Nolan shook his great uncle’s hand after breakfast as he went off to work. They wouldn’t see each other for at least another year. Once he was out the door Nolan asked more questions of his aunt. She seemed to be excited to share with him about the way they lived. He asked why they needed money if the farm provided most everything plus money. She told him that they about half of their money in high interest CDs. Every hundred thousand dollars would earn them five to ten thousand dollars a year of extra income. They got a few groceries every week too and the rest they gave away, some to church, some to charity or community needs and some went to buy presents for family and friends.
Nolan had no idea they were so rich. People called Nolan and his family rich but he never understood it. His dad was good at earning money and good at paying bills, so that had plenty of things. But they didn’t have money like this, a hundred thousand dollars had never seen the bank account his parents had. This little farm wasn’t worth much but it covered all of his aunt and uncle’s expenses and they didn’t owe anyone money for anything. They drove simple cars and lived in a simple house but they had eight hundred thousand dollars earning them over fifty thousand dollars a year. Meanwhile his uncle worked for only about thirty-five thousand a year. They could easily retire when the time came and it was still ten years out.
His aunt told him not to tell anyone they had that kind of money. It was rude to talk about money for some reason. Next Nolan asked how they learned to live that way. It seemed very different from how most people lived. Nolan’s aunt invited him to play a game of checkers and said the game would answer his question. Nolan began to advance his first row of pieces but his aunt advanced more slowly. She placed a backup piece behind each advancing checker. When Nolan’s checkers reached the front line of conflict, he couldn’t jump any of his aunt’s checkers and she picked him to pieces one by one. The game only lasted about two minutes.
Nolan’s aunt explained to him why he had lost. “You see boy, nothing could get to me because I protected the most vulnerable checkers. I only advanced into new territory when it was safe to do so. Meanwhile, you brought the opportunities for the greatest advancement right to me. When you couldn’t get me, I could get you. Life is just like that. You don’t go get animals if you don’t have a fence and food. So before you get the chickens you create a system to provide for the chickens, or cows or any animal. You start at the foundational things. Make sure the basics are covered before you move on to the next stage of life. You know boy, many years ago the economy went bad and several people lost their farms. They paid for them with credit, they owed money on their cars and everything they owned. When the factory shut down, they couldn’t make those payments and they lost everything and had to move to a new town. Your uncle worked at that same factory, but because we had covered our bases, that trouble brought us an opportunity to advance. We had ten acres back then. Your uncle went to work as a mechanic without missing a beat and we had enough saving to buy that 40 acres next door for half what it should have cost.”
Nolan had a great morning picking his aunt’s brain about their system. During the process she also got Nolan to do all the day’s chores. He tended the animals, cleaned the house and packed up all his stuff after he did his own laundry for the first time. It was a great day, even without the alone time. Soon Nolan’s dad arrived after his morning sales call in Jackson. The three of them sat down for sandwiches with garden fresh lettuce and tomatoes as well as homemade pickles. It was all so good and then off they went home. Nolan hadn’t seen his house in two weeks and really hadn’t missed it that much but off they went back to the real world.