Create your balance. Design your life.

How do I measure riches and wealth?

First and foremost let me say that the title of this column has very little to do with money. We all dream of getting the winning Power Ball ticket although it is highly unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, I do buy my weekly tickets with this dream firmly in mind. I am talking about my life in general. I am also talking about your life as well. Being rich isn’t always about the amount we have in the bank. Come along and let’s tally up how rich all of our lives are. It may not be in money, you will however, realize, that you are wealthy by the end of this column.

Wealth comes in many forms:

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Books:

I love having a new book to read. I also love re-reading books that I really enjoyed the first time around. I do not part with them when I am done and I have an impressive library.  Books allow us to leave our own lives for a little while and get lost in different locations with characters that we want to know about. We can get involved in the drama of their lives which are a contrast to our own. A book nowadays can be a little expensive and you may not be able to indulge in purchasing a new one. No problem. At flea markets and in specialized book stores you can purchase a used copy of a book for a fraction of the original price. You can also go to your local library and check a book out for a couple of weeks at no charge. If you have a close friend or family member that loves to read also, go ahead and borrow books from one another…just make sure to return them when you are done. This allows our mind a little time to escape and relax in a fantasy world that is not our own. It stimulates the mind. I love book clubs where you can gather with like minded folks and discuss certain books as a group and get opinions different than your own.  You also have the option to read non-fiction books to increase your knowledge on a plethora of subjects. You may not get a degree at the end of the non-fiction book but you won’t have a huge bill from a university either. What you will walk away with is knowledge gathered from the book and no one can take that away from you. Books stimulate your mind and can increase the knowledge you now possess. My husband has teased me for reading certain books over.(“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Exorcist” in particular, I have read both numerous times.) He will say “Why are you reading that again? You already know how it ends.” I happily ask him how many times he has seen the movie ” X-Men” or how many times he has seen a certain episode of “Will and Grace” reminding him that he knows how those end as well.He always tickles me because he will say that is different. It is the exact same thing. Check-mate.

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Internet: 

The internet puts the entire world at our fingertips. For some people it is using Facebook. For others it may be gaming. Some homes may use the internet for watching movies. Kids and adults alike use the world wide web for school and homework. You can talk to someone in another country without running up a huge telephone bill. Do you have a question about something? The answer is only a few key strokes away. When I was little the thought of a system like the internet was Science Fiction. In my adult years it is a reality. It educates and entertains. You can use Google Earth to visit the world and even look up deals on travel if you want to visit some of those places. You can get the news as soon as it happens and the days of handwriting a letter and mailing it to someone is a thing of the past. You no longer have to allow for that 2 day travel time for a letter to arrive. Email arrives in just a few seconds. You can obtain a college degree from the comfort of your home now. (and with lives being as hectic as they are makes this a true wonder of modern man) You can look up recipes without having to buy a cookbook and can even find a video on YouTube to walk you through it step by step. The possibilities are endless and if you can’t afford a computer or internet you can use computers at the local library or at an internet cafe.

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Nature:

It is all around us from the birds in the trees to the grass on our lawn. There are so many ways to take advantage of something that can be largely ignored on most days and the sad thing is it is practically free. I say practically free because in many places have to pay for parking although it is a nominal fee. Go to the beach, enjoy the sunshine and take a swim in the ocean. Pack a lunch to enjoy while you are there. Have a volleyball game. Walk along the surf. Hunt for shells. Let the kids enjoy playing at the water’s edge. Go to a state park to enjoy the wilderness. They have hiking trails, you can go canoeing, you can take binoculars and search for wildlife. Take a camera and take pictures. Go camping, cook over a fire, sleep under a beautiful canopy of stars. Go to a local park just to enjoy being outdoors. Take the kids and let them play. Watch the joy on those young faces. Everything and everywhere is an adventure to kids. Get caught up in that adventure. You are making memories to look back on fondly and no one can take that from you.

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Zoos and Aquariums:

Most zoos/aquariums are not free but there are group discounts and specials that are usually available to the public. This is something wonderful to enrich your kids lives and can be something that you enjoy together. You can view animals that normally can only be seen on television being rhinos and lions do not usually wander around stray through neighborhoods. You can learn many things about the animals while you are there because zoos to provide educational talks about all of the animals housed there and as a bonus you may get to have hands on experience with some of the animals. Some have summer and/or vacation camps for children. It is a wonderful way to spend a day as you enjoy the majesty of these beautiful animals. As a bonus, animals do help provide a sense of emotional well being that no doctor or pill can provide.

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Volunteer:

There is always someone who will need help and there are organizations that are there to provide for them. About 85% of these organizations are non-profit and rely on volunteers to help them carry out their mission.  This is something to become involved in because you want to help others in a time of need. I have done work with several organizations and examples of those are, a shelter for women and children who have dealt with domestic violence and an organization that helps families affected by HIV/Aids. I gave my time because I wanted to. I also knew I was helping someone who really needed it and if at any time I end up in a position needing help, I hope someone is there wanting to volunteer time for me. You will meet some great people and it will give you a sense of accomplishment and feeling good because you were there to help and that help came from the heart.

You may be asking how all of this makes you rich. Looking out we will always see someone worse off than we are where they may not be able to afford food or buy clothes for their kids and worse case scenario be homeless. This is not the comparison I am here to make. I feel for these people and would never allow myself to feel superior to them. I am talking about something slightly different. There are people out there who make lots of money and the amount of their bank accounts would send our heads spinning.  With some of these people there is financial wealth. They have big houses and fancy cars and attend lavish parties. You may want to envy that…don’t.

*The next paragraph does not apply to all people who have attained financial wealth*

Many of these people are so buried in business that they are not really living. They don’t have 30 minutes to sit down and enjoy a book because there is a merger that must be attended to. Their use of the internet is purely to look at bank transactions. Play a game?!?!? Never our stock has dropped 4.5 points.  Nature? Who has time to be outdoors when we are in the middle of buying out a corporation. The only look they get at outdoors is watching the lawn get mowed by a lawn service. The only wildlife they see is the rug in the den made out of a tiger pelt. Go to the zoo and spend time with the kids? The nanny or housekeeper can do it. I have to go through and fire people because we are downsizing a department at work. Volunteer? I may be on the board of a non-profit because it looks good business wise and I can pat myself on the back for being such a great person. Every Christmas I will have the perfect photo on the family Christmas card. It looks like the perfect family. We have a beautiful home and nice clothes, although I couldn’t tell you what my kids favorite movie or color is. I will send my kids to the best private school which we will discuss on report card day, I couldn’t tell you what sport or club my child is involved in. During school breaks I will send them away to camp so they are not bored at home, although they have begged for us to go on a family vacation. And when we do go on vacation we don’t get to do much together because I have to be available by phone to my job 24 hours a day.

I am going to share a true story here. I was in Boston Market having a late lunch. It was the day before Thanksgiving. A Rolls Royce pulls up outside. A woman in a very pretty and very expensive business suit gets out and so do her son and daughter. The boys looks about 10 and the daughter looks around 15. They are in uniforms from the most exclusive private school in the city. She goes to counter to pick up their Thanksgiving meal that she has ordered. She received the container with a small turkey, 4 pieces of cornbread and 2 sides dishes (from the look of them each person would get one tablespoon full). They asked would she like to add on a pie. She said that was not necessary. She then looked at the guy behind the counter and asked if they were going to give her directions on how to re-heat the meal for Thanksgiving. Directions? In the age of microwave ovens? It dawned on me that this was a family in which the mother had no idea how to cook. Setting up the coffee pot for morning was probably the only culinary skill she possessed. She was too busy working on her career and cooking was not in the cards. I can see her confused at home trying to figure out how to open the can of cranberry sauce. Her attitude was “I am buying this meal because tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are supposed to have Thanksgiving Dinner.” It wasn’t being done out of love. It was being done out of believed necessity.  In my mind I could picture their dinner. Everyone dressed well around the table with polite but uninteresting conversation and when the meal was over everyone would retreat to their silent corners. It broke my heart.

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The following day we would gather at grandma’s house which was far from a mansion. We would sit at the table with the mismatched chairs and enjoy a meal that was cooked at home. Hours of preparation, dishes made with love. Unlike the lady in the business suit we would have delicious leftovers for several days. We would sit at the table in jeans and sweatshirts or whatever we chose to put on. We are family and it was not necessary to dress to the nines. We would enjoy fun conversations while we ate and it would carry over for hours after our meal was complete. It was that day and that incident that made me realize that I was very rich. I was rich in all the things that I could do for entertainment or a day out. I realized I could offer help to someone who needed and would appreciate it. I knew I could expand my knowledge. Most important was time with family and friends filled with love and filling my heart to overflowing. How rich am I? I am one of the wealthiest people I know and this wealth is worth more than money. How wealthy do you feel now? I hope you feel like your life is overflowing with richness.

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