Being rich vs. having money

I believe that far fewer people are afraid to die than are afraid to live.

Having once had enough assets to think of myself as “well-off,” I’ve had occasion to notice a segment of wealthy people don’t ever actually “LIVE it up.”  Instead, a large percentage of them squirrel it away, creating a nice, safe fortress around themselves and their families.  For this segment, the real end-game is to place as many people between themselves and starvation as possible.

I once knew of a farmer from my own small hometown who worked from sunup to sundown every day of his adult life.  Wally and his wife lived in a very simple, but well-maintained house and never traveled or purchased anything more extravagant than the occasional used farm implement.  Season after season he would receive a nice fat check in return for his crop and place it directly in the bank, where it would barely make a ripple in his already massive account balance.

At his 70th birthday party Wally announced his retirement and, naturally, everyone congratulated him.  He talked about treating his wife of nearly 50 years to a Hawaiian vacation.  Neither of them had ever been to the tropics.  In fact the only time he’d been out of the mainland U.S. was the two years he’d spent in the military as a much younger man.  Everyone was excited for Wally and his wife.  After all, they had certainly earned it.

About a year later, a mutual friend of ours couldn’t help noticing that Wally continued to show up at the local cafe, every day around 10 o’clock, to have a cup of coffee at the “farmer’s table.”  You see this table in every small town.  It’s where farmers and ranchers meet for a spell after the morning chores are wrapped up.

At any rate, one morning when Wally pulled up a chair, my friend decided to go ahead and ask the question on everyone’s mind: “Hey, what ever happened to all that traveling you were going to do now that you’re retired?”  Wally looked uncomfortable as five or six of his closest buddies sat waiting for the answer.  He took a sip of coffee, hung his head and came out with it:

“To tell you the truth, fellas, I just worked so hard to make that money I haven’t got the heart to spend it.”

The next year Wally died of a heart attack and his wife promptly took their three adult children, along with their spouses and five grandchildren, on a Hawaiian vacation.

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