Lessons From My Elders


I won’t always be young.

I’m not jaded by the notion that I have a lot of years ahead of me, and many lessons to learn. But eventually, I won’t be able to work the same 40 hours per week (plus the occasional side gig) to support my family and cover my health expenses. Not forever.

So when someone older than me talks about life, I’m happy to listen because I might be in their shoes someday. 

I’m also a sucker for a good story...

(Click here for more Lessons From My Elders)


Retirement #1: My crafty neighbor

My neighbor isn’t from here. And by “here,” I mean “this country.” 

As a teenager, he boarded a ship and sailed to America in the 1960s to start a new life in the Land of Opportunity. He worked in construction but his passion was art, and I’ve never heard anyone say a negative word about him – always referred to as a hard worker, kind, family man, talented, helpful, funny – the list goes on! Although… come to think of it, I may have heard his work was “overpriced” even if it is “well-crafted.”

Which reminds me.

Let’s dig into that question, “What about his money?”


Here’s what I learned from my crafty neighbor:


blue house1.    Real estate is an investment you can suit to your needs.

By the time he retired, my neighbor had no mortgages between a sizeable residence and a modest rental property. The rental offered a first apartment for his kids to live when they moved out of the house, then became extra income in later years, until he decided to sell it. He recouped his investment again in later years, when he and his wife were ready to downsize from their big house. He kept an eye on the market to make sure he could sell for a good profit while getting a smaller home at a decent price. 

Takeaway: investments in real estate can become a convenient source of funds or retirement income, especially if you can keep your property in good shape and don’t own anything beyond your means.


2.    Some people never fully retire.

After announcing his retirement, my neighbor never stopped working. Instead, he remained available to his closest clients from his construction work and, as long as he was physically up to the task, continued to accept modest projects. During those years, my neighbor mostly focused on his artwork, which was two-fold. It gave him plenty of time to enjoy his passion while also giving him occasional income from commissioned projects and sales.

Retirement income can come from a wide range of sources, and many of those sources could add to your quality of life, too, by keeping you social or fulfilling your creative side.


african american family hugging3.    Investing in family has its benefits. 

As an entrepreneur, he brought his creativity and work ethic into his home, sharing these values and his financial savvy with his family. By avoiding financial discussions, many other families could have a negative impact on their family’s finances. In his case, by investing his knowledge in the next generation, his family was able to manage its collective wealth and, ultimately, many of my neighbor’s children and grandchildren ran successful businesses of their own. He viewed the growth of these family businesses as an extension of his own financial wellness and frequently offered his assistance with property maintenance and funds to support them. 

In many ways, he was using his retirement to continue benefitting the family wealth. By cutting costs, saving the next generation from these maintenance expenses, and also investing in their sources of income, he was ensuring his family’s financial security, a natural concern for the aging patriarch. His example taught me how generational wealth can be a powerful asset and a lasting investment.


4.    Value is as unique as perception, so know your own worth.

Consider fishing. Just because a fisherman has a great lure and his boat is in the right spot, that doesn’t mean every fish will take a bite. Most people saw the technique and skill behind my neighbor’s work, but not everyone was willing to pay the price for that level of expertise, plus the cost of supplies. Still, selling his wares seemed to come easy to him. He had a strong market, always a second project in line, and he stuck to the prices that he felt were fair, even if those prices were out of reach for some potential buyers. Instead of dropping prices to meet the lower tier, he kept his quality high, understood his worth as an experienced worker with attention to detail, and was able to support himself and his family as a result. 

The keys to his success were relatively simple: to know his worth (charging prices that cover the cost of his supplies while also paying himself fairly for his time and quality), and to develop relationships with his customers that would last a lifetime – another smart investment that pays off again and again. 

Even if you’re not a contractor or a business owner, you should know your worth. Seek out wages and benefits that reflect your experience and find ways to ensure long term job security by nurturing the professional relationships who understand and appreciate that expertise.



Whether it’s a note of caution or a prime example of investment savvy, we can all learn a thing or two from those who are further along life’s journey. Keep that in mind as the people in your life share their own stories.

Meanwhile, our blog has plenty to explore!



-JMS


Read more Lessons From My Elders:

The Distant Artist 

A Veteran's Folly