Feeling like a Financial Outsider

James Duffy

” We work, we struggle, we succeed and plan, and we…”

Media loves to splash headlines of beautiful people who have ‘made it’…the sports star giving away tens of thousands to underprivileged children and the youngest billionaire to ever make that status. Designer clothes and premiers in the south of France. Magazines profile guys and gals who have just cashed out and sold their company for $210 million, having started with nothing but an idea just 3 short years ago. And even many financial blogs, like this one, are started by a millennial who bootstrapped and saved for a few years, grew a million or two in the bank, and is now telling others how to do the same.

And, look, all of these stories and more are terrific. I admire each of these people and what they have accomplished.

But, seriously. I also feel like an outsider looking in and wondering, well, wondering what I am doing wrong. And I would bet you feel the same way, at least sometimes.

I am blessed to be in an industry where I can make a very good living. And I meet a lot of people, sitting across the desk or on the other end of the phone from me, who do as well. And none of us are on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine or profiled on a podcast as the most recent millionaire to make it big. We work, we struggle, we succeed and plan, and we…

We live.

And every bit of life, every stage and day we are alive is a miracle of joy, sorrow, love, longing, struggle, and triumph. I think the longer I live the more I appreciate that life is about relationships. And the financial part of our life is the same, a part of a bigger picture of relationships.

So why write this in a financial blog?

Simple. I see two types of approaches to the lived experience that is life and our relationships. Some live with a fatalistic attitude that life is happening to them. And others live with a sort of joy and excitement for whatever life can uncover.

Okay, let me tell you a quick story.

I have a friend, Ken (you know the drill, not really his actual name; but the story is quite accurate) whose wife was diagnosed with that debilitating disease named after baseball great Lou Gehrig. Nothing good here. Except for Ken’s reaction to the cards he had been dealt.

Ken and his wife had just had their first child, a healthy baby boy, when she noticed symptoms and, shortly after was diagnosed with ALS.

Ken could not have imagined what would truly be in store; but he knew they were going to be faced with some real economic, personal and relational struggles. So he decided to do two things – love his wife with all his heart and will, and to provide for she and their son with all the bills that would soon be coming their way.

You and I both know people who would wave like a leaf on a tree in late Fall when faced with something similar. And you and I can both admire the opposite. One who embraces the lived experience.

So Ken, who was doing well financially at the time, knew it would take more. More money, and more time. He hired an excellent nanny & nurse to care for his bride and help with the son. But he was always the first and foremost aid in all things his wife needed. He just knew he could not do it all.

And, he branched out and started two new businesses, hiring the right people to manage one, which had great potential to bring in a lot of cash quickly. It was real estate related. And, he leveraged his staff to help with the other, an offshoot of what he was doing already. What Ken did not do, much? Sleep. I don’t think I ever met him during those years that he did not have a cup of coffee in his hand. (In hindsight, I should have bought stock in Starbucks…he probably moved the needle on their profitability single-handedly).

I got a ring-side seat to watch one of the greatest love stories and one of the greatest business ingenuity stories play out at once. For the next 9 years, he was always there for his wife and helped his son see the beauty in his mother. And he provided the best of care, machinery, got her in on experimental new drugs and care. Not without struggle and stress. But that was his to carry. His wife and son always got the best of himself. And so did his customers.

He and his son are doing very well. His wife passed on some years ago now. And everyone who knew them, together, lives inspired to do more and love more and be better, just for knowing Ken and his family.

My point in relaying this story is – sometimes life is not all pretty and perfect. It’s not a red carpet or that perfect Mr. Millionaire story of budgeting and building the business.

But it is still life. So, I encourage you to live to the fullest every day. Build something that you and your family can be proud of. Not every day proud, some days are just a pure struggle. Over time, though, that struggle will, in fact, blossom into something you will smile with and hug your loved ones and thank them for coming along this journey, this life, with you.

About The Author

For years, 18 as of this writing, I have walked beside average men and women of all ages on a specific journey. The journey of home ownership.
And what I have discovered in opening up the financial reality of thousands of individuals & couples is a constant mix if fear, hope, confusion and achievement. It really is an exhilarating journey!
And I have read innumerable books on personal finance, read the blogs and listened to the podcasts, and spoken to the experts. And there always seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the theory of ‘personal finance’ and the lived reality of what is, truly, personal finance.

This is a place where real life meets real money. I hope you will come along on the journey to explore Finance, on the Front Line.


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