By Cass Grange
What is your story?
My home phone rang the other day. No one calls us anymore. They text. They email. They facebook. I heard the answering machine say, “ Cass, it is your Uncle Dint.” I put down my iPad and raced to answer. I didn’t even know my uncle had my phone number. But, he did. At age 87, and in poor health, he is calling the people who mean something to him and the list is long. He has at least 28 nieces and nephews. He said he called me to tell me his favorite story about me and to reconnect. He asked about all of us and then said, “After all I have lived through and all my careers, I can tell you it isn’t about the money or the stuff. Life’s meaning comes down to one thing…love. We all need to give unconditional love and share our stories and connect. We need to visit with each other. We need to talk about what matters. It is all about love.”
I will always remember this phone call. It is the probably the last time I will talk to my uncle. He had the courage to reach out and connect and talk about what he values. He values people and relationships and always has. He is a great storyteller and so is my dad. They can just mention titles of stories they’ve told through the years and crack each other up. “Bebes the cat,” or, “Remember the dorm room?” or “What about the peanut butter incident?” They have told and retold these stories and we all know them almost by heart and they mean more to us than any of their stuff.
What about you? You have a story or two to tell. Those stories are part of your personal wealth, which you can pass on to your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews. Write them down. There are countless numbers of books and tools online to get you started. Or, just download the StoryCorps app. I first heard about it on NPR. It is free and can be found at https://storycorps.me/. You can have your smart grandchild load the app and record you telling your story. They even have prompts to get you started.
By telling your stories, your values shine through. It helps to explain to the next generation what makes you tick and what is important to you. I remember reading a short memoir by my grandmother about how her folks would take a sleigh into town on Sunday for church. I have said to my kids on many lazy Sunday mornings, “if your great great grandparents could take a sleigh five miles in the cold to church, we can get in the minivan and drive one mile to sit in the AC at church.” I don’t know if my kids bought into the story, but it did make me think about the traditions in my family and my role in keeping them going.
I listen to the stories my clients tell me about money. They sometimes share what shaped them in childhood. I had one client tell me how she had a very poor grandmother who lived in a shotgun house, and one of her sons was very, very wealthy and never helped his mother. It was as if it never occurred to him. My client vowed then that if she ever had any money she’d help her relatives if they needed it. And, she has, in so many thoughtful and helpful ways. From sending checks, to credit card miles for flights home, to giving them her used cars, she has noticed what they needed and improved the lives of many of her own nieces and nephews.
Sometimes our childhood stories about money aren’t up to date or true anymore. I had a client tell me she couldn’t save any money and was a spend thrift. I looked at her accounts and said, “that isn’t true. Who told you that?” It was something her ex-husband had said years ago. It was an old, out of date story. It was no longer true. Sometimes, you need to update that story you tell yourself to reflect what is really happening now.
So write down some of your stories. And, think about what events shaped how you feel about your wealth. And, by that I mean all of your wealth: your financial, social and personal wealth.