Author: Marty Moore, CFP®
China has 1.43 billion people, a whopping 18.5% of the world’s population. India is not far behind with 17.9%. The U.S is the 3rd most populous nation but far behind China and India with 329 million people.
Here it is in graphical form:
Economic theory would tell you that a country’s economic output is a function of many factors, none more important though than population. Makes sense, right? After all, in general, more people can produce less than fewer people. Other inputs like technology, plant and equipment, availability and access to material and resources are important. Climate and weather trends also play a part. But no other ingredient is more influential as labor. So, you would expect China and India to have super economies relative to the rest of the world.
The U.S., however, far surpasses any other nation in economic output, including China. Here’s the picture:
The U.S. produces 50% more than China with one-fourth the population. Amazing.
These kinds of data are interesting to me, but not to everyone, I realize. It might even be a complete bore to some. So, my point is to not bore you with WHY the U.S. has the most productive economy in the world.
My point is that this piece of data leads me to thinking about how thankful I am to live in the U.S. and to enjoy all that our country has to offer. While I’m far from a world-traveler, and cannot pretend to know what’s it’s like to live in another country, I can’t imagine there’s another place I’d rather live.
Spending and giving for Christmas…
With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas just ahead, we’re in the “season” for giving thanks, and for giving. According to the National Retail Federation, forecasted spending on Christmas this year in the U.S. will top $700 billion with the average family spending over $1,000.
It’s a wonderful time of the year; although, I guess I wonder why there is actually a season for giving and giving thanks. Shouldn’t it be daily, especially the giving thanks part?
Anyway, I sometimes think about some of the gifts I received as a kid: a new bike one year, a new baseball glove another year.
I remember racing down the stairs one Christmas morning to find a new bike by the Christmas tree, the shine of the bike reflecting the lights of the tree. Forget the wrapped presents under the tree, I had to immediately head outside and hop on. My mom quickly noticed something wasn’t quite right though. It didn’t seem right that I was leaning so far forward. After some quizzical pondering by a dozen or more family members watching as I sped up and down the street, it was determined that the handlebars were facing forward not backward. It seems that my dad might have been reading the assembly directions upside down the night before. Maybe the eggnog might have had something to do with it too.
I remember the bike, but I remember most the fun we had laughing at my dad and the funny looking bike. We still laugh about it.
Baseball was my sport growing up so nothing was more wonderful to a kid than a new glove. To this day, I can vividly remember the rich, earthy smell of the brand new leather. I had hoped for a new glove for the upcoming little league season and I had a particular model in mind. But when I opened the box it wasn’t the one I wanted. It was, in fact, a nicer, more expensive model.
My dad was partners with Tom in a sporting goods store so the cost of the glove, even though it was a more expensive model, was less than regular retail. What I later learned though was that Tom insisted that my dad give me the upgraded model. Tom even covered the additional cost.
I remember the glove, of course, and it was a proud moment for me when I trotted out to the mound to pitch the first game of the year. But what I now think about most is the kindness and thoughtfulness of Tom. I didn’t even know him all that well and we were not really close when I was a kid even though he was my dad’s business partner. It was purely an act of kindness; a gesture made from the goodness of his heart.
More than the gifts themselves, it’s the wonderful memories that these gifts continue to bring that I remember most.
The most memorable ways to spend money…
We all enjoy the gifts we receive. But we enjoy more the gifts we give. Elizabeth Dunn, author of: Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, found that spending money in the following ways was most likely to increase your overall happiness:
- Buying experiences
- Treating yourself (on occasion)
- Buying extra time
- Spending on others
I have a hard time deciding every year what present to give each of my three daughters at Christmas. I’m not compelled to give them anything, of course. And they don’t necessarily expect a gift. But I want to do it. I just don’t know WHAT to give them. Several years ago I was completely frustrated and could think of nothing so I decided I would give them a gift card. So creative, so thoughtful, right? Ugh!
But it wasn’t just any gift card. It was a personalized gift card. I can take any picture I want and put it on the Visa gift card. I didn’t save the one from the first year but here’s this year’s version.
Yes, it’s embarrassing – to me AND my daughters. But that’s the point. The more embarrassing it is, the goofier the picture, the better. It’s now a tradition – something I do every year. My daughters hurriedly dig past the candy and other knickknacks down to the bottom of their stocking to pull out the latest photographic work of art.
Years from now they won’t remember what they bought with the gift card but they have already told me they will always remember the gift cards with the crazy pictures of their dad. (Being a parent is rough sometimes. Oh, the sacrifices we make!)
The greatest gift…
I’m guessing not just me struggles to find the perfect gift. You too may have this challenge. But when you think about it, it really doesn’t matter what gift you might choose. What really matters is you want to do it, and that’s a wonderful thing. It shows that you care about someone – and that they care about you.
Yes, there are many, many things in this day and time that don’t make sense. It can be a crazy world at times. But at Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, and all the holidays you may celebrate, we have reason to give the greatest gift of all – ourselves. Because, if you ask me what I want for Christmas, my answer will always be you, my family and my friends. They are my most cherished gifts.
So here’s to great memories…
I wish you the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons, one filled with long-lasting, wonderful memories with family and friends.
MartyInvesting & Saving