I'm going to apologize for this sermon, but after watching the "Occupy Wall Street" protests for the last several weeks I felt it necessary to say something.
Financial freedom is one form of success. To many, financial success means wealth. To others it means having your needs met while living within your means.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a common question I ask the young people that work for me at the Space Education Center. I see many of them pause, then rattle off careers usually associated with high incomes. When pressed, many will admit their true passion lies elsewhere. Income is the reason they dismiss following their dreams and passions.
I believe happiness is following your dreams and talents. Happiness is surrounding yourself with good friends and a loving family. Happiness is living within your means and leaving something at the end of each month to tuck away in the bank for a rainy day. Happiness is good health.
When I was 13 years old my father took me aside and explained the financial facts of life to me.
"We don't have the money to send you on a mission or pay for college," he explained in a matter of fact voice. "If you want those things you'll have to pay for them yourself."
I got my first job at 13 working on the grounds crew at the county fairgrounds. At 14 I worked as a janitor at the Dairy Queen down the road from my home in Rapid City, South Dakota. At 15 I worked as a busboy at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant. At 16 I worked at McDonalds. I saved every nickle and dime. I drove a 1965 Rambler Station Wagon. It had troubles climbing hills. I had to get a good run to get up the hill to school, and even then crested the hill at 10 miles an hour with a line of cars honking behind me. I had the money to buy something much nicer but didn't. I knew what I had to do to achieve my goals.
I paid for my own mission. I had $75.00 in the bank waiting for me when I returned. I worked my way through five years of college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and BYU. I was also lucky enough to qualify for a Pell Grant which helped as well. I worked twenty hours per week as a janitor in the Clyde, MARB, and Widsoe Buildings on BYU campus. My last year at BYU I worked nights as a janitor in the Provo Temple and student taught during the day. I graduated from BYU with $125.00 in the bank, which held me through until my I got my first paycheck from the Alpine School District.
I drove a junker or had no car at all. I lived in the cheapest apartments and found ways to save on food costs. I didn't mind. It is what I expected and believe it or not, I was happy. I had enough to pay my bills, tuition, books, room and board with a bit left over for the occasion night out.
I'm writing this not to brag and say this is how everyone should live - not so. It was what I had to do. Your circumstances may be different. What I am saying is that life doesn't owe you a thing. You get what you work for. Stop borrowing if at all possible. Live within your means. Save when you can. Look for a career which will allow you to achieve your dreams and use your talents. You'll find a way to make it work.
And to the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters, I again repeat. Life doesn't owe you a thing. While everyone else your age is out protesting, get dressed up, polish your shoes and go get one of the jobs they won't take because it's beneath them.
A simple life is a gift from God.