Living the Life You Have Always Imagined
When you know where you’re starting from and where you going, and you mitigate the risks along the way, you can take advantage of opportunities. I would discover in New Zealand just how profoundly that adage can impact one’s life.
I landed in Auckland after an overnight flight. The sun was just rising. Just as I exited baggage claim, half-awake, a frazzled young German man approached me. “Do you want to buy my car?” he asked in a frantic tone. “I make you a very good price!” His anxiety was obvious. He was scheduled to board a flight back to Frankfurt that morning and had not yet sold his 1956 Morris Minor Van.
I listened to my gut and thought, Sure, I will take a look at your car. What do I have to lose? The vintage car had some rust and looked a bit worn, but it was oozing with character. I offered the man $200. He gladly took the money and handed me the keys. As I drove my latest purchase in a place I had always dreamed of traveling, I felt as free as an uncaged parrot. It did not take me long to learn, however, that the only time an old English car does not leak oil is when there is no oil in the engine. Of course the Morris Minor, affectionately identified by Kiwis as a Morrie, had a lot of other quirks and idiosyncrasies. But she had character and style, and I was proud and excited to call her mine.
I fell in love with New Zealand, where I felt so comfortable and at home. Little did I know that just a few years later I would meet a New Zealand woman back in the States who would become my wife and the mother of our two children. When I shared my New Zealand escapade with her and the fact that I had owned a Morris Minor it caught her attention. During her youth, her parents had each owned a Morrie. How could she not fall in love?
It was November 2000. We had just moved to Bend, a town that reminded us of New Zealand because of its beautiful scenery and friendly people. Never before had I been to a locale where almost all the residents had come from somewhere else, having made a conscious decision to live, raise their children or retire here. Within months, I had set up a financial planning office in downtown Bend.
One morning I looked out my new office window and I could not believe my eyes. A Morris Minor! The distinctive front grille was unmistakable. I immediately ran outside to appreciate it firsthand. It was a convertible. I had no idea they made a topless model. Furthermore, I had never seen this British icon in America. It was in beautiful condition. It even had the steering wheel on the English side. It was love at first sight. I looked all around for the owner of the car to no avail. I had an appointment, which was not an everyday occurrence at that time, so I left a note on the windshield that read: I used to own this same car in New Zealand. If you ever want to sell it, please call me. Sadly, by the time my appointment was over, the Morrie was gone.
A year later I was mowing my lawn when my wife told me that someone was on the phone for me. At the other end I heard, “David, this is your lucky day. I am selling my Morris Minor.” It took me a moment to put the pieces together and remember the car I had spotted downtown some 12 months prior. That same day we were in his garage across town with our recently born daughter Sophie. My heart was pumping. Just looking at the car brought back so many wonderful memories from my New Zealand exploits. I knew Jill was recalling her childhood in New Zealand. The owner, John, shared his story. Years earlier he had shipped the car from England to Bend for his Japanese girlfriend, who had named the car Peaches. Now he was retiring as a doctor from St. Charles Hospital in order to sail his boat from Portland to, of all places, New Zealand.
I proceeded to share with him a photo of the Morrie I had previously owned in New Zealand, along with the fact that Jill had taught English in Japan for two years. This was more than a coincidence we thought. John suggested we take Peaches for a spin and even placed Sophie’s car seat in the back. The moment I got behind the right-side steering wheel I felt at home. We drove the car right into our garage, as I knew it was going to be ours. We got out of the car, acknowledged that she had found her new home, and then drove back to make it official.
When we returned to John’s home, he could see the grins on our faces. He proceeded to show us every receipt, from shipping and restoration to replacement parts and labor. He had probably invested more money into the Morrie than she was worth. He expressed how delighted he was to see our adoration for Peaches and how he had been waiting to pass this car on to the right people who would appreciate her. We were those people. Then he pulled out the receipts from the prior year, which did not add up to more than a few thousand dollars. If we simply paid that amount, the car would be ours. In disbelief, I immediately wrote him a check and drove our new family member into her warm new home. She looked so good in our garage.
Peaches, which I drive to work most summer days, has brought a continual stream of serendipity and good fortune into our lives. For the better part of a decade she was the face of my financial practice as her non-ostentatious, adventurous spirit shared a message about the road to financial independence. It was as though she said: Envision your life’s journey. See yourself in the driver’s seat. Make the right turns on your financial journey.
Peaches is a dear friend. I can come home from a long day at work and take her for a spin and all of my concerns evaporate. When we take her on a family ride and park downtown, she attracts a crowd of smiling, curious faces. Peaches is not just another pretty classic car, she is the symbol for me of a plethora of life lessons. Henry David Thoreau wrote: If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. What this means to me is that if you focus on what it is you want in life and if you continually do good, when you least expect it the worthy things in life that motivate you will suddenly appear.
Peaches also offers me some other life lessons:
• Like Peaches, one does not need to be flamboyant or showy to get positive attention.
• If you treat others well, they will treat you well. Peaches recently celebrated her 57th birthday and is still a beauty because she is well maintained and loved.
• There are no accidents in our lives. Everything happens for a purpose. What are the chances of a German tourist passing a car on to me that would come back to me decades later in my new hometown of Bend, after I’d met and married a woman from New Zealand who also has a history with such automobiles?
The biggest lesson Peaches has imparted to me, however, has to do with finances. Here it is:
If you look after your money the way you would an old beloved car, you can live the life you have always imagined.
My experiences with Peaches proved to me that what we think about expands. As you plan your years of financial independence, you must make sure that your financial planning expands with your vision. That means rounding out your retirement income survival kit because, as you already know, failure is not an option.
David Rosell is President of the Rosell Wealth Management in Bend. He is the author of Failure is Not an Option- Creating Certainty in the Uncertainty of Retirement. You may learn more about his book at www.DavidRosell.com or www.Amazon.com. Ask for David’s book at Barnes and Noble and Newport Market in Bend.
Investment advisory services offered through Rosell Wealth Management, a State Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ValMark Securities, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC 130 Springside Drive, Ste 300 Akron, Ohio 44333-2431. 800-765-5201. Rosell Wealth Management is a separate entity from ValMark Securities.