By Dr. Jim Dahle, WCI Founder

Sometimes people mistakenly assume that wealth is only a financial term. It's not. Truly wealthy people aren't just rich; they have control over their lives. Wealth refers to money, time, and relationships. We recently had an experience that demonstrated to me how wealth can enrich your life.

 

The Call and the Decision

Katie received a call that her grandmother was in the ED in another state with a stroke. She had been found unresponsive that morning. We had just returned home late the night before from a five-day trip to Las Vegas with the kids. It was a wonderful trip but not a particularly cheap trip. No, we didn't lose any money at the tables (Las Vegas, to us, is mostly a hiking, climbing, and mountain biking destination), but we certainly spent a lot renting a house, eating out, and going to shows and other experiences in the evenings after playing all day outdoors.

As soon as I heard the news, I told Katie that this was bad and she should go—even though we had just returned from an expensive trip and even though it was one of the most expensive days of the year (the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend) to fly, especially on a last-minute ticket. She held off for a little bit waffling about whether to go while other family members on the scene sorted out what was really happening. I returned a couple hours later from an event to find her car gone, the kids home alone, and a text on my phone indicating she had decided to go after all. Within just a few hours, she was at the bedside. She stayed with her grandmother throughout the night as aggressive care was appropriately withdrawn, and she was moved to comfort care measures. This massive wake-up stroke was a blessing in disguise in many ways, given her increasingly severe dementia.

Katie could be there to support her family in this moment of need. Why? Wealth. Wealth allowed her to do that.

More information here:

Building Wealth as a Physician

Generational Wealth and Teaching Your Kids About Money

 

The Financial Benefits of Wealth

The first way in which wealth allowed us to do this is simply that we could afford the travel. Last-minute airplane tickets aren't cheap. There was also the cost of gas, parking, and maybe an Uber on the other end. You've heard the phrase, “If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.” We didn't need to ask the price. I don't even know the price, as I write this post. It doesn't matter. We could have put her on a private jet to travel there (although availability on a holiday weekend probably would have been an issue) so we could certainly afford whatever the airline would charge for one of the few available seats.

While people in the accumulation years keep (or should keep) an emergency fund to help cover expenses like this, we're financially independent. Our entire portfolio is our emergency fund. Since we're still working and saving a large percentage of our income, this additional expense simply means we'll invest a little less next month than we otherwise would have.

 

The Financial Benefits of Time

Financially wealthy people quickly realize their scarcest, least renewable resource is their time.

We're fairly busy people. But we're in control of our time. Our work with The White Coat Investor is location-independent. I asked Katie what she had going on the next few days. She had a fair number of meetings scheduled and a couple of appointments for the kids. But the meetings are all on Zoom anyway—or can easily be moved there. When I finally talked to Katie, I asked her when she scheduled her return flight. She hadn't. It was a one-way ticket, but she thought she'd come home in five days.

Can you disappear from your life for five days on short notice without your world blowing up? Katie can. That's wealth. She knew (and we knew) that we could manage without her. Just a couple of months before, she was gone for three weeks to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and go on Tanzanian safaris. The kids were fed, the homework was done, and WCICON tickets still went on sale. The WCI online courses still functioned normally, the school community councils still functioned, the church youth group still had its activities, and the sports team she coached continued to play games. Five days? That's nothing. No problem.

More information here:

What’s the Value of Our Time, Anyway?

 

The Financial Benefits of Relationships

You've heard the phrase that your net worth is your network. Relationships are another form of wealth.

real wealth

My work is not quite as flexible as Katie's. Six times a month I need to be in a specific place at a specific time to care for patients in the emergency department. And one of those times was the following morning. I had to drop off our 14-year-old at hockey practice at 5am and be at my shift by 6am. (My partners LOVE this hockey practice schedule since it means I come in to work 40 minutes early on Mondays.) The 16-year-old can certainly get herself (and her brother) to school, but the challenge is getting the 8-year-old to school. That's where we need some help.

Luckily, a third aspect of wealth for us—beyond financial resources and the time that comes with financial freedom—is relationships. We have several (dozens of?) families in the neighborhood that can make sure our 8-year-old gets off to school. The 16-year-old dropped her off at a neighbor's house on her way to school and she caught her own bus with the neighbor kids an hour and a half later. No problem. We'd do the same in a second for those other families. One of the main reasons we renovated our house a few years ago instead of buying a new one (which probably would have been financially smarter) was simply because we love the people we live around.

Luckily, that was my only shift before the next weekend. But we had a few other conflicts. Some appointments were moved around. The 14-year-old had to find a ride to a hockey game (another great relationship). The 16-year-old took the 14-year-old to an appointment during school while I was on shift. Katie's week was cleared so she could be a support to her family for this important life event.

 

Taking control of your finances and living a deliberate life leads to wealth. Wealth, however, refers not just to money but also to time and relationships.

What do you think? What situations have you been in where you found it useful to be wealthy with respect to your money, time, and/or relationships? Comment below!