Warren Buffett’s annual meeting is famous for the question and answer session. Anyone can get up and ask a question. When I went to the meeting last May, someone near me who looked to be about 30 asked one. While I don’t remember what the question was, Warren quipped that ‘he’d trade all of his wealth in a second to be the age as the man asking the question.’
Lately, I’ve been lamenting my existence. I had last Friday off; woo! I spent it redoing the plumbing in my crawlspace; not woo. Things went well, but not perfect. The water heater had an irregular fitting which cost me at least 2 hours. The project spilled over into Saturday.
At the same time, I’m in a race with the carpenters who are working on our addition. They are nailing the wood together and I’m doing everything else. As they lay the floor joists, I’m hanging can lights between them. Before they can put the 4×8 OSB sheets down for the floors, I have to get all of the plumbing in. It’s all moving very fast and really sucks at times:
- Daughter D: Dad, can we do a puzzle!?!
- Me: I’m sorry D, but I have to get the plumbing done so we can flush the toilet again.
- Daughter D: OK, maybe later daddy.
A tiny little part of me dies with every conversation like that. Instead of spending time my children, I’m fighting with plastic pipes in the dirty crawlspace or figuring out electrical circuits. Sigh…
However, I’m astounded when people willingly trade their time for material excess. A generation ago, many more families got by on single incomes. Now, we live in a society where many choose to trade time for material stuff. We have bigger homes and fancier cars, but we have to work at a job with long hours or have two incomes to support it all. This message hit home in an article I recently came across:
So what we have is a situation in which American families have more stuff, but they have managed to afford that stuff only by being two-income families, with ever less family time…
The times have changed. My grandparents had one car and a 1,200 square foot home. My grandfather was the sole breadwinner most of the time. My parents’ house was a bit closer to 1,500 square feet and we always had two cars. My mom started working when my sister and I were teenagers. The current generation has taken it up a notch. Many of us like in 3,000 or 4,000 square foot homes (before we traded down, we were guilty of it too). Most seem to have their own car and some of us even have convertibles or motorcycles for weekend jaunts. Some of us have vacation homes. We’re trading a lot of our time to pay for all of this stuff. Helluva price to pay if you ask me.
What are we doing less of? I’d say that its all of the important stuff; spending time with our children, nurturing relationships with friends and family, reading, exploring, thinking, growing, learning, being curious, going for walks, looking up at the clouds, helping others; on and on.
In 10 or 20 years, the fancy car that you worked hard to pay for is going to be worth nothing. It will have been recycled into another car or sitting in a junkyard. However, your children will still be around. Never forget that the person they will become is the direct result of the person you were and the time you gave them when they were young.
So tell me, do you still want that new car?
Join the 10s who have signed up already!
Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.
*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.