Some years ago, I was attending a friend’s celebration of his 50th birthday. A very forward thinking therapist and innovator with regard to communication skills, he proclaimed during his thank you speech that he had come to a conclusion: he spent the first 50 years of his life learning- the next 50 was to pass it along for others to benefit from. Now being over 50 (thanks- I know I look so much younger) I have taken to this practice after much thought and contemplation. The results are, surprisingly, more gratifying to me as well as the person I am passing it along to.
When you think about it, each of us has an incredible "mental hard drive" of experience and knowledge. Regardless of occupation, our life experiences are a treasure trove of information for the next generation to learn from and have their lives enriched. I remember visiting my grandparents every Purim and my Poppa Alex baking Hamentashen, a wonderfully baked pastry filled with assorted fruit, dripping with honey. I've bought it every holiday, never having the same satisfaction as sinking my teeth into Pop's delectable treat. Sure, some of it was being in the
moment: without Pop's recipe, I'll never know. Can you remember something your Mom, Dad or Grandparents cooked that you can taste right now, but could never duplicate because of lack of instructions? My point exactly it's about passing down the wisdom. My wonderful wife and partner, Elizabeth, learned to make Irish soda bread from her sister Kathy (who doesn’t look a day older than Elizabeth... whew) who learned and made it exactly as Grandma Hannah did, and then taught Elizabeth. Every time she makes it, it reminds her of Grandma Hannah and Kathy- because Hannah taught Kathy and Kathy taught Elizabeth. Dad did it the same way- great soda bread through 3 generations- and I got to benefit from it!
I’ve always enjoyed woodworking and cars: my daughter learned to use a saw, sander and hand tools, and worked on cars with me. She may not be a contractor or mechanic, but she has a rudimentary knowledge of how things work, and how to make things work. She learned to read the stock tables at age 10 (all right... not everything had a high excitement factor) and is now a
fine cook (in a past life, I was a chef and caterer- and you thought you know everything about me!) Anything you know, as trivial as it may be, can live long beyond you to enhance the lives of generations to come.
Go through the boxes of pictures you have. Dust it off. Think about if you were gone tomorrow and your kids found this box, how would it teach them about the history of the family? Those hundreds of pictures of scenery may mean a lot to you, but would they know where and when it was? Would they care? How many times have you looked at an old family picture and asked "who is that?" Clean out the box: the kids don’t care about the picture of the incredible breakfast you had in a diner in 1963 in Peoria- but they do care about learning about their ancestry. Make notes on the back. Date the pictures, and explain who is in them.
Talk to your kids and grandkids about your life as a child, your first date, the first boy or girl you kissed, a family vacation, what it was like when they were born…you have thousands of stories to tell. Growing up was so different than it is today. Take them back to before computers, cable TV and Internet. Prepare to laugh at yourself, and with them. The experience is amazing. Keep them short and to the point so they don't get bored. Transfer them from your mental hard drive to theirs. Somewhere, down deep, they will remember them and bring them up sometime in the future. They will remember. Teach them. Sooner or later, it will come in handy.
My goal is for my Grandson Derek, long after I'm gone, to say, "I know how to do that- I remember my Pop showing me how." And I'll be smiling down knowing I passed along the knowledge to do it. He's 6 now, and they say it's the best time for humans to learn. I don't know how true that is, but I’m going to teach him everything I can. Hopefully, he too will pass it along to his children. I can only dream and hope to be remembered.
What does this have to do with finance? Simple math- it’s worth more than everything you’ve got...