Whenever I see #relationshipgoals on Facebook or Instagram, the first thing that comes to mind for me is my grandparents. Maybe it’s because my grandfather still insists on calling my grandmother his “girlfriend” even after almost seven decades together. Maybe it’s because they wrote each other EVERY DAY for two years while my grandfather was serving in the Army during the Korean War — talk about old-world romance! Maybe it’s because I’ve watched them consistently stand by each other in sickness and in health. There are too many reasons to count.
This past weekend, as my family celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday, I couldn’t help but marvel at all the people their love has created: 4 children, 9 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren … and counting. Their love has stood the test of time, and despite the challenges they’ve faced, it’s never lost its bloom.
So what does 68 years of marriage teach you about money and relationships? My grandparents and I explored that question recently. Here are some of the tips they shared, as well as some things I’ve learned by observing their relationship over the last 31 years:
· Generosity is the Heartbeat of Any Budget: My grandparents — the most generous people I’ve ever met — showed me from an early age that generosity is a lifestyle founded in the belief that the money you have was never yours to begin with, so you should share what you can with others in need. I was deeply affected by watching them pay for me to come home for a family member’s funeral when I couldn’t afford it, or as they quietly approached struggling family members offering to help however they could.
Tip: Make generosity a regular part of your budget. You might even want to start a giving fund so the money is available when you meet a person or cause who needs it.
· It Pays to Save for the Future: My grandfather worked for the Veterans Administration (VA) for most of his career. When he started, he was asked to encourage other VA employees to purchase 30-year Series E Savings Bonds for $1.25. He and my grandmother were raising three young daughters at the time, but he knew he couldn’t encourage co-workers to purchase something he wouldn’t purchase himself. He began buying these bonds with each paycheck. Now that my grandparents have been retired for nearly 30 years, his last savings bond will finally mature in 2021. During that time, these bonds have allowed them the flexibility to do the things they enjoy, be even more generous in retirement than they could during their working years, and, as they’ve gotten older, allowed them to live in a place that suited their needs for community and medical care.
Tip: It can be tempting to put your future in the backseat while you handle today’s more urgent expenses, but even a small amount can make a big difference if you save it consistently over time. Take my grandfather’s advice and start the habit of saving today — even if you just start small.
· Set the Pace Together: My grandmother had hip replacement surgery early on in their retirement which made it difficult for her to walk. One of my fondest childhood memories was watching my grandfather open the car door for my grandmother and walk arm and arm with her to wherever they were going. He slowed his pace to match hers so they could always walk together. They did the same thing in their financial life, setting a course together and following it every step of the way.
Tip: To create a fulfilling life together, you have to know where you are going and set a pace that allows both of you to contribute and succeed. Need help setting the destination and the pace? Check out this blog article.
· Kindness Wins: Shortly before my husband and I got engaged, I called my grandparents to tell them we were moving in together. I’m not going to lie — I put that call off as long as I could because I knew they wouldn’t agree with this move. Their response took me completely by surprise. They told me, “You know we don’t agree with what you are doing, but you also have to know that doing this doesn’t change our love for you — nothing can change that.” And they were right, nothing changed. We never discussed it again. I learned in that moment that true love doesn’t stop when you disagree. It’s in those moments of disagreement when you decide to treat one another with kindness that you show your love most purely.
Tip: Being kind is more important than being right. When you disagree, instead of digging in to your position, take a moment to breathe, listen, and treat your partner with kindness. Remind them of the things that won’t change just because you don’t see eye-to-eye on this issue.
· Love Shows Up: I can’t remember a single major event of my childhood where my grandparents weren’t present. They even came to my school for events designed for mothers and fathers when my parents were working. No matter what I was doing, I always knew I had their steadfast support (and usually a date for ice cream afterwards). So much of being a good partner goes back to just showing up — being present and supportive from the sidelines and bearing witness to those big and small moments.
Tip: How can you show up for the people that matter most to you? Can you tag along on a business trip? Stand in the back during an important presentation? Join them for their favorite hobby, even if it’s not something you would normally choose to do? Ask your partner, “How would you like for me to show up for you?” You might be surprised by what you learn.
· Adventure is Worth Every Penny: My grandparents have traveled to over 30 countries and to every state except Idaho. In retirement, travel became their primary vocation, whether it was an overseas mission trip, a tropical cruise, or a road trip to Alaska in their camper van. They have enjoyed getting to see new places, meet new people, and discover how people live around the world. Their wanderlust has been contagious: They taught me experiences are worth more than anything money can buy.
Tip: You don’t have to wait until you’re retired to start your adventures. Make travel a priority today. Check out this blog article for some frugal travel ideas.
Thanks for all that you taught me, Grandma and Grandpa! I’m so grateful for you both!
The conversation will continue this week on Instagram and Facebook on Thursday, May 30, at 8pm (Central). I’ll be releasing a video of my grandmother and I talking about travel, marriage, and how to make adventure possible even on a small budget.