"What's up Dad?"
"I just got called from work. Seems a couple of guys are out sick and they need me to come in. Would you do me a favor and mow the lawn today? It certainly needs it plus I'll pay you $10."
"Not a problem, Dad. The lawn does look like it could use a good mowing and I can certainly use an extra $10."
"Thanks Son, I'll see you this evening."
"Good dinner, Dear. You make the best Swiss Steak I have ever eaten."
"Thank you Honey."
"Bill, the yard looks good. I'll get your money after dinner."
"OK Dad," Bill said after savoring another bite of his Mother's delicious Swiss Steak meal. "I had a strange thing happen today. Mrs. Higgins from next door came over and asked if I could mow her yard once a week. She asked if you were paying me and, if so, how much it was. She said she'd pay the same."
Bill's Mother jumped in, "Is she all right? She's always done her own yard work."
"Oh yeah, she's OK," Bill said. "She told me she doesn't enjoy the mowing part and if I'll do that she can spend more time on her flowers. She also said she would pay me extra for the edging when it needs it."
"What did you tell her?" His Father asked.
"I told her I would have to ask you. It's your mower," Bill chuckled. "Then, a few minutes later Mr. Johnson from the other side of us came over and asked to do his lawn once a week. He said something about his knees bothering him. I told him how much I was getting and then told him the same thing I told Mrs. Higgins.
"So, what do you think Dad?"
"Well, I think you're thirteen years old and old enough to make your own decisions as long as you have all the information you need.
"I don't mind you using our mower but I do think you should be responsible for the gas and oil plus the weekly maintenance. How's that sound?"
Bill thought a minute, "I'm OK with that as long as you show what the weekly maintenance needs are and how to do them."
His Dad asked, "Have you given any thought as to when you're going to do these yards?"
"Yep," Bill said. "Rather then give up my Saturday I thought I could come home and do them after school. I can do the Higgins's yard on Tuesday and Mr. Johnson's on Wednesday."
"Sounds good, Son. I'll tell you what. You can do our lawn on Thursday every week and I'll add another $10 to that extra $20 you're going to have. We'll call the extra edging the rent on the mower. Okay?"
"Great! I'll go tell them right after dinner and see if those days are OK with them."
Bill attacked the rest of his dinner with a vengeance.
"Dad, I've got a question."
Dad looked up from the book he was reading, "What's that?"
"Do you remember when I had that report on the Seven Wonders of the World?"
"Well, you made a comment that's been running through my mind ever since I started doing these yards."
"Oh and what would that be?"
"You said, if I remember correctly, saving money is easy. Did you mean it?"
"Absolutely but, I am getting the impression you've run head-on into the part of the statement I didn't tell you; that spending money is even easier. Am I right?"
"You couldn't be righter.
"Since I've gotten these jobs I've got money in my pocket. When I used to go to the Mall or the Dairy Queen it was always, 'I wish I could buy that'. Now, I've got money it's changed to, 'Hey, I can afford that' and, before I know it most of my money's gone. What am I doing wrong?"
Dad reached his hand over his left shirt pocket and patted it looking for a cigarette. He quit smoking several years ago but I'd noticed when someone asked a question that required a little thought he always reached for that lost cigarette. Instead of lighting up he leaned back in his chair, scratched his right ear, licked his lips and looked at me.
"Bill, that question is going to take a little time to answer. Today's Friday and I've got a date with your Mom in about an hour. How about we let this rest until tomorrow when you and I can sit down and take the proper amount of time to discuss the issue? Is that OK with you?"
I smiled to myself on hearing about Mom and Dad going on a date. They had started having 'dates' together once a month or so several months back. Mom said it made her feel appreciated. Dad privately called the dates an 'investment in the future'. All I knew was they were both outwardly happier after the dating began.
"Sure thing Dad. How about after lunch tomorrow?"
"Sounds good Son, I'm looking forward to it."
Dad and I were back in his office where this whole adventure had started. This was where he made that silly comment about saving money and, hopefully, here was where I was going to learn how and why he thought it's easy to do that.
"Well, Bill, let's start this little discussion with a simple question; how much money do you have left from your earnings?"
"Nothing." I admitted. I knew my head was hanging down. 'Ah hell, William, admit it, you're ashamed of yourself.' Sometimes I really wish I didn't have to have these conversations with myself.
"Frankly Dad, I'm ashamed of myself."
"I can understand that Bill. You've been doing the lawns for five weeks now. You make $30 a week so you've earned $150 and have spent it all. Is that about right?"
I hated that question. Of course it's right. As much as I didn't want to admit, my Dad is almost always right about most things.
"Yeah, $150 gone like smoke in a strong wind. As I asked before, what am I doing wrong?"
"Well Son, I've given this some thought and I think we'll attack your question from another angle then just answering it. I want to talk about your camping.
"You've been a Boy Scout for a few years and one of the things you seem to like the best is camping so I'm going to start there.
"When you go camping Bill what do you take with you?"
"When I go camping? I gotta tell ya, Dad, this doesn't make any sense to me but I'll go alone with you. Let's see;, I stopped and thought for a minute or two. " I take a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, utensils, extra socks, personal care stuff and a rain parka."
"OK, now, make a list of what you said you take and, don't forget to add the backpack you didn't mention."
I made the list. Actually, it didn't take very long. I asked dad, "Do you want me to list the various clothes I take and the different food I take?"
"Actually, yes I do but don't be exact. Under clothes list things like underwear and how many sets, under food, list the staples but other things like butter or salt and pepper just list them as condiments."
With that the list took a little longer but I was finished pretty quickly.
"OK, now what?" I asked.
"Now we are going to list each item as a need, a want or a 'just in case'. Just write N, W or J after each entry."
"OK. First backpack — definitely a need. Same for sleeping bag and tent. Food is a need and so are clothes, utensils, personal care items, rain poncho and extra socks. I suppose condiments are more of a want rather than a need as I can always eat the food without the extra stuff."
"So far, so good Bill but I would question the rain poncho and the extra socks. I would think the same reasoning you used for the condiments would apply to the poncho and socks. Also, I've watched you pack up for several of these trips and I don't see some things on your list I remember being in your pack. Don't you usually take chocolate bars, marshmallows and graham crackers with you?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot those things."
"And how about a book and your fishing gear? Don't you take them too?"
"You're right and I forgot my moccasins, my sleeping pad, hatchet and knife."
I listed those items and marked them also. The moccasins I listed as W, the hatchet, knife and sleeping pad as N, the fishing gear as W, the book, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers as J.
"There, how's that Dad?"
"Good. Now let's take a look at what you've come up with. You've got 9 items as Needs. 4 items as Wants and 2 items, if we think of the chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers as 1 item, as a 'Just In Case'. In essence 70% of your load is made up of things you need, about 20% is made up of things you don't really need but you want them because they make your camping trip more enjoyable and about 10% of the load you are carrying as items or things you are reserving for later in the trip and which make your camping trip even more enjoyable or something you may need in case something unusual happens. Would you agree with that assessment Son?"
"Yes Sir, I can see what you are saying. Most of the things I carry are things I have to have, some of the things I carry are things I want because they make my whole trip more enjoyable and a small portion of what I carry is really just in case something weird happens."
"Hmmmm. I don't think I could have said it any better Son.
"OK, now let's shift gears here and look at another situation. I know you'll find this a little strange but bear with me. Okay?"
"Okay Dad. Why not?"
"Good attitude Son. What I want to do is take a close look at you're dinner last night. First, what did you eat?"
"You meant it when you said I would think this would be a little strange didn't you?"
"Yep. I'm sure this will seem strange but I will get to the point. I promise. Now, what did you eat last night?"
"Well, I had Swiss Steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, peas, salad and a piece of pie."
"Good, now I want you to think about the food you ate but think about them in terms of percentage of the meal."
"Oh boy, you don't ask easy questions do you? Let's see, the Swiss Steak was about a third of the plate so that would be about 33%, the mashed potatoes took about another quarter and the peas and salad took up the rest of the plate. So the meat was 33%, the potatoes were 25% and the salad and peas was, hummmmm, 45%. Does that sound about right?"
"Well, it all adds up to 100% so I'd say it was about right. How much of the meal was your pie do you think?"
"Dad, I don't think it would be more than 10% of the meal."
"I agree but now we have a problem as you now have 110%. We need to get that back to 100% so how do you think you should change your percentages?
"If I close my eyes and try to visualize the entire meal on one plate I think I would say the meat was still 33%, the peas and salad would be another third or 33%, the potatoes would be 25% and the pie would be 10%. Is that OK?"
"More than OK. I would say you did that very well. Now let's take another look at your plate.
"Would you agree the meat, salad and peas would be the most important part of the meal in terms of nutrition?"
"Well, Yeah, I guess."
"Would you also agree the potatoes are nice but not as important as the meat and vegetables?"
"AH, I'm beginning to understand this. Yes, I would agree to that. I must admit I'm having trouble placing the pie though?"
"Well, I agree with you. I'm not sure how to place the pie either at least, in where I'm taking this. Let's, just for fun, class the pie as a 'just in case' item that you'll eat just in case you're still hungry. Also, if you really aren't hungry when you finish you can put the pie in the refrigerator for later. Is that OK?"
"Sure, why not!"
"Now, can you tell me what all this has to do with your original question about what you were doing wrong with your money?"
"Let me see if I can figure this out. I'm pretty sure you're saying the bulk of the money has to go for those things I have to have. I guess you would call those my 'needs' from the camping example. I think I'll take a shot at it and say you're also trying to tell me a smaller amount of my income should go for those things that would classified as 'wants' but I'm stumped on the 'just in case' part."
"I'd say you did very well with what I've given you. And, by the way, you hit it right on the head.
"In general, everything seems to boil down to needs, wants and, what I call, 'just in case' money or, to put it another way, 'preparation for the future' money. Now, in terms of the money you are making you need to plan your spending in roughly the same percentages. About 70% of your money goes for those things you have to have to survive in this world. In your case that doesn't extend much beyond buying the supplies for the mower and some essentials for school but later in life those things will be housing, utilities, food, insurance, clothing, at least one car payment. You also need to have things that make life enjoyable and comfortable. For that you should spend about 20% of your income. This would include things like, entertainment, buying a stereo or TV, maybe your phone would fall under this category, the second car payment might go here. Basically, this percentage pays for those things that are not requirements to life but make life more enjoyable and worth living.
"Now we come to the last 10%. What do you think you should do with that, Bill?"
"Save it for 'just in case' situations?"
"And, once again you do not disappoint me. You are absolutely right. You need to save 10% of your income without fail. Do you remember when we worked on the Eighth Wonder of the World and we figured how much $1 would be worth in 40 years?"
"Sure, $1 became $24 when we figured it at 8%."
"So, how much would $3 be worth in 40 years?"
"You're slipping Dad. You asked a simple question. If $1 is worth $24 then $3 would be 3 times 24 or $72."
"Perfect. Son, if you consistently save 10% of everything you make plus invest it correctly you will be able to retire comfortably without having to worry about paying your bills or having to get a job when you're 70 years old. The secret of retiring comfortably isn't saving huge sums of money for a short time but just the opposite. The secret is always paying yourself first and saving small sums over a long time so you can give the money time to grow.
Now, let me ask you another question; if $1 a week would be worth $24 in 40 years and $3 a week would worth $72 how much would $1a day for a week be in 40 years?"
"Another easy question. Will wonders never cease? $1 a day for a week would be $7 a week and 7 times 24 is," I got out the pencil and paper and multiplied the numbers and got, "$168."
"Excellent. Now, figuring 4 weeks a month, how much would a month at $1 a day be worth in 40 years?"
Back to the paper and pencil. In just a couple of minutes I looked up and said, "$672."
"Good Bill, now take that out to year."
"Ok Dad." I multiplied $672 times 12 and got, "$8064. Wow! It really starts to add up doesn't it?"
"Absolutely, now figure for 10 years."
"You can't fool me Dad. I remember to multiply something by ten all you have to do is add a zero to the end; therefore 10 years of savings and investing at 8% would give you $80,640. Wow again."
"See what I mean when I say when you're young, saving is easy. You can accomplish a great deal when you have the time to do it.
"Oh, by the way, now do you understand what you did wrong?"