Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Talking to my dad about death, gratitude and what that’s got to do with money & career

My 82-year old dad fell just before Good Friday and it’s been hectic the past few weeks juggling trips to the hospital and the admin of it, work and family.

After a few harrowing ups and downs, things look like they’re settling a bit and dad is getting better day by day — although not as fast as he’d like.

Sometimes we all forget he’s already 82! 😬

I learned so many things through this episode, and I thought I’d share a few lessons with you.

#1. Money is Important.

Nothing new, but it bears repeating.

Let’s be practical. Money is important.

It’s what enabled us to make it more comfortable for dad during a time when he is dealing with much pain — physically, mentally and emotionally.

We were able to get him his own room where the nurse to patient ratio allowed him to have more attentive nursing care.

We were able to get the best doctors to see him and even transferred him from the original hospital he was admitted because of the nature of the emergency when the ambulance got him, to the hospital of his choice, where all his existing doctors already were at.

Just yesterday, dad was asked if he wanted to speak to a counsellor about his depressed mental state. Since he’s willing, we’ve arranged for that to happen. We hope getting dad in a more positive mindset will help in his recovery.

We wouldn’t be able to do all this if we didn’t have the money.

#2. But So is Family and Being Grateful.

During this time, his doctors advised that we speak to dad about his decision in the event he suffered a heart attack due to the risks from his existing heart conditions.

Would he want to be resuscitated?

This was a tough conversation we had with dad.

I’m grateful we had the chance as a family to talk so candidly about death.

Dad has told us his wishes before, how he wanted to go and what his funeral would be like.

But that was when he was still relatively healthy.

This time, it was much harder to have this conversation when the end seems a little closer.

Still, it was a treat to hear him talk about what he’s grateful for in his life — Family.

And how we’ve been a family who’s always there for each other. We’ve never let money come between us.

He told us how he’s got friends who are very wealthy but whose biggest regret was never spending enough time with their family because they were too busy making their millions.

We’re certainly middle-upper class. And that’s because Dad worked hard all his life to provide for us.

But I don’t remember he worked to the extent of never being home. Both mom and dad were always very present in our lives as we were growing up.

Hearing dad talk about being grateful for our family also reminded me to be grateful for today and the little things we do have.

We tend to forget to take a moment or two to enjoy the goodness of ordinary daily life even in the midst of our struggles.

I’ll never forget this conversation we had with him. It’s a mental photograph I’ll carry with me for as long as I live.

So even though money is important, it’s only up to a point.

Beyond that, not knowing when to slow down on the chase has a diminishing return on the quality of our lives.

#3. There Is A Happy Medium

I know I’m very lucky and privileged.

It’s because we never lacked anything that we didn’t have to fight over who got what.

There was always enough, although it was never excessive.

I know this is a lot harder when we’re struggling just to get by.

But we need to know when to stop the chase.

Besides, financial freedom isn’t about never running out of money and making more and more money.

It’s how we’re spending the money we have that makes financial freedom either achievable or unattainable, at any earning level.

If it were just about having more money, then rich celebrities and lottery winners won’t end up broke.

So how much is enough? Is there a happy medium?

I had an interview with a candidate yesterday that nicely sums this up.

Me: “Why did you study Accounting?”

Candidate: “Accounting is not my passion. But a job in Accounting will enable me to make a good income so I can buy a car, a house and afford a comfortable life.”

Me: “So what would you like to do if you didn’t have to worry about making enough money for the car, the house and the nice lifestyle?”

Candidate: “I’d want a job where I can travel and experience different cultures and broaden my perspectives about how people around the world live. I’d also like to do social work and help people.”

Me: “Have you considered a job that allows you to do this?”

Candidate: “Yes, but I don’t think I’d earn enough money from it.”

This interview broke my heart. It broke my heart to see a 25-year old give up his life’s interests and dreams in pursuit of money.

I ended up coaching him during the interview and challenging him to explore how he could pursue his interests, passions and making decent money from it.

I hope I got him thinking and working on possibilities rather than merely seeing closed doors.

My own career has been non-linear. I never expected I’d be a talent manager and trainer and make a decent salary doing what I love.

I know we don’t always have the luxury to choose our jobs.

After all, we need to put food on the table.

But even while we’re working in a job that we may not particularly enjoy (and I’ve had a few of those!), we can discover bits of it to find joy in because we’re good at those bits.

Then we can work on those bits and find opportunities to do more of those bits.

Until finally, those bits add up to become your dream job.

I think that’s the whole point of our lives, right?

To figure out what we’re great at, what we love doing, and how to use these to help those around us and make a decent living doing it.

I think too many people get caught up looking at life as either white or black.

I either need to be an accountant to make money or a starving social worker.

What about being an accountant and helping your clients by understanding their pains and needs through the lens of a social worker?

To Sum Up

#1. Money is important to be happy.

#2. But only up to a point. Family and being grateful is equally important. Take the time to enjoy the moments of ordinary life amidst our struggles.

#3. There is a happy medium. Our life’s journey is to find out what we love doing and make decent money doing that.

I’m a working mom and a talent manager. I’ve been in the HR profession for over 20 years leading teams, coaching business leaders and employees. I write on my blog Her Money Mind about smart money habits for busy working moms.

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