He was a handsome man, slim from years of a regimented life, sinewy muscles stretching across his tall frame. Youth had long since abandoned him, edged out by an old age marked with stooped shoulders, shaking hands from Parkinson’s disease and a childlike innocence brought about by dementia.
It was 2010. I was a Junior in college and came home for Christmas to find my grandfather on his deathbed. To an outside observer, this was a 93 year old man long past his prime, enduring his final days on earth. I thought the same. After years of reflection, however, I now see that while his body was failing him and he was a far-cry from what one would label “healthy”, he was the picture of financial health.
Grandpa died a few days shy of Christmas. He was no longer with us, no longer here on earth to join us at our family gatherings or to encourage us to get outside and enjoy the day. But in his death, I was given an incredible gift. The gift of knowledge of my grandfather’s life.
Grandpa was handed a tough lot in life from the beginning. He was raised by his sister after his mother died from influenza. In World War II, he was captured by the Japanese and spent over two years in a prisoner-of-war camp, only to escape by jumping off of a sinking prison-transport ship and swimming into the sun (so as not to be shot for fleeing) for several miles until Filipino guerrillas hid him on an island while the Navy coordinated his rescue.
He returned to the United States and promptly starting both a job at IBM and a life with my grandmother. The six children began to arrive and Grandpa set to work, laying a foundation for his family’s financial well being. He started business after business, investing his resources (time, energy, and money) into his endeavours. There was no start-up funding, no trust funds or family money. He worked hard, lived frugally, invested wisely and fostered a balanced life filled with outdoor activities, healthy eating and time well spent with those he loved.
Grandpa’s bullish dedication was not in vain. As time went on, his investments began to take root and produce a bountiful harvest. The local business he owned became a cornerstone of the county, providing jobs and a place of outdoor recreation for hundreds of thousands of people. He was tapped to serve on boards throughout the community and state, where he encouraged others to value human and natural resources in the community, promoting the protection of art, culture and wildlife.
When my grandfather died, our family received a letter from a community member that deeply affected me. This woman wrote our family and informed us that Grandpa had saved her father’s life. Her father was in deep financial distress and was struggling to make ends meet with a large family. Somehow, word of this situation reached my grandfather who promptly reached out and helped to get this family back on their feet.
Grandpa was a humble man and would likely be horrified to know I wrote this essay. But I cannot think of a better way to exemplify “financial health” and why it is so important to me.
Financial health allowed my grandfather to raise an incredible family who, while taking unique paths in life, have followed his example of tireless hope and dedication to making the world a better place, starting at home and in our immediate communities.
Financial health allowed my grandfather to influence the shape and, quite literally, the landscape of the county he lived in.
Financial health allowed my grandfather to help those in need, both directly by financially supporting a struggling family and indirectly by creating jobs and a culture of family-oriented recreation in our area.
Financial health allowed my grandfather to leave a legacy.
And now it is my turn. My husband and I work each and every day to remain financially healthy so that, out of thankfulness for what we have been blessed with and out of hope for the future, we can build our own legacy.
Always an Adventure,
Mrs. Adventure Rich
P.S.- This post is part of the Center for Financial Services’ #FinHealthMatters Day. Please share this post and join me in promoting financial health awareness.