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URL:  https://boards.fool.com/digrat-i-spent-a-long-time-thinking-about-these-15097614.aspx

Subject:  Re: Everyone has money - until someone needs it. Date:  6/3/2001  11:33 AM
Author:  sliminfinite Number:  150461 of 908831

Digrat,

I spent a long time thinking about these posts and had much difficulty deciding on my response. We've replaced most of the familial safety net with insurance and government programs in this country over the years. This is in stark contrast this with places like China or Taiwan where there is no welfare; families are expected to provide for family members in need. Mix in all the American notions of individual responsibility and the knee-jerk response is to blame people in need for not having the means to see them through emergencies. At least, this was my initial response.

This is particularly the case because, like most people on this LBYM board, I have taken control of my family's finances and have much in the way of savings built up for just such crises. My wife and I have worked very hard to make this so; we took responsibility for our own financial futures and are proud to now be (hopefully) beyond such problems.

A couple thoughts, though, broke apart my feelings of self-congratulation:

First, I remembered the soup kitchen my parents and I volunteered at when I was in high school. It was in a poor (and rather dangerous) part of Minneapolis. You'd see the same people every time, and most of them were able-bodied enough to get their own jobs and provide for their own food. Yet we went every month, and I still believe it was one of the best things I've ever participated in. Charity should not discriminate, as humans we have an obligation to help each other by sake of our humanity. It is not our place to judge the means of such people - the fact that they were swallowing their pride to line up for food they had failed to earn that week - that was all the proof of need that was necessary. At no time did I feel like any of those people were scamming us. Mostly, the people seemed humbled and somewhat ashamed of needing to ask for help in this land of opportunity. I'm sure the sister's husband felt equally ashamed of asking you for money; he probably considers it his personal failure he can't take care of his family is such times.

Second, I think your sister's family has a real need. They had savings that they went through before asking; you aren't enabling consumption for its own sake. You're acting as a last resort in a time of emergency. I'm sure they went through their insurance and government options first; you're their last hope. I thus don't think that you're being used like pekinrobin so unfortunately was. I would be against handing out loans for frivolous reasons, but true emergencies warrant charity.

Third, what is the real purpose of money? I have something I like to call my deathbead test that I use when working through major decisions in my life. Basically, it goes like this - "If I were on my deathbed right now, what do I wish I would've done in this situation?". I know it sounds morbid, but I don't want to have any big regrets on my deathbed. It was this exercise that made me decide to get married and have kids. I would feel like I had missed out on a lot of what life is all about if I had skipped being a husband or a father.

Now, I'm not terribly religous, and don't much know or care what happens when I die. But I do know that if I was laying on my deathbed right now, I would not have much use for $1500. I also don't think I would be thinking at all about whatever I would've used that $1500 to buy. My family would still be provided for give or take another $1500. I really do think, however, that I could look back on the help I was able to give to my sister's family in their time of need and feel that I had done the right thing. The world was better for my having been in it because of such acts. That's something that would give me peace on my deathbed, so I know it's right.

The world is a better place because of people like you. Most people who accumulate wealth forget along the way that money's value is transient. It means nothing if it has no use, and ultimately not all the money in the world will save us from our final end.

We can all learn from your generosity.

Chris
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