A Tale of Two Neighbors

Tina Haapala |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Two houses. Almost identical. Two sets of owners. About the same in age and income. Different parts of town. 

Bob planted a small tree and set out some flowers along the walkway. Jeff did not. “Waste of time and money,” Jeff thought, “Better spent on other things.” Jeff was right. The flowers did not add appreciably to the value of the home nor did the tree provide shade. Both required water and effort to maintain.

Jeff scoffed at Bob’s actions. His neighbors, for the most part, did as well. They felt that some grass to keep the dirt from blowing away, and a few shrubs where the grass couldn’t grow, and that was that. It was enough. It did its function. Jeff and his neighbors weren’t trying to win any landscaping awards… they didn’t care. Their time and money went to other, better pursuits. Maybe the mortgage got an extra payment; maybe they spent an extra day at the beach on their vacation. Jeff and his neighbors were practical and prudent.

Still, Bob tended his yard. Most, though not all, of his neighbors did as well.

Birds and bees went flittering in Bob’s neighborhood. There was a little fountain a couple houses down for water, wildflowers in the back for nectar, and trees for birds to perch in. Neighbors waved to each other and chatted across their property lines as they were out tending their yards, exchanging horticultural insights, and maybe a vegetable or two.

Jeff’s neighborhood was less likely to experience a bee sting or have to clean off a bird’s gift from the windshields. Practical, practical as ever. “And,” Bob thought, “Not nearly as pretty.”

Bob and Jeff: Both lived life as they thought was best. Bob giving up the practical for a bit of beauty, economy for ecology. Although it was never guaranteed, in time, Bob’s neighborhood and home gained the practical and the economic as him and his neighborhood were valued by future owners, tenants, and generations. Looking back at their lives they smiled at the beauty they helped blossom.

Jeff wanted and gained that economy at the onset. He and his neighbors didn’t slowly fritter away their time and treasure unless it paid immediate dividends. They had the economy of the moment. It was good enough. Why squander their treasure away on a future that wasn’t guaranteed? Jeff looked back and smiled. Practical, practical. 

From my vantage point (and you are welcome to disagree with me if you’d like), I see both Bob and Jeff represented in Wichita Falls. Seems about 40% of Bob and 60% of Jeff.  A few months back, Bob voted for a particular vision, Jeff voted against. While sad at the outcome, I do understand it.

After all, I’m a practical guy. It helps when I am responsible for managing other’s investments and counseling their financial lives. I just hope that when outsiders look at this good, very good city we have—deciding if they want to make it their own and a home for their businesses—I hope that they appreciate the practical.

But I’m afraid they will go to the beauty.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing