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By most accounts, I have enjoyed a good life. I completed high school, college, and graduate school with honors. During a period of intense budget reductions and overall uncertainty within the educational landscape, I secured my first job teaching music after beating out over 400 other applicants. Life hasn’t been perfect or without trial and failure, but simply put, it has been good. I’ve been pink slipped. I’ve pursued paths which only led to misery and disappointment. Great relationships with family, friends, and my wife have been my foundation.
I cannot honestly take credit for the good things in my life. Like most men will readily admit, I would be completely lost without my wife. When I met her at age 17, my life took on an entirely different trajectory. She challenged me to grow in kindness, patience, and generosity, and together we became adults and cast a unified vision for our life together. Because of her, I am hopeful that we will leave an admirable legacy.
Sometimes I marvel at how life has changed over the last 13 years. Yet my wife and I are still the same kids who fell for each other during countless summer walks on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Things have changed, but we haven’t.
It has become clear to me that the most important foundation for financial success, or life success in general, is great relationships. Personal experience hashes this out time and time again, and empirical evidence supports it, too. Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, expounds upon this fascinating truth in the fantastic TED Talk video below.
Waldinger’s study, which commenced in 1938, has tracked the lives of 724 men, carefully observing their work lives, families, and overall happiness. The results are hard to ignore:
So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
We’ve learned three big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. . .
And we know that you can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.
And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.
Relationships Are A Contributor to Financial Health
FinanceSuperhero has always been a blog focused upon Restoring Order to the World of Finance, but in a larger sense, it is also about the pursuit of happiness. At the end of the day, I would readily choose a life of happiness and poverty over one of riches and despair. Vast sums of money maintain no appeal without a quality, happy life and my wife to enjoy it with me.
Quality relationships lead to quality in all areas of life, including finances. So how do the three findings of the Harvard study relate to financial health? I believe the following points tie everything together:
1. Well connected people maintain proper priorities
It has been said that we are often the sum of our five or ten most influential friends and family members. Surround yourself with good company, and you will be in good shape, reason dictates. Extract this principle to a higher level, and your spouse becomes vitally important.
2. Quality influence matters, too
I have a wide network of friends, primarily because my wife taught me to embrace my inner socialite. Yet a big reason for our solid, if unspectacular, financial position is due to the quality influence of our closest friends and family. We have intentionally surrounded ourselves with other people who challenge us while pursuing a similar path.
Without a doubt, my limited life experience shows that these principles are true.
How have your relationships supported your financial well-being?