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CAD: Being satisfied with what you have

CAD is another college friend who hails from a small town in Iowa. One of the things that has always struck me about CAD is her practicality – then again, she’s a scientist (and a PhD to boot!)

What’s interesting is that sometimes I feel like CAD and her husband are the “Jones” that Future Husband and I aspire to be someday – this might be influenced by the fact that CAD’s husband was my Future Husband’s roommate in college and our future best man.

CAD and her husband have very well paying jobs, a gorgeous house in rural Iowa that’s close to CAD’s family, front loading laundry machines (that still impresses me …) … but they are still the people we used to drink cheap beer with in college. And reading CAD’s definition reminds me why I want to keep up with these particular Joneses. CAD and her husband – in Dave Ramsey’s words -“have lived like no one else and now live like no one else.” CAD – I admire you guys because you are responsible with the resources given to you …

Here are CAD’s thoughts:

“‘Webster’s online dictionary defines poor as 1 a: lacking material possessions b: of, relating to, or characterized by poverty.’

For me, poor has a very different definition from poverty.

All my life, my father has told me we were poor. Anyone who saw our living room furniture or my piano would likely disagree, and we were certainly not in poverty. (They may have been in poverty when my eldest brother was young, as I think they were on food stamps briefly. But they are prideful people and didn’t last long on welfare.) I never went hungry, but I did (and still do) embrace frugality.

So what does my dad mean when he says he’s poor? Maybe that’s how he complains when my mother spends all his money. Maybe he looks at the whole picture (mortgage and all) and says he’s poor as long as he owes anyone money. Or maybe that his income didn’t support an extravagant lifestyle and a big fancy house. Or that there’s not a whole lot in the checkbook at the end of the month. I’m not sure. However, it does seem to me that being poor under his definition is in a strange sense, the moral high ground. (Obviously the “rich” people in town can’t buy happiness, and thus great wealth/power just leads to sadness and immoral actions. Or going crazy.) So growing up with this identity of being poor (but not really in need of anything), means that I end up with strange guilt complexes as an adult. For example…

For a while, I wasn’t sure if we should buy this house because I was afraid it was too big and fancy. I was afraid people would get the wrong idea and think I was one of “them”…one of those rich people. (Good thing I have other people to tell me I’m just being silly and we can get whatever house we like.) But there’s always the fear in the back of my mind that I might end up like my crazy (and wealthy) aunt and uncle. Would the family speak of me in the same way they talk about Jim & Tina? Am I a selfish rich jerk for not jumping at the opportunity to host the family (50+ people) Christmas? Have I become one of “those people” already? Apparently so, if it means having more apparent wealth but not spreading it around to my relatives with less apparent wealth.

But it’s not all about me. You asked what it means to be poor. I don’t have the answer. I would define poverty as a situation where you cannot meet your basic needs (food, shelter, etc). I suppose the rest of us are poor until we can meet our needs and desires to our satisfaction. I don’t know how much you have to make to reach that point. (How much is enough savings? What is the best way to save for retirement? What about that sweet TV or a trip overseas?) Maybe being poor just means that you have to worry about money. Or maybe it just is an issue of being satisfied with what we have.

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2 thoughts on “CAD: Being satisfied with what you have

  1. I have one comment to make about one of the things mentioned in this one. (BTW I love this series of perspectives!)

    No one should ever feel guilty simply because they have more than someone else. Now, if the reason you have more than someone else is because you’re a cheat or a liar or stole or whatever, that’s another story. But working hard, being successful, and making a lot of money in itself should NOT make anyone feel any sort of guilt.

    To me, what makes someone one of “those” people is their attitude. I have cousins who have more money than they know what to do with. Yet, in the many years I’ve known them, I have never once felt like they were “those” people – not just the parents but the kids too. They are frugal, down-to-earth people, and are generous beyond belief. Sure, they can buy things that many people can’t afford. But not once have I ever felt an “I’m better than you” attitude come from them. Never.

    And I think this is the key. With any sort of power also comes responsibility. We can all choose to use our “powers” to make the world around us a better place. That doesn’t mean giving all your money to charity, not owning a big house or having nice cars. It’s all about attitude.

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