot, and if it was costing me too much I could always quit.
Seeing what those Klong Tooey kids were up against made me realize how good my own life was, and I never seemed to miss that lost tutoring money.
There are more ways to be rich than just grubbing for money.