Money Stories: Unconventional Living

By The Advocates

Nearly twelve years ago, I sat across from Paul Palmer and confessed that I had taken an early withdrawal from my 401k to pay off accumulated debt. This being an indication that I wasn’t being financially prudent; Paul wasted no time referring me to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to gain a better sense of everyday finance.

My family didn’t talk about money matters and that left me a little blind as a young adult. The class taught me some things I was embarrassed not to have known before and gave some great advice and tools for people in my circumstances. That class is effective, I think, for two reasons: 1) the language is simple and clear, and 2) they tell a lot of stories.

At graduation, the instructor asked for our favorite part of the course. An overwhelming majority appreciated the last part of the course most; the section on what generous and charitable people successful adherents had become. Once debt free and financially solvent, people shared amazing stories of giving; a nice inspirational digestifs to take with you on your way.

I believe intangibles, like discipline, trust, and leadership are best taught by storytelling. I find facts and figures less memorable than anecdotes, so with that now distant memory in tow, I set out to find an interesting story about regular people who became wealthy by disciplined behavior; not from generational wealth or the rags-to-riches stories you hear about the famous.

Lacking personal proficiency as an actor, singer, dancer, or athlete, I’m forced, like most, to manage my money responsibly and to increase my income in more usual ways.

I’m online, dodging listicles of “money tips” despite my efforts to refine my search terms: “7 Habits of Every Millionaire”, “35 Frugal Living Tips”, “56 Effortless Ways to Save Money”. Maybe another time; I’m looking for a story, not a how-to.

Ronald Read’s story is the first pertinent result. It’s a great story; he reminds me of my great uncle, Les Haire. Yes, that’s his real name; yes he was bald.

He would safety pin holes in his shirts and other… unmentionables to avoid buying new ones. It seemed ridiculous at the time and I chalked it up to being a child of the Depression, but reports say that Mr. Read was also an avid safety-pinner, indicating a correlation between extreme frugality and “stealth wealth”.   

His story, financially, boils down to this. He was frugal, he saved money and made wise investments. Not Hollywood material, but the neighbors were floored when they discovered Mr. Read, the janitor, had a net worth in the $8 million range. 

Next I find Mrs. Frugalwoods, an obvious nom de plume that belongs to one Elizabeth Thames. This ex-city dweller found her way to a 66-acre wooded Vermont homestead at the age of 32 by acts of financial discipline, motivated by the strong desire to live life on her own terms.

Her desires seem to mirror my own. In fact, she’s living my dream. And, in this interview with Insider, she gives me that exact motivation that I’m looking for:

“We realized at that point, if we don’t change something about the way that we live, principally about the way that we use our money and the way that we use our time, we’re going to wake up and be 40, 50, 60 and never have really done what we want to do with our lives.”

Did they bug my house? Have I not had this exact conversation with my husband at least twice a year for the last 5 years? Why are we not the Frugalwoods if we share the same motivation and vision? 

The bottom line is that Mrs. Frugalwoods and her family made this happen by bucking social norms and sacrificing traditional conveniences that cause unnecessary expenditures, a commitment we have yet to make. It’s clear, however, that any losses are insignificant when compared to the joy their new life provides. Motivation found.

I see in her words a reflection of our mission to help families live their values. Properly crafted from their values, a family’s mission is the north star of their life, guiding decisions and creating milestones on the journey to that joyful destination.

Your journey is already underway. Know where you’re headed and why. Schedule your free, no obligation appointment with us today.