I had an interesting experience recently that involved helping a neighbor that got me to thinking. My wife would have you think that me thinking is rarely a good thing. But I digress.
Day 1 of the Situation
I was asked to help a neighbor that I don’t know move. The family had only been in the home for about three or four weeks as a home tender (or house sitter), so I had only had the opportunity to introduce myself briefly on one occasion. As I was packing the boxes into the U-haul, I learned more about the family’s situation.
Through a series of unfortunate events that occurred about all at once, the husband was left stranded at work. With no hope of anyone going to pick him up, I offered to drive the 30 miles and back to retrieve him. With our gas tank nearly on empty, I had to fill up. We’ve had a few extra expenses lately and so I had to use money from savings in order to pay for the tank of gas as the trip was unexpected.
The tank of gas is a trivial expense in the grand scheme of things. However, it begs the question, why do we have savings? Is it just to reach our financial goals?
Day 2 of the Situation
To briefly continue the story, the family was still working to pack everything into the U-haul the next day. I’ve rarely seen so much stuff in one place (all those years of playing Tetris really paid off). On my way home from work, my wife called and asked if I would pick up pizza for the family and the other neighbors who were helping the family move and clean. Again, we had to use money from savings to pay for the pizza.
Again, a fairly irrelevant expense.
So here’s my point
My wife and I live on a budget. Not perfectly, but we try to manage our money appropriately and save for our needs. But just as life happens to us, we occasionally come across others who have had “life” happen to them. So should you open your savings account to help them out? What if you knew that helping them this one time wasn’t really going to change their situation. In fact, you may even be an enabler. Would you still help?
Maybe a blog isn’t the right forum for this discussion, but I have to start somewhere.
I find myself pretty annoyed and frustrated when I see friends and neighbors make foolish financial decisions and then require the help of others to get by while I don’t get to make the same foolish decisions because I’m too busy supporting my family…and theirs. So should I tell them, “Sorry no. You got yourself into this situation. Now get yourself out.”
And as much as the conservative in me screams, “Heck yeah!” the compassionate in me says, “You don’t know the whole situation. So just help.”
For me, part of the answer has to do with the legacy that I intend to leave my children. I would like for my girls to one day think of their father and how he always helped those around him. I want them to have had an example of giving even if it meant self-sacrifice (as if having children isn’t evidence enough of that characteristic).
My decision is to keep helping
Though, I need to admittedly figure out how not to be so annoyed.
So where do you stand? Are your hard-earned savings and assets intended to benefit only your family? Or do you use them to benefit others, even if they don’t “deserve” it?