Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14th. Wishing all you moms and mom-substitutes a very Happy Mother’s Day!
I want to pay tribute to my mom, Marie Louise Sapp. She was born January 31, 1926, and passed away January 25, 2020, right before COVID hit. She was almost 94 years old. Because of COVID and other things going on with our family, it wasn’t until last month on April 25th that we were able to gather in North Carolina as a family and carry out her final wishes. We spent an evening playing Rummikub, a game she loved, an afternoon exploring Cataloochee Valley, a place she enjoyed taking friends and family to while they were visiting her in NC, and we had dinner at Fat Buddies, one of her favorite restaurants. We had a wonderful time as a family telling stories and sharing memories about her that were special to each of us.
Mom worked hard. She retired at 62 from a career in the wholesale carpet and tile business, a field dominated by men. She raised four children, mostly on her own. And she was proud of us. Our educational accomplishments exceeded her own. She only completed 10th grade, but her children all graduated from college, one with a master’s degree and one with a doctoral degree. She had copies of our diplomas hanging on her wall to prove it. She was also proud that we had achieved success in careers that allowed us to support ourselves and our families.
She instilled in us the value of frugality. She was always quick to say, “I’m not cheap – I’m frugal.” It is because of that frugality she was able to enjoy 32 years of “snow-birding” retirement, with paid for homes in North Carolina and Ft. Lauderdale. Gardening, travel, and watching her beloved hummingbirds, gave her endless pleasure.
She was also a planner. About 30 years before Mom died, she handed me a small card with a phone number on it and instructed me to call the number on the card when she died. She said wherever she was in the United States, they would retrieve her body, cremate her, and deliver the ashes to me. In those days she was travelling a lot, so she heavily emphasized the “wherever in the United States she was” part of her message.
Truthfully, I was unprepared for her “gift,” but after contemplating what she had done and what it really meant, I realized what a caring gift she had made to all of us. There would be no difficult decisions to make once she was gone. We wouldn’t be wondering “What does she want?” or “Are we doing the right thing?” She had planned ahead – far ahead – so that we would not have to make decisions for her in the midst of our grief and loss. She was wise and generous in making her own plans. It was a true gift to us. And it was frugal. The cost of her plan was thousands of dollars less than if we had to purchase it at the time of her death. (To this day, it is something I always recommend to my clients.) Additional instructions about how to celebrate her life came later.
I recently heard a story about Katherine Hepburn. Apparently, she had a philosophy about life – she thought our bodies are a lot like cars . . . a tire goes flat, and you get it fixed, a headlight goes out and you replace the bulb, and then one day you go into a body shop, and they tell you they don’t have parts for your model any longer. In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says there is a time for everything – a time to be born and a time to die. If we believe the Bible and subscribe to Katherine Hepburn’s philosophy on life, January 25, 2020, was Mom’s “time” - her light went out and God called her home because the parts for her model were no longer available. And she was ready.
She had lived a long and full life and wished for her children to do the same. Her legal documents were in order, she had made her final arrangements, she still had money in her retirement and bank accounts. She was prepared.
There is a lot we can learn from the simple, frugal, well-planned life that my mother lived. One might say she lived a “simpler” life. Having never used a computer or “smart phone”, she did not live an information addicted lifestyle or compulsively “study” the markets. She lived a life focused on the basics.
- Spend less than you earn.
- Save and invest the rest.
- Keep a long-term perspective.
- Ignore short-term trends.
- Don’t chase performance.
- Don’t panic in down markets.
- Don’t get greedy in up markets.
To the lessons learned from my mom, I would add that consuming a daily dose of financial propaganda from news programs, magazines, websites, newsletters, market gurus, product advertisers and financial salespeople only distracts you from what’s important, drains your life energy and stimulates your natural human tendency to “do” something. Reacting to the never-ending barrage of financial information, conflicting opinion and market movement just might be the first step down the road of making the “big” mistakes. A simple solution might be to simply turn off the input. (You don’t really think Warren Buffet watches Cramer on CNBC or reads MONEY magazine before investing, do you?)
Don’t let current news events push you off track. Whatever the featured media frenzy is for the week, you’ll probably live a much better life by ignoring it. In other words, don’t get sucked into the pit along with the masses. The key to long-term success is to follow your long-term plan. You do have a long-term plan, don’t you? If not, call me. We need to talk.
I’m not suggesting that we should ignore everything. That’s not the point. We still need to open our statements, know what we own and why we own it, be informed voters, and know what’s happening at our children’s school. The point is we need to focus on what we can control and where we can make a difference. I think, in general, that we could all benefit from less sensory input in our lives – and more love, faith, and direct interpersonal communication.
There is a lot going on in the world right now. As I have said many times before, there is never a bad time to evaluate your portfolio. If things have changed in your life, a change may be called for. If your risk tolerance, time horizon, and overall goals remain the same, staying the course may be appropriate. Bottom line, this is not a time for panic.
If you have questions or concerns, PLEASE call me – 954-302-6321, or text me – 954-880-3410. My assistant, Danielle Martinez, can be reached at 954-302-6324 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If we don’t pick up, please leave a message. We promise to return your call as soon as possible. But, also remember, as wonderful as modern technology is, sometimes it fails. If you don’t get a call back as soon as you think you should, call us again.
As always, please remember, you only have 168 hours to live your life this and every week. Spend your 168 hours doing the things that only you can do – the things that are really important to you. Spend more time with the people you love. (And tell them you love them, too.) Do activities to help improve your health and fitness and spiritual life. Engage in activities that give joy to others (and see how much you benefit, too). Laugh out loud. Express your creativity. Play a game. Take a friend to lunch. Donate your time to a worthy charity. Change your routine. Live a full and joy-filled life! And be sure to wish the “moms” in your life a very Happy Mother’s Day!
Again, wishing all you moms and mom-substitutes a very Happy Mother’s Day!