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Becoming Rich With Memories

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.” — Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey

“You retire on your memories. When you’re too frail to do much of anything else, you can still look back on the life you’ve lived and experience immense pride, joy, and the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia…. Making deliberate choices about how to spend your money and your time is the essence of making the most of your life energy.” — Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

We all talk of how the time flies by, but perhaps we ought to focus on how many great memories we accumulate in that span. If we’re living well, experiences are acquired and flipped into memories with the turn of the calendar. We may not become financially wealthy, but surely we might accumulate a lifetime of memories worthy of our time. As the quote above points out, in the end, isn’t that all there is?

What are memories but the realization of deliberate action? As much as I love a good spreadsheet, I know deep down that working in them isn’t creating memories that will last a week, let alone a lifetime. But I may just remember the conversation I have with someone important in my world a lot longer. I may recall the thrill of peering over a cliff at an angry ocean in Portugal and smile someday when I’m too old for such things. I expect I’ll still smile at the recollection of my kids realizing the amusement park ride they insisted on going on was going to be a lot scarier than they’d bargained on when they begged to go on it. This is the accumulated wealth of memories.

Perkins’ book challenges us to stop accumulating savings and start spending our money while we’re healthy and fit enough to actually do the things we promise ourselves we’ll eventually do, someday, when we retire. As if we can do at 65 what we might do at 25 or 35. Do it now. There is no tomorrow, and if there is, we won’t be able to pull off some of the things we believe our bodies and minds will be capable of someday when.

I’ve watched too many people in my life hear the news that they won’t make it to retirement. Cancer seems to be the most common thief of dreams, but maybe an accident or a heart attack steals everything you’ve ever planned for “someday when” away from you. Your life is now: accumulate the memories that will make you richer then. It’s the best return on investment we can have with today.

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