A Quiet Fortune column: It’s about making things simple
A Quiet Fortune
I unwrapped the plastic from my new calendar a few days ago. The calendar’s theme is “Colors.” Each month features a landscape or other painting that uses one main hue. Under the picture is a list of adjectives the color supposedly invokes in one’s mind.
January is white. The pigment’s descriptors are: innocent, pure, peaceful, spiritual, simple, pristine and impartial.
Whew. For some reason I’m not feeling many of those emotions in great abundance this January. It seems like the nation, the world, and people’s feelings are anything but innocent, pure and peaceful these days. Everywhere I turn the question comes up: “Is the world in turmoil?”
I’d have to answer an unequivocal yes to that question. Time’s Risk Report says: “The global order is coming apart, and liberal democracy is under threat. Welcome to 2018.” According to The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock states that we are 2½ minutes away from a global catastrophe. I feel like flipping to July where one of the adjectives is “intense.”
But we need to remember, despite today’s ominous predictions, that our world has been in dire straits before, and somehow we’ve moved through those crises and risen to greater heights.
So where am I going with this? I want to explain why I am driven to urge more people to take a look at the future, to think about how our far-away years might be well served if we make a few wise financial decisions today.
It’s not the accumulation of money or the idea of getting rich that I’m talking about when I champion the idea of investing for the future; it’s the calm that we can gain from making things work for us. My new calendar’s January words like “peaceful, simple and impartial” describe that feeling. Not having enough money, especially as we age, feels like the agonizing opposite of that.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow described a theory he called the hierarchy of needs, in which he identified the needs of humans, starting with the most basic and moving toward the more esoteric. At the most elemental level we have physiological needs, which include food, clothing and shelter. Obviously, in today’s society we need money to obtain those things. Even when we are old and gray and no longer working we’ll need them. Next come safety needs: personal security, financial security, and health and well-being. Again … money is essential.
And here’s an interesting phenomenon: When we know we can meet those very basic needs for our loved ones and ourselves, we find that many things in life do feel more January-like.
I still vividly remember the worry and fear when my husband and I had very little money. I’d go to the grocery store, calculator in hand, and add every single item I put in the cart. Then most of the time I’d have to remove things until the sum decreased enough that I could proceed to the checkout counter. I worried about all kinds of money problems: Could we make the house payment this month, could we pay the credit card minimum, could we get my mom a birthday present? I don’t need to go on; if you have money worries you know what I’m talking about.
But one anchor in our early marriage was that we worked hard to save something so we would someday be able to invest in property. We knew that the peace of a simple life could come if we worked toward a goal. If you’re feeling kind of down, know that this can happen for you also.
You do need to start now, though. Please don’t wait. If I had invested $1,000 in the stock market when I was 20 (I’m 67 now) that small amount would have grown to $123,220. Think of this: If you invest $1,000 today in an index fund and add $500 each month for 30 years, you’ll end up with over half a million dollars. If you can invest that amount for 40 years you’ll have over a million; your money will double just by adding 10 years.* There are plenty of places to make your money grow. The key is to start.
This will make a difference in your own hierarchy. And it makes things so much simpler.
*Future average return data is from Ibbotson Associates and is based on historical inflation-adjusted returns for the S&P 500 (stocks), U.S. long-term government bonds, and 30-day Treasury bills (cash). Google “historical returns investing calculators” for more statistics.
Terrie Drake is the author of the book “A Quiet Fortune” and a retired teacher and librarian. She and her husband have lived in Glenwood Springs since 1974. She is not a financial adviser; consult a competent professional for your personal financial solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.