If you woke up tomorrow and your money, job, stuff, and house were gone- What would you do? How would you feel? Do you have people in your life that could help you make it through a tough situation? Do you have a supportive community that can support you in times of distress? How valuable are the people in your life? (Picture of Ms and Baby SE)
American society seems to suggest priorities that move the most important people to the margins of our lives. If we are not careful, our time and attention will drift towards our jobs, money, and our stuff. Again, if you analyze the average American family you will see how little quality time they actually spend together. Everyone has the romantic notion that our family and friends are important yet very few people intentionally make them a priority. Work always seems more urgent. Money is easier to measure than strong relationships. And families rarely take action on problems and prioritization until things get so messed up it is hard to fix. Can you put a value on a truly happy and fulfilling marriage?
Most personal finance books are written strictly about money, and very few economists even mention the value of relationships. But, with all the talk about how much money we invest; we should also consider investments in people. People are a vital ingredient to both lifestyle design and personal finance. Generosity and giving rarely help out financial balance sheets but often pay dividends through a supportive community and priceless relationships. In fact, human capital theory suggests that people have assets that amount to much more than simply their bank account balance. Knowledge, social status, influence, and successful relationships are all difficult to measure but extremely important to our overall investment strategy.
Traveling the World
I spent several months living overseas working my first job. When I returned home the questions I would get most often was: What was the best part? It took me a while to come up with the response that really captured the experience. At first I thought it might be the fancy tourist sites, wonderful beaches, or even the delicious food. However, in retrospect, the answer unequivocally is: People. The people and relationships were absolutely the most lasting and wonderful part of the experience. I made many lifelong friends and I learned more from simple conversations with native individuals more than I ever could reading thousands of pages in guide books. People can teach us things and share unique experiences in a way that is different from any other source of information. Take the time to listen to the people around you.
I clearly remember the first time I sat down with an insurance salesman. It was completely fascinating. I enjoyed the process (didn’t buy their product), but I had a fundamental disagreement about the ways risk were assessed. Often, when people think of managing risk, they think simply about money (and insurance). But risk management is often much more than a mathematical equation. When everything else is gone, you still have people. If things truly fell apart, often people are a much better resource than money. While I enjoy having money, pursuing it at the expense of relationships is often counterproductive. Many financial gurus fail to understand that people from other countries, and in certain socioeconomic classes, often prioritize relationships first. In many cultures, having a strong family and productive children is the best retirement planning you can do. A healthy marriage is often one of the most overlooked risks to financial health. Investing in your spouse (just ask anyone who has been through a divorce) can be one of the best financial decisions you can possibly make. Again, people are your greatest asset.
How are you investing in the people around you? Are you spending quality time with them? Are you building relationships? Are you nurturing the ones you already have? Are you spending so much time making money for people that you are unable to invest your time into their lives? Enjoy people. Be intentional. Prioritize the people that are most important to you. People are your greatest asset.