Money, Motivation, and the Grandma Life

by: Ryane Willis

My grandmother recently turned 90.  When you spend time inside her house, you begin to wonder about all the things she has collected and all the space that is going to waste in that extra large house.  The house didn't seem so big when all 9 grandchildren were there at Christmases long ago.  But now she is faced with the challenge of what to do next and no one can decide for her.  

Watching this situation unfold has been quite a wake-up call.  It has made me question many of my decisions.  Looking at someone else's stuff can have that effect on you.  We've been conditioned to accumulate and to look towards the next style or trend and when you're 90 this type of habitual buying is more of a burden than anything else.  

Money issues are always complex and are sure to drive a conflict every once in a while. However, what I've found is not a lack of responsibility or self-control, but a lack of envisioning the future. We are so captivated by the deadlines of next week or the vacation next month that sometimes we don't stop to think of ourselves as mothers or even better as grandmothers. When is the last time you daydreamed about being a grandmother? I would venture to say that in my 20's, I've had a mental block to seeing my future past the foreseeable next step. Graduation, a marathon, engagement, marriage. That is as far as I've let myself think.  

And yet as Bill Johnson says, "What you imagine you become."  If I only allow myself to imagine the next step, then how can I be ready for the distant, but not-so-distant future?  I need to envision the grandmother version of myself and treat my bank account in a way that keeps her in mind.  No, it's not a sexy idea and I'm not expecting a book deal, but if I don't actively create my future in my mind then I'm afraid I won't save for anything.

We have so many obstacles as Americans when it comes to saving money.  There are so many voices, advertisements, needs, and desires we face everyday.  Even a Yale study showed that the way we conjugate the future tense of our verbs is an obstacle to saving.  They found that languages that don’t change the verb to talk about the future, like Chinese and German, have much higher rates of savings, the future is now, and now is the future.  So they don’t constantly compartmentalize  time like we are accustomed to.

Even worse, at every turn there is a commercial or a name brand.  We are flooded with advertisements far beyond what those Mad Men of the 1960’s could believe. And Target has a marketing strategy that could be comparable to the CIA's information gathering techniques. Target is so good at sending us the right coupons that they’ve accurately guessed a high-school customer would need baby coupons before she even told her parents she was pregnant.

So I must look beyond that next Target coupon.  I must overcome the urge to let my belongings become more of a representation of myself than my thoughts.  I must allow myself to imagine my future.  I have big plans for my grandma years of telling stories about what it was like in “my day” and how much snow I had to walk through.  I’ll probably hit someone with my purse; it’s on my bucket list.

We’re going to be grandmothers one day, so lets start acting like it.

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Lark ReelyComment