A few years ago, Kathryn and I owned a beautiful SUV. It was truly a work of precision German engineering. It was the top of the line of ‘top-of-the-line’ SUVs containing all the ‘bells and whistles’ one could possibly imagine in a fine motor car. It was stunning and impressive. The darn thing was expensive. The warranty expired and we learned that maintenance was darn expensive as well. The ‘special’ run-flat tires could not be rotated. They had to be replaced (usually two at a time). The tires alone cost $650 each and had to be replaced about every 10,000-12,000 miles. Do the math. That’s $2600 per year in tires! As a special bonus, we had the privilege of replacing a cracked wheel at the low-low cost of $900. In one year, we spent over $3500 on tires and wheels. Oh yeah, did I tell you that it was beautiful, stunning and impressive? You can learn something from car tires.
Materialism requires maintenance
Here’s the lesson that you should take away from my foolishness. If you place any of your personal self-worth on the stuff you buy, get ready to spin your wheels and work your arse off to maintain it. I don’t care if you have millions or billions, if you place your ANY of your self-worth on the stuff you can accumulate in life, you will live in a cycle of maintenance. Take if from me, I’m a recovering materialist!
Everything we buy ends up in a trash heap somewhere. That expensive SUV we owned will eventually end up a rusted hunk of junk in a junk yard. That expensive home will eventually be torn down. All the stuff that we buy to impress others and/or make us feel better will eventually decay in some hole in the ground.
The material isn’t the problem, ‘Materialism’ is
Owning nice stuff is not the problem. The problem is when we tie our value to the stuff we own. When we love stuff and our capacity to attain more stuff more than we love God and people, we have exchanged that which is priceless for something with a price tag. Stuff can become an idol. Eventually, we run the risk of allowing that idol to rule over us and we eventually end up in bondage. The stuff owns us.
I’ve seen too many people end up with a pile of really expensive junk and massive bank accounts only to spend their last days completely alone in the pit of regret. They don’t even have anyone to share the regret with except those who they hire to maintain their stuff while they die alone.
You don’t have to get caught up in the nasty cycle of Materialism! Ponder this…
Order you life: Life is about relationships. Who would you trade all your stuff to save their life?
Motivation of the heart: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why’ before you buy?
Value: Do you attach personal value on things you buy? A little status, perhaps? Be honest.
Envy: When someone else buys something you desire to own, does it make you angry or bitter?
People: Who are the people you spend the most time with? Are they people who work for you?
Generosity: One cure for materialism is to give stuff away. Give something you love away (rinse and repeat)
Cultivate Relationships: Seek time with God, family and friends. This means reaping and sowing. Do you invest in these three relationships? Are you generous with your time, talent and treasure?
What is true wealth? “Add up everything you have that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.” -Pastor A. Rogers
Explore these passages. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
“Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”” Mark 12:17
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22
When I was in college, I was preoccupied with stuff. In fact, I attended college to learn how to make money to get my hands on the best kind and most expensive stuff. I wanted the nicest cloths, cars, food, vacations and toys that money could buy. I wanted to make a lot of money, pursue pleasure and comfort. Note: There is nothing wrong with nice things, money or stuff. It all comes down to how I relate to stuff, the significance I place on it and where I derive my self-worth.
I measured myself and others based on their stuff and level of pleasure. I looked the house they lived in, cars, cloths, what school they attended, etc. It was all about status for me.
I grew up in a an affluent family and had all the stuff I ever wanted handed to me on a silver platter. It was not until years later when I was under a mountain of debt and nearly broke that I realized I was selfish and in bondage to materialism and status.
Last Sunday, my pastor was teaching on fatherhood for Father’s Day. He dove into the subject of ‘self-worth’. Men have egos and a bent toward status. We like to measure ourselves in comparison to others. Two ways we compare ourselves to others is the amount of material ‘stuff’ and status. It is an endless cycle of one-upmanship as the race to accumulate more stuff and higher status. We begin to feel like a hamster on a wheel, going nowhere fast. I decided to explore a littler further and crystalize the application from the sermon.
The Grip of Materialism and Status Status, money in the bank and stuff have a narcotic effect. We get a jolt or high when we buy. After time passes and the newness fades, we look to get high again. Culture is immersed in materialism. We don’t intend to get hooked on materialism or status. Our stuff has become more important than our relationships. Couples spend more time and energy dividing up stuff during a divorce than they did trying to restore their marriage in the first place. I’ve seen it dozens of times. That is just one example of an epidemic.
Let’s talk about real value First, you must realize that your value comes from God. He created you in his image.
God, who is transcendent, places an intrinsic value on you as an individual He made to reflect Him image. That changes everything about ‘who’ you are as a human being and your self-worth.
How do we break the grip of materialism and status? Generosity! “If that which defines our status is easily given away. It breaks that hold on us.” – Dr. Ted Kitchens
Generosity does not just happen. It is planted and constantly cultivated. It can be tough at first. But, a steady and consistent practice of quiet generosity will bring freedom from the bondage of materialism and status. Beware, generosity misused to achieve status is wrong. But, quiet and pure-hearted generosity has power.
Go out and be generous with your time, talent and treasure!
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (from Gal 6
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” (Prov 11:24-28)
Are you an ‘all or nothing’ type? I am. My wife reminds me of this frequently. If I’m going to involve myself in a project, I’m 100% all in or I’m not going to participate. It’s the way I was created. I have found productive ways to leverage my addictive personality. Take triathlons for instance. I’m not content just dabbling in the sport, I must submerge myself in it totally.
As of late, I’m trying to learn to be content through simpler living in order to gain some margin in my life.
Five years ago, I looked around and we owned a bunch of ‘stuff’ and all that stuff cost money. Then I came to the realization that we did not own all this stuff, the stuff owned us. We were working to purchase and maintain expensive stuff. The amount of resources we were dumping into stuff was staggering. (more…)
I’m a NERD. I love solving problems. My career is centered on solving money problems. What does your money tell me about you?
Show me the money!
Do you REALLY want solutions? The answer is usually ‘No’! What you really want is someone to remove the pain or salve your conscious. You don’t want a solution unless it is on your terms.
How do I know this? Well, I’m not a psychologist. However, I have folks come to me needing advice and solutions to financial problems. Here is what I ask;
What is the problem?
Do you want a solution?
Are you willing to be a little uncomfortable?
Show me the money! (Share your bank and credit card statements)
Money doesn’t lie
While you are telling me all about your problem and how badly you want help finding a solution, I’m looking at your financial statements. Why? How you spend and manage your money tells me more about you that you can. As is usually the case, you can tell me one story about you and your money tells me the truth. (more…)
Marines are known for being tough and practical. One does not become Lieutenant Colonel and pilot in the Marines without knowing a thing or two.
Last year I met such a Marine at a charity event. During our short conversation, he inquired about my work. I told him about my passion for impacting lives in various ways through my work as a Financial Advisor. Little did I know that I was about to be equipped with a valuable tool. When I have the opportunity to learn a practical life skill from someone with a great deal of experience, I jump at it. Then, I like to pass along the information.
A good teacher must be teachable. I emailed him and below is the content of his reply.
(My additions/edited portions of What If File Essentials are in bold italics)
The “What If” File by LtCol. Mitch Bell:
This isn’t just for the Marine or Soldier going over to the War, it’s for everyone, guy or gal. We all believe that we’ll live forever! I mean it. When you are young, you are bullet proof and as you get older, you just never expect that you will die. Well, I am speaking as a guy who lost his sister while in college, his college roommate fifteen months later, and about a dozen guys in plane crashes over my adult life. With this in mind, I came up with a “What if” file.
The “What if” file is a complete folder for my next of kin on what to do if I get whacked by a drunk driver in the morning on the way to work. This is to ensure that my wife and parents would not have to search through old papers, files, boxes in the closet etc to track down my investments, mortgages, car info, work info, passwords etc. Now mind you, the “what if” file is a VERY important document, and should be placed in your fire proof home safety deposit box or gun safe, or with your folks and/or your wife in a safe, secure place. It would be bad news falling into the wrong hands with all that info in one place.
Here is what I did when I married my beautiful wife. I wrote a letter to her, very personal and with the intent that it would my last words to her. I also told her what needed to be done and in what order.
‘What If’ File Essentials:
Copies of all bank statements
Copies of your investment statements (IRA, 401k, retirement accounts, etc)
Account numbers (these are required to cancel credit cards and find out what bills have to be paid)
Copies of all life insurance policies (beneficiary information)
All online passwords (Banks and Financial Institutions)
POC’s (point of contact) include correct phone numbers
POC within your state to retrieve death certificate (In order to claim insurance death benefit and notify Social Security)
POC (supervisor/partners) at work to notify so they don’t call due to your absence.
Passwords for email accounts & social media (Facebook), so that your family can send out an message via your address notifying all your contacts about your death or serious injury. Otherwise your family will have to provide your death certificate to AOL, Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, etc to access your accounts.
An envelope with $1,000 in cash to cover immediate and unforeseen needs
Instructions for burial
Copy of your current (valid) Will (Trust Documents)
Copies of your Living Will/Advance Directive/and Power of Attorney (if needed)
List of items of value in your estate (you don’t want them sold for pennies on a dollar at an estate sale)
List 3 primary contacts (friends and/or family) who can notify others of the situation at the behest of your spouse.
This is just a start, a basic road map for you. There are many more things you can add to it. I’m death on Marines who don’t have this set up, and so is my Dad who has an extensive “what if” file. I’ve seen too many cases where a Marine has died, and he didn’t switch over his life insurance from his EX-wife who he hates, and she now has won the lotto with a tax-free check while his present wife gets nothing. That is pure laziness and I despise it.
Just remember that dying is the easy part of life; it’s the loved ones you leave behind that suffer. If you have your life tied together in a “What If” folder, when that unexpected time comes, it will make life so much easier for the ones left behind. If you care about your spouse/kids and folks, take the time today to start putting one of these together, and store it in your home fireproof safety deposit box(but watch out if you use a banks they will close those up tight till the probate of the will if you don’t clean it out fast).
I hope this post helps. Please copy it, and send it to your friends and family. I would be willing to bet you a beer that if polled, only about one out of ten will have anything remotely set up like a “What If” file.
-Semper Fi, Mitch
Do you have a ‘What if’ file? Would you add anything to this list?
Special Thanks to LtCol Mitch Bell for permission to share this material on my blog.
Below is a draft letter I penned in June of 2013. I was sorting through some old files and uncovered it. I never got around to submitting it. However, I had to ask the question; ‘Is this 5 year old document still relevant today?” The answer is ‘yes’ and probably more so than in 2013. So, I decided to repost it for your consideration.
Uniform Fiduciary Standard of Conduct for Elected Representatives (United States of America)
Submitted by: Lance Cashion (Fort Worth, Texas)
June 6, 2013
As a citizen of these United States, I kindly request the Representatives from my state and district submit, for the Congressional Record (Extensions of Remarks Section), a proposal for the establishment of a Uniform Fiduciary Standard of Conduct for Elected Representatives (UFSCER) serving in the Federal Government.
It is my belief that my countrymen will support this measure. The American citizenry demand a uniform standard of conduct to which the actions of our elected representatives can be measured. We the People expect our elected representatives to uphold the highest moral and ethical standards in regard to executing their sworn duties as representatives in addition to upholding and protecting the U.S. Constitution. Note: Elected representatives in the Legislative and Executive branches would be subject to UFSCER.
As of this writing, the trust between the electorate and the elected has eroded to the point that the relationship has become adversarial. The citizenry lack the assurance/confidence that our elected representatives are acting in our best interest. Furthermore, evidence strongly suggests that conflicts of interest hinder the ability of our elected officials to properly represent the interests of the citizenry. As a concerned citizen, it is my responsibility to bring this issue to Congress and the American people.
I am President and CEO of Cashion Financial, LLC. I serve as a Financial Advisor and licensed Life & Health Insurance Broker in the great State of Texas. I am a Series 65 licensed Investment Advisor Representative. In my chosen profession, I must adhere to the fiduciary standards contained in the US Investment Advisers Act of 1940. It is my choice to adhere to a standard of conduct where I am bound by law to serve/act in the best interests of my clients. In addition, I must disclose and attempt to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest. I constantly undergo the rigors of examination, compliance, licensing, continuing education and regulation in my field. I choose to subject myself to this in order to serve in my clients’ best interest, many of whom are unable to completely understand the full spectrum of the financial world.
In the totality of the US economy, I manage very little. To my clients, the assets placed under my stewardship represent everything they have to financially support themselves. As elected representatives, you manage trillions of taxpayer dollars. It seems logical and reasonable to me that a fiduciary standard of conduct be created, upheld and enforced.
Definitions: Fiduciary & Fiduciary Duty
A Fiduciary is a legal or ethical relationship of trust between two or more parties. In a fiduciary relationship, one person, in a position of vulnerability, justifiably vests confidence, good faith, reliance and trust in another whose aid, advice or protection is sought in some matter. In such a relation good conscience requires the fiduciary to act at all times for the sole benefit and interest of the one who trusts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiduciary
Fiduciary – 1) n. from the Latin fiducia, meaning “trust,” a person (or a business like a bank or stock brokerage) who has the power and obligation to act for another (often called the beneficiary) under circumstances which require total trust, good faith and honesty. A fiduciary is held to a standard of conduct and trust above that of a stranger or of a casual business person. He/she/it must avoid “self-dealing” or “conflicts of interests” in which the potential benefit to the fiduciary is in conflict with what is best for the person who trusts him/her/it. http://dictionary.law.com/default.aspx?selected=744
A Fiduciary Duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a duty are called principals. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals’ express informed consent. They also have a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest between themselves and their principals or between their principals and the fiduciaries’ other clients. A fiduciary duty is the strictest duty of care recognized by the US legal system. http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fiduciary_duty
Uniform Fiduciary Standard of Conduct for Elected Representatives (UFSCER) is Reasonable, Logical and Necessary:
I manage assets and perform duties on behalf of my clients. Federal law requires me to adhere to a fiduciary standard of conduct laid out in the US Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) operates under a presidentially-appointed Commissioner and is funded by taxpayer dollars (including a SEC Division of Enforcement). Therefore, a portion of my federal income tax pays the SEC to regulate and enforce the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 under which I operate my business.
As elected representatives you also manage assets (budgets, tax revenues, etc) and perform duties for your ‘clients’ (legal citizens of the United States). While most elected representatives take an oath of office (Constitution, Article 6 – Debts, Supremacy, Oath – Oath or Affirmation), there exists no Federal Law establishing uniform standard of conduct where elected representatives are required to act in the best interests of the citizenry and disclose and attempt to eliminate all possible conflicts of interest.
It is reasonable, logical and necessary to establish UFSCER on a Federal level because elected representatives are essentially acting in a fiduciary role. Representatives by definition serve/act on the behalf of others. In addition, the responsibility of managing taxpayer funds/budgets is cause enough for UFSCER.
This letter represents a preliminary call to further discourse in regard to establishing Uniform Fiduciary Standard of Conduct for Elected Representatives (UFSCER). My goal is to raise awareness of need of UFSCER. I do not know what the final framework will look like or how it will be enforced, I have ideas. However, that does alleviate the need. There must be a uniform standard to which we can measure in whose best interest our elected representatives are working.
The American people demand and deserve elected representatives who serve our best interests to the highest moral and ethical standards while doing everything in their power to disclose and eliminate all potential conflicts of interest. This is a model of stewardship that must be passed down to our children and grandchildren, lest we become a lesser generation of Americans than our predecessors. I encourage you to join me in leaving a legacy of character, virtue and stewardship to our children.
In the final analysis, one who is unwilling to accept accountability is unfit to represent the interests of others.