How Many Rows Does it Cost?

I wished a happy Father’s Day to this guy who started working at age 8 chopping cotton. He got 10 cents for each scorching row all summer in the middle of Texas, with no shade trees to be found.

DK Cotton.JPG

“I could barely finish 8 rows on a good sweaty day,” he proudly told me. “Then I got to see my buddies in town and they would buy one piece of candy for $0.05 and a Coke for $0.10. But, it cost something different for me. I had to calculate in my mind - was that really worth one and a half rows of chopping cotton?”

He told that story to my five kids at dinner. I am not sure they understand who picks rows of dry-fit fabric now, or if he was serious about getting to go out to dinner once per year as a kid on a farm.

I do think they kinda got the point. At a time when buying anything you want is dangerously easy, we should measure any decision against how much time it takes to earn that.

Gosh, if only there was a cotton pickin App to force our minds to stop and do that 1.5 rows math at the point of every sale. Deferred gratification is the key to any unusually successful savings plan.

Seneca, one of the world's great stoics, pointed out,“It’s not that we have too short a time to live, but that we squander a great deal of it. Life is long enough, and it’s given in sufficient measure to do many great things if we spend it well. We’re tight-fisted with property…yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

Saving aggressively has a far better track record than any aggressive growth fund to climb up the mountain. Take the longcut.

When we talk to pre-retirees near the peak of their savings ready to figure out how in the world to now turn on multiple streams of income from their assets, this same common denominator is the big “Aha" moment during our very disciplined income planning sessions. The most valuable asset of all-time is…more time. Knowing exactly how much is enough to make certain that all of your time is spent exclusively as you wish is the result of an unusually successful retirement plan.

Every future retiree has his or her own 8 rows at their job. We would all do well to perform our cotton math before purchases. The rows of time you are not willing to spend on stuff is time you will get back with great dividends of experiences instead…

Child Base Ball.jpg

…like when my dad’s dad took us to the Astrodome for Father’s Day when I was about this age. I learned to love baseball because of my grandpa. To this day in my office is the first and only foul ball I “caught.” George Hendrick pulled a screaming liner down the 3rd base line. Nicknamed the Hitman, this type of shot which sent grown men diving across seats to avoid is what jumbotron bloopers and protective nets were later made for. After all the shrapnel settled, I noticed that ball sitting peacefully in my seat. Holding it high like a barehand stab was a memorable experience.

The sweatiest workers I’ve been blessed to know taught me something else. They made a trade that trumps any I’ve ever seen on Wall Street. Trading expectations for appreciation makes retirement a completely different proposition. A lot of hard work and planning affords more time, perfectly well spent.