I grew up in a typical middle income town on Long Island with a rather large family. There were five children in an unusually large home in the suburbs with a dog named Happy and a cat named Cleo. The household also included the most important part of my upbringing, my Nana. In those days, it was not uncommon to have a grandparent live with you…at least in my mind. My Nana had lived with my parents since before I was born and remained with me until my 18th birthday.
My Nana was a beautiful, funny and compassionate character with the biggest blue eyes I have ever seen. She would sit at our table (in “her spot” as we called it) and would impact all of those around her. She was born in 1898 or 1899 (she could not remember the year and there was no birth certificate to prove it) and had many colorful experiences to share. The blessing was that she had a home with no expenses to speak of and many people who loved her surrounding her until the day she died.
I think back to her circumstances occasionally when speaking to people about retirement. My Nana received a monthly social security check and each month I would help her sign her name in the right spot, as she could not see that well. And each month, my father would cash her check and give her the money in an envelope. The envelope would be taken to her room and disappear into one of her many drawers. Many years later, my father asked her if he could go through her drawers and collect the money. She agreed and needless to say the sum was quite staggering! The large sum of money was set aside for college for her five grandchildren and helped me attend a private college.
However, I cannot help but question what that large sum of money could have been had it been invested wisely for all of those years. The amount would have probably allowed me to not have taken out a student loan or more importantly, and less selfishly, been donated to another cause. The safety of her dresser drawer was significant to my Nana, though unwise. She did not need to be concerned about her living expenses or keeping up with rising costs. If she did, then she might not have been able to sustain her lifestyle and would have possibly run out of income. Today when planning for your own retirement, keeping cash at home in your bedroom is not recommended.
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