Observations on life

Into a Cloud – HumbleDollar

This is a great article I urge you to read in full at the link below. There is a lesson here for every generation.

Into a Cloud

Ryan Kelly  |  November 13, 2019

MY GREAT-UNCLE, Jerry Kelly, was an American pilot in the Second World War. On Oct. 20, 1944, he was flying a close-support mission over Germany when his P-47 Thunderbolt was hit by anti-aircraft fire. After he radioed that he had smoke in the cockpit, his plane began losing altitude and was last seen disappearing into a cloud. Jerry was 20 years old.

More than 71 years later, a UPS carrier delivered a blue box to my home. The box contained a treasure trove—220 handwritten letters Jerry wrote home from the war. The box was a gift from my dad’s cousin, Phil, who spared no expense in shipping costs and tracked the package every hour to ensure safe delivery. Given my strong interest in Jerry’s life, Phil decided I should be the family guardian of the letters.

I’ve read each letter more than once. I now know Jerry better than most people I deal with every day. People I regularly interact with don’t work out their deepest thoughts and feelings in handwritten letters, and—even if they did—they wouldn’t let me read them.

Jerry’s letters have provided me with many valuable life lessons.

Here are seven of those lessons:

1. Saving money brings focus to life. As a pilot, Jerry made a good wage and spent less than he earned. On Oct. 8, 1944, he wrote a letter to his mom expressing the satisfaction he felt from seeing his bank account balance reach $1,200, equal to $17,500 in today’s dollars. Jerry planned to study accounting at the University of Utah upon his return from the war. Jerry’s best friend, who is still alive today, told me Jerry lived a life of high purpose. Saving money has many advantages. One advantage: It helps us maintain focus on our future. There’s a present-day benefit that comes from knowing we are providing for our future self.

Source: Into a Cloud – HumbleDollar

Categories: Observations on life

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4 replies »

  1. My father, also a WWII veteran, sent money home to my grandparents to save for him. His goal, to buy a new car when he got home. He and my mom were life long savers. Today, short of investments, savings accounts offer no incentive to long term savers. Loan money is too inexpensive (and the current administration wants to make interest rates negative). We need a national plan that encourages small time savers. That’s how 99% of Americans begin to build for their future.

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  2. I certainly can’t dispute your observations here, Dwayne. Particularly the incidents in CA and NJ. Oddly enough, there was a shooting right here in my little community yesterday as well. It’s under investigation.

    I guess I would make one other observation though, Dwayne. Incidents like the one’s you cite, and the follow-on “it’s somebody else’s fault” rhetoric you note, is disgusting. But I suspect you hear about it in the “news” precisely because these sorts of incidents are sensational, outrageous and disgusting – and quite rare, as opposed to being widespread and common. The “news” doesn’t give a rat’s fanny about the common, everyday miracles.

    Consider that, for every NFL twinkie who made the “news” by kneeling for the national anthem, there are a couple of thousand folks wearing uniforms right now – just like this WWII fighter pilot – who STAND UP, and refuse to “kneel” to anyone or for anything. And the curiosity is, they are STANDING UP for precisely the same thing that these NFL folks claimed inspired their “kneeling” – ALL people’s rights. I rather suspect that NFL spectacle was vastly more about the “news” cameras than it ever was about people’s rights.

    So, take heart Dwayne. The important folks and incidents are still the one’s NOT making the “news”. And there’s still way more of us than there are of them. That is what the “news” is actually confirming.

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  3. Excellent post, Mr. Quinn! And I agree, everyone should read the entire article at Humble Dollar.

    You list Point 1. here on your post. And it’s excellent and salient. But Point 2. of this Humble Dollar article struck me as particularly relevant, especially given your post yesterday, my related comments to it, as well as all the other commenters’ contributions yesterday.

    Point 2. in the article addresses specifically and elegantly the question that everyone (including me) faces just about every day – should I spend now, or save for later? I suspect the comment yesterday from “Big Bald Bobby” was at least somewhat related to that ever-lurking question. And I didn’t answer his question particularly well in my response to him yesterday. But Point 2. of this article does – and as I said, specifically and elegantly. I hope “Big Bald Bobby” sees your post today, Mr. Quinn, and reads the full Humble Dollar article, with particular emphasis on Point 2. – especially the last paragraph.

    But there is another useful, more academic but less elegant, way of dealing with the “spend now, or save for later” question that perpetually haunts us all. It’s the foundational economics concept of “Opportunity Cost”. You may have heard of it if you’ve ever had an intro econ course inflicted upon you. Actually, my parents* drove the Opportunity Cost concept home to me very, very early in life – LONG before I ever studied economics in school. And they drove it home every chance they got. And it’s been the most valuable, useful concept and day-to-day decision-making tool I ever learned.

    The econ textbook definition of Opportunity Cost is: “The Highest Valued Forsaken Alternative”.
    (No wonder economics is called “the dismal science”, right???)

    The far more practical way of understanding and applying the Opportunity Cost concept is to consider any buy/save decision, not in terms of price-tag Dollars (Federal Reserve Coupons), but instead, in terms of the spending you are giving up in the future in order to spend now. An even more practical example is: If you decide to spend that $2 to by a Pepsi out of the machine right now, just understand and always bear in mind that you’ll never ever be able to spend that particular $2 on anything else ever again – the “Forsaken Alternatives”, from the textbook definition.

    That one thought and concept is the point being made in Point 2. of this war pilot’s story, and it’s also the one that has guided my decision making for over 50 years. It’s pretty handy. I didn’t lead anything like a “frugal” self-sacrificing life or lifestyle, any more than this war pilot did. He “splurged” for a fountain pen – and rightly so. I’ve made exorbitant purchases as well, in my time. But I’ve always considered and weighed how much I was gaining from a purchase against how much I was (potentially) giving up in the future for having made the purchase. It’s important and valuable to learn to think in Opportunity Cost terms – “Forsaken Alternatives” – rather than just Dollar-Cost terms.

    *My parents, especially my mother, taught me more and better about how to invest than anyone or anything I ever learned in college or learned from any other source since. Neither of them ever finished even an associates college degree. They were married in early 1943.
    Turns out, quite a few of those World War II era folks were pretty darned smart, in addition to being unfathomably heroic.

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    • Maybe those WWII folks are smart because they understood what was real. Growing up in the Great Depression, understanding self responsibility, and embarrassed by government handouts. The most amazing part to me is that they understood how precious life is but were willing to sacrifice their own life for others.

      Today, the attitude is what can the government give me for free and the hold no value for a human life. In the last 24 hrs there has been a school shooting in CA and a shooting at a football game in NJ. It is not the gun’s fault because it has no feelings. The gun doesn’t care if it sits in a safe, shoots paper targets, or strikes live beings because it is a tool and people make that choice for the gun. But how did we get to the point that more and more people think that is okay to shoot into a crowd at a football game? If they get caught, they will take no responsibility for their actions either because they were wronged according to all the rhetoric that they hear today.

      In WWII, this pilot, knowing that he could die any day, thought about his future. Today people can’t think about tomorrow and are hung up on the past and how they been wronged, some for centuries. They fail to see what they current have and how good they got it. They do not invest in their own future. They expect everything to be given to them for free.

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