California Dreaming: Aligning Spending with Values and Building Memories
As most blog readers and clients know, most of my and my wife’s family live in California. It’s important to us that our kids know their extended family, and while Facetime and video chats have been great, they can’t replace playing all day with your cousins or waking up in your grandma’s house. So we try to go back and visit once or twice per year, even though travelling cross country with small children isn’t what anyone would describe as “pleasant.”
The trips have gotten easier as the kids have gotten older, although that’s a double-edged sword. While they can now be entertained with movies and games for 6-7 hours of travel time, after they turned 3 we started having to pay for seats for both of them. But we accept and budget for this expense because it aligns with our values about the importance of family, as well as for the fact that each trip creates a new set of stories and memories to share.
For example, on our most recent trip to visit my wife’s parents, my son was searching through a set of board games and came across a version of Parcheesi. For those not familiar with the game, it’s actually one of the oldest games ever; the American board game version is adapted from the Indian game of Pachisi, which was created perhaps as early as 500 AD.
For some reason, the box appealed to my son and he wanted to play. Parcheesi is one of those games where the gameplay is fairly simple, but where there can also be a lot of complex strategy. My son is only 4½, so I was a little concerned about his ability to play. But he took to it right away, loved it, and actually sat still and remained engaged for the entire 45 minutes it took us to play.
That. Never. Happens.
That’s a pretty good memory all by itself. But the experience was made more powerful by the fact that Parcheesi was the game that I used to play on those special nights when I slept over at my grandpa and grandma’s house when I was a kid.
Both of those grandparents are now deceased, and I probably haven’t thought about Parcheesi in at least twenty years. So when I first saw my son holding the game box, the waves of memories and shared games with my grandparents, sister and cousins washed over me.
I suppose it’s possible that we would have bought a Parcheesi set without having discovering it on this trip. But that seems unlikely. Over the course of the 45 minutes we played, my son gave me a gift that was infinitely more valuable than the cost of his airplane ticket.
In a vacuum, “money” is neither good nor bad. What people choose to do with money, however, is a lot more important. I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton’s book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending in previous blog posts. In the book, they talk about the fact that using money to create experiences and memories rather than to purchase things leads to much more happiness.
Along similar lines, a financial planner friend of mine is fond of saying that, “Money is just a relational tool.” In the right hands, tools help us create masterpieces. But for folks who aren’t terribly handy, tools just collect dust in the garage.
If you would like to talk to Woodward Financial Advisors about thoughtful ways to align your money with your values, or to how best use your money to create memories for you and your family, please let us know.