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Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Published by: Jay Slagle, CFP® Date: July 15, 2016

For as long as I can remember, attending sporting events has been an important way my father and I have spent time together. I’m told that he had to hold down the seat at my first Tennessee basketball game because I didn’t weigh enough to keep the seat from closing on me. Since those early days, we have gone to hundreds of UT football, basketball, and baseball games, experiencing all the ups and downs of the past thirty years. We also share a lifelong goal of seeing a baseball game in every major league stadium and we are about halfway there. While I can’t recall every starting lineup or the score of each game, I do remember that sports have always provided an invaluable point of connection and regular opportunities for my father and me to spend time together.

Of all the trips we’ve taken, the one that sticks out most clearly to me was during the summer of 2012. Over the course of eight days, dad and I drove from Knoxville to Maine and back, visiting each of the six Major League Baseball stadiums along the way. Our time was spent comparing these new parks to those already marked off our list, intently watching the games, and sampling the occasional ballpark hotdog. Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was my first experience at historic Fenway Park. I still remember how it felt walking out of the concourse and into this living baseball museum for the first time. It was a day neither dad nor I will soon forget. The stars aligned and we were able to see our favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, in a rare interleague game against the Boston Red Sox. We sat four rows behind our team’s dugout, sang “Sweet Caroline” like a local, and cheered as our Braves won 4-1. The outcome was exactly what I hoped for, but it was the opportunity to share that experience with my dad that made it a truly great day. Many trips, and many years later, I’ve come to realize that my father wasn’t investing time and money just to go to sporting events, but rather to create memories together that we could share for years to come.

Recently I read a book titled Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. The book summarized the authors’ research on how we spend money and the types of spending habits that actually make us happier. While we might assume that a nicer house or a new car would top the list, the research shows that material purchases do little to move the needle towards increased happiness. It turns out the excitement of the new house fades and traffic becomes frustrating regardless of the car we’re driving. So, if research validates the adage that money can’t buy us happiness in the form of “stuff,” how should we spend money in a way that does make us happier?

Dunn and Norton found a measurable difference in happiness when we spend money in ways that provides time and experiences with those we love. These shared experiences provide the opportunity to deepen our relationships and increase our sense of connection to those we care for most. While these memories don’t show up on any account statement, they add immeasurable value to our lives.

I have the privilege of seeing these stories play out in the lives of our clients on a regular basis. In my opinion, nothing is harder about travel than deciding where to eat. When I found out some clients were visiting Florence, Italy this summer, I gave them the name of my favorite restaurant that I stumbled upon during my visit there several years ago. During their stay, I received an e-mail which read: “Guess where we ate pizza today? Amazing! We sure made lots of wonderful memories during the last three weeks and we wouldn’t trade them for anything! It was certainly time and money well spent. Help keep us on track because we have more memories to make!”

The ability to help our clients stay on track financially is an important part of what I do. However, helping clients make those wise financial decisions that allow them to live lives full of memorable experiences is the part of my career that I love. Time marches on, things wear out and lose their luster, but the time and memories that I have shared with my father will be valued for a lifetime.

Jay Slagle, CFP® is a financial advisor with Rather & Kittrell.  He is available at jslagle@rkcapital.com