In the late 1970s there was a dinner in Washington D.C., attended exclusively by psychotherapists who came to honor a man they considered the greatest therapist among them.  

After many speeches extolling him, one therapist asked him, “What is the one piece of advice you would give to us, as therapists?”   His answer surprised everyone: “Live below your means.” If you live at — or worse — above your means, he added, “billable hours” drives your practice. Rather than serving your client you sacrifice their best to your bank account.  (Of course, this applies to all professions.)

The same advice, “Live below your means,” also holds for parents. What children need most from their parents is their time.  Time given is attention given. In family life and in marriage, time is love. Deliberately “living below your means” affords time for family dinner, for hours with the children, for walks with your spouse, for family gatherings.  

“Live below your means” is a strategic choice of monumental import that will enrich generations.  Children need their parents’ time more than their money. Time together results in affection, confidence and a great outlook on life and will greatly influence whom they choose to be their spouse. Real wealth is time for what is most important.  

Seeming to give their children less, parents are really giving them a gift for which they will be eternally grateful.

Living below your means has another effect:  It grows the family bank account!

The families live below their means will rebuild the nation while those who live above their means will impoverish the nation.

Pat Fagan is the director of the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative at The Catholic University of America. He is publisher and editor of Marripedia.org. Republished from the MARRI blog with permission.

Patrick F. Fagan

Dr. Pat Fagan has been a grade school and college teacher, a therapist specializing in child, family and marital issues, executive director of a small think tank, a Senate staffer, the Deputy Assistant...