Thursday, May 22, 2008


A question was once asked of a very rich man, “How much money is enough?” Some attribute the answer to John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. Other sources give the credit to J. P. Morgan, an investment banker and the richest man on earth in his day. But whichever man answered the question, either Rockefeller or Morgan said, “Just a little bit more.”

Rockefeller also said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you’ll never achieve it.”

For the past 35 years, it has been my good fortune (wait a minute—fortune has nothing to do with it) to be married to a man who answers the question, “How much money is enough?” with “Whatever I have.” Well, to be honest, nobody has ever really asked him that question, and he never really gave that answer. It’s what you would call a hypothetical situation (i.e., I made it up). But it’s true in theory.

He has never clipped a coupon on his life. He never goes to garage sales or estate sales or truckload sales or end-of-the-year blowout sales. He has never walked into a store and made an impulsive purchase, buying something just because it was cool or he had to have it right now or it was too good a bargain to pass up. His needs are so few that he makes only about three purchases a year (correction--five if you count salted-in-the-shell peanuts and beer), all of them carefully weighed and considered. He lives in his neat, minimal world and is completely happy with his modest belongings, even when they are a little outdated or the neighbors have a better one. He takes immaculate care of what he owns so his belongings last an incredibly long time—sometimes for centuries.

But then, occasionally, when you least expect it, he’ll cheerfully dig into his pockets and do something kind and helpful for someone. And that’s why life continues rather simply on Nissen Street, without the financial ups and downs that most households experience.

To be honest, sometimes I have to fight a strange urge to turn him upside down and shake him like a piggybank.

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