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Today is my 70th birthday. I don’t feel like I am 70, but I am. Before my father (your grandfather) died in 2016, he asked me to write to you about mistakes I have made in my life, and lessons that I have learned. Obviously, I have a problem with procrastination about this project, but on my 70th birthday, I cleared my calendar and took a day off from work to keep my promise to my father. Better late than never.
Know that I love all ten of you, exactly the way that you are and exactly the way that you are not. I am not suggesting that you need fixing – you are pretty doggone perfect in my eyes. My personalized license plate for the last twenty years is “UNCLE G” and even though most of you had already graduated from high school over ten years ago, I have kept that license plate.
The basic rule is to spend less than you earn. If you do that, your life will be so much easier. So, what to do with the extra money?
- You can get an IRA and put up to $2,000.00 a year in it. I suggest an “Index Fund” from Vanguard or another low commission brokerage. Talk to Uncle Bruce about this.
- You should give to wherever you are spiritually fed, be that a church, or a nonprofit that is close to your heart.
- Slowly build up a reserve. Ideally, you will end up with 3 months of living expenses.
- Avoid credit card hell. The best “return on investment” or ROI is to use a debit card instead of a credit card. Keep a small balance on a credit card to show a positive repayment history but keep it under control.
- Don’t do what I did. Don’t declare bankruptcy.
- Buy a home when you are able.
The most important thing in relationships is to avoid criticism. A study of newly-wed couples showed that if there was not at least 4 “praises” for every 1 criticism, the marriage was usually doomed.
Learn how to express yourself without criticizing your partner. And don’t accept a blizzard of criticisms. How do you do that? Well, I’ve been divorced twice, so I may not be the best person to give advice. However, I suggest that you look to your parents who have managed to get their needs met, without being a door mat.
When your partner does something that you like, praise them. Catch them doing something “right” and reinforce it.
Walk a lot. Keep moving. I find that the exercise target on my Apple Watch to be a great help to me.
I have some bad news. It is increasingly hard to lose weight as you get older. Uncle Bruce can give you advice about that.
My suggestion is that if your weight is unacceptable to you, weigh yourself now and commit to not go any higher than that weight. (The obvious exception is if you are one of my nieces and you get pregnant. This is a world that I know very little of.)
If you have an addiction issue, call me 24/7 at work at (928) XXX-XXXX or on my cell at (928) YYY-YYYY. I have 21 years of sobriety from alcohol. (My last drink was 1/4/01. My first day of sobriety was 1/5/01.) If you would ever like to go to an AA meeting for yourself or to check it out for a friend, let me know.
Where do you want to live?
This is a great time to get out and see the USA. I am so glad that in 1992 when I was 40, Janet and I moved to Flagstaff. I hated the Phoenix area, and we moved pretty quickly after she graduated from Law School. When we arrived here, an older lawyer told me that I would earn less money but would live longer and happier. True on all three counts. I am so glad to live in Flagstaff.
But I wonder about other choices I made. In 1977, I missed the deadline to apply for the Colorado Bar exam by a couple of days. What if I had applied a few months later? There was a job that I could have had as a non-lawyer to sign people up in rural Colorado for oil and gas leases. What if I had taken that job?
In 1991, I took the Washington State Bar Exam even though I had a strong hunch that I should have taken the Oregon Bar Exam. If I had passed the Oregon Bar Exam, Janet and I would likely have moved to Sisters and I would be practicing law in Bend.
We never know about our choices. All I can say is that I did what I did and embrace that.
Of note, Uncle Bruce moved from Iowa to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Mountain Home, Arkansas, and now lives in Flagstaff. Aunt Nancy moved from Glendale to Vail, Arizona. Uncle Carl moved from Flagstaff to Madras, Oregon, to two different homes in Redmond, Oregon. Moving is okay. Find a place you love to live in. You deserve that.
What do you want to do?
My father and I had an epic amount of conflict. (Ask your parents about that.) He was a Computer Science Professor at Arizona State University. Of course, I went to ASU’s hated rival, The University of Arizona, despite never visiting their campus. And I would not be a computer science major, I was a math major.
True story. In 1977, I was living in Albuquerque, working out of a law office at Wyoming and Central Avenue. A couple of miles away at Louisiana and Central Avenue, there was a tiny computer start-up with a dozen employees headed by a drop-out from Harvard. Perhaps you have heard of Microsoft and Bill Gates? They were in Albuquerque before moving to the Seattle area.
While I was in Albuquerque, I was working as a Law Clerk, doing research. One attorney wanted to start his own version of KFC and offered for me to take over his law firm. I didn’t.
I lived in New Jersey for several months, and they were ready to admit me to the New Jersey bar. My girlfriend and I broke up before I could be sworn in.
Several months later, I was in another attorney’s office. He had just gotten a call from the District Court asking if he would accept a court appointment. He asked me if I wanted to take the court appointment. If I had agreed, my life would have taken another route. My practice took off in Phoenix after I accepted my first four court appointments.
These were all major choice points. It is what it is. Embrace your own path. Funny how these things work out.
You have all been blessed with great parents. Take advantage of spending time with them. Visit them frequently. Listen respectfully to their advice. (I did not say “follow” their advice; I said “listen respectfully” to their advice, and be open to considering it as they have your best interests at heart.)
Adore your grandparents. They will be gone before you know it. When they are gone, they are gone.
I don’t have children of my own, so I have only a little bit of advice. I was a spirited child. Actually, I was a very spirited child. My advice is that when you catch one of your kids doing something right, quickly praise them.
Keeping Your Word
Before he died, my father told me that he likes my writing style and asked if I would write this letter to all of you. I agreed. Well, my father died over six years ago. I kept putting it off. When you make a promise, keep your word and do it sooner rather than six years later.
Uncle GaryPublished in