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Dave Sather’s Money Matters: Blowing off Black Friday

Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.


BY DAVE SATHER

One of our longtime clients, "Nick," stopped by today. We meet from time to time to discuss family and politics as often as investments.

Nick served in Vietnam. He is a self-made man. He is not rich, but he is comfortable.

I asked him what he did over the Thanksgiving holiday.

He replied: "I'll tell you what I didn't do - shop for crap. I boycotted Black Friday and the ridiculous materialism that goes with the entire holiday season." Nick may have used some other more colorful words, too.

Nick proceeded to tell me that while the idiots of the world stood in line at some big box retailer waiting for the "bargain they think they can't live without," he was at home asleep.

Once he did wake up, he fixed his family pancakes. They had a meal together - and had a real conversation.

Nick's bluntness always puts a smile on my face.

Nick has four kids and nine grandchildren. Although his family all celebrated Thanksgiving with their immediate family, they all were at Nick's for breakfast the next day.

Each of the kids and the grandchildren had a letter waiting in front of them. Despite being in writing, Nick spoke off the cuff.

He told them:

"You are my family. Although I may not say it enough - I want you to know I love you.

"The TV will be off and our phones will go unanswered - and we will all live through it and be better off for it. We will have an adult conversation, and we will learn something new about each other.

"I don't care what you celebrate - Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa - it doesn't matter. Celebrations of that nature are not about material things. No matter how much you may like them - neither a big TV nor an X-Box will love you and will not provide you with happiness in life. No material toy can provide you with true happiness.

"Once you have a toilet that flushes, tap water you can drink, access to health care, food on your table and a roof over your head - the rest is just details. So make sure when making decisions that you logically think through what you "need" versus what you merely "want."

"I am not going to give you a "toy" this holiday season. I will give you the same thing I have for many years - I will fund a portion of your education.

"No bankruptcy court or divorce proceeding can take your education away from you. Once you have an education - whether it be as a welder or a brain surgeon - you have a fighting chance to be self supporting in this world."

Nick then told me that after breakfast and cleaning some dishes, the real fun begins. They serve others.

I asked him what he meant. He said, "I have never wanted for food - but others have. So part of my family volunteered at the local soup kitchen.

"Another part of my family volunteered with their church.

"And another part of the family is working on building a Habitat For Humanity house." Nick made sure to add that although in his 70s, he can still sling a hammer, and it gives him a reason to get off his rear.

As we finished our coffee, I remembered all over again why I admire this man so much.

In honor of Nick, this holiday season, do something that really matters. Tell someone you love them. Help someone who is less fortunate than you. Know that some material item will never bring you happiness. Give your family the opportunity to get an education or learn a trade.

Those are the gifts that last a lifetime.

Dave Sather is a Victoria certified financial planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.

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