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Make Financial Plans for the Important “Stuff”

Published by: Chris Kittrell Date: October 29, 2011

Dawn rose on another beautiful fall morning in East Tennessee and as I thought about the possibilities for this day the realization of my upcoming Saturday came crashing down on me. My family was preparing to participate in our neighborhood’s annual garage sale. Needless to say, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the thought of spending a beautiful Saturday morning tied to folding card tables outside my home. After some gentle encouragement from my wife, I began my garage sale duties of moving our no longer needed “stuff” out of our home and then organizing it as neatly as I could in our driveway.

“Where did that come from” and “why did we purchase it?” were common refrains coming from me on that Saturday. Some of the “stuff” was easily explained, old golf clubs that I like to blame for my terrible golf game and clothes that my daughters no longer could wear or according to them were no longer in fashion. Other items weren’t so easily explained. Thankfully, the day came to a close as the last of the bargain hunters trickled from our neighborhood.

We made a few dollars that Saturday but I think what we really gained as family was the opportunity to discuss how easy it is to get caught in the trap of buying more “stuff”. It was cool to talk with my daughters about the concept of delayed gratification. Talk about a foreign concept to a 12 and 17 year old! Imagine their faces as I explained the idea of delaying a particular purchase today so we would then have the financial freedom to do something more important in the future.

I find it discouraging that we live in a society that spends so much energy thinking and talking about what we’re going to buy next. Should it surprise us that the average American household has nearly $10,700 in credit-card debt? Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, the average 401K balance is only $10,000? What about giving? The average American household contributes only 2.1% of its annual income to charity. It seems my daughters aren’t the only ones who don’t fully understand the idea of delayed gratification.

What if we looked at it a different way? Ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish with your money? I’m betting what’s important to you is not the ability to purchase more “stuff”, it would be,“I want to take care of my family”, “I want to spend time with the important people in my life”, “I want to give back”, “I want to be involved with something that matters” or “I want to have financial freedom”.

A simple truth evolved from this weekend of dealing with “stuff”. We found out that the importance of “stuff” is fleeting. What was once a pressing purchase becomes the things we cast off in short order and then we are on to the next thing we need for fulfillment.

However, when our financial goals are in alignment with how we are spending our money it brings peace. That feeling comes from knowing that we have the flexibility to do something that means more in the future. It’s bigger than the golf clubs, iphones, or designer jeans. It also means less beautiful fall days spent hanging out in my driveway.

Chris Kittrell is co-founder and a Senior Financial Advisor with Rather & Kittrell.  He is available at ckittrell@rkcapital.com