My Conservative Life
Conservatism is not just politics with me. I try to live my life using conservative principles. This applies to social, economic and religious and environmental aspects of my life. People have a mis-conception about conservatism. They often think it is about preserving the old ways. That is only one interpretation. A better way to understand conservatism is from a philosophical point of view. I hear some describe their views as fiscal conservative and social liberal. To me, that is incompatible. Conservatism should be applied to all aspects of our lives. It will lead to a happier and healthier result. A life that is well lived.
- April 2020
I have always believed in living a simple life. Never excesses, as with eating, or drinking or partying or anything. In my 60 plus years of existence, I never thought of living in a mansion or driving an expensive luxury automobile. I made enough money throughout my career and could probably afford one.
That is one aspect of conservative principles. No waste. Why buy an expensive car when an average car will do. As an engineer, I always look for value. To me, a car is a form of transportation. Especially living in the suburbs, it is a necessary item. Therefore, I have always owned cars. I usually buy a car brand new and drive it till it is too old to be repaired. This usually mean 150K miles or more and about 7 years. After getting married and having kids, I discovered the minivan is the most economical car to own, to drive and that carry the most people and goods. I have been driving minivans since the 1980s. Right now, I an driving my 5th minivan.
Savings - a Conservative Trait
Ever since my first job out of college, I saved. At the time, IBM offered every employee the option to buy stock in the company up to 10% of your salary. I signed up and a few years later, when the 401K program was instituted under the Reagan administration, I signed up as well. That portion of my income was deducted and I just lived within my means.
About 5 years later, I had enough to put a downpayment on my own house. I sold my IBM stocks and was able to buy a modest home at the age of 27. It was a good financial decision. Instead of paying rent, I had my own place while receiving some tax benefits. A few years after that, I got married and had my first child. I transferred to another IBM Division and the company helped me relocate to Yorktown NY.
I sold the house for a small profit and bought a house in Westchester which at the time was almost twice the purchase price of the house I sold. The cost of living was much higher in Westchester than in Dutchess county. It turned out to be the best move in my career. I also stayed in that same house for the next 36 years, till today.
It had 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bath and 2200 sq. feet of space on half an acre of property. I had my in-laws living with us and helping with taking care of my daughter. We had two more kids over the next 8 years. The house was sufficient for the 7 of us. We had looked into moving to a larger place but decided to stay put. Financially, we were able to make the move but we ended up staying and just did some renovation. In other word, we conserved.
I always thought, even if I win the lottery, I would not be comfortable living in a large house like some of my relatives. It is just not us. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Everyone is different. They should do what they feel is right for them. That is the beauty of our system. We have a choice in our own lives.
Some Other Aspects...
Conservatism in a broader sense also covers how I live and dress and furnishings. I tend to dress conservative. IBM did have a dress code but it was much relaxed in the Research division. I still dress in shirt and khaki pants. I also prefer to wear a comfortable shoe over style. My shoes are very reasonably priced and I often get them on sale in a discount outlet.
Our house is furnished with simple furnishings. No designer brands or exotic antiques. For example, my two tables, a square kitchen table and a large round dining table are both made with butcher block maple wood. They have been in my family for 40 years.
My two most prized possessions are a diamond ring which I bought for my wife when we first got married 38 years ago and my Rolex watch which I received as a gift in 1999 on the 25th anniversary of my career with IBM, a quarter century member.
I am a strong believer in protecting the environment. This is also a trait of conservatives. Conserve our resources. In the home, one conservation efforts is to reduce our electricity usage. I was an early proponent of replacing lighting with LED.
Knowing technology, I see the overreaching benefit of LED lighting which though a little more expensive to buy up front, but will save electricity bill for years to come. The economics is just too good to pass up. The same goes with some major appliances. Most of our electricity use in the home is from AC and Refrigerator and washer dryer. It pays to upgrade to a more efficient system.
In my home, I replaced my window mounted AC units with a Mitsubishi heat pump. This is so much more efficient and it gives cooling in the summer while supplement heating in the winter.
Our local Con Ed utility company provides a monthly report of my electricity usage as compared to my neighbors. I am much better compared to my neighbors in saving electricity by as much as 30%. This not only saves me money but contributes to reducing my carbon footprint.
My property has a good size garden and lawn. I and my wife have always done our own landscape and mowed our own lawns. Even though we can well afford to hire someone, like most of our neighbors, we decided to do it ourselves. The same goes with shoveling snow off our driveway in the winter. I just take my time and shovel using a hand shovel, no snow blowers. I do it for 15 minutes, go back inside and warm up and repeat until it is done. It is exercise and I don't mind the work.
Being an engineer by training, I always like to figure things out, and find out how it works. As you know, owning a home have its challenges. There is always something that needs fixing. Plumbing, and appliances, and exteriors...
In my house of 36 years, I have build a patio deck, assembled an aluminum shed, build a greenhouse, added a deck to an above ground swimming pool (no longer in existence), installed an automatic garage door opener, and added a sky light in my family room. I've also replaced the flooring on the first level, and replaced parts of the driveway that have been worn-out.
My most proudest work is saving a storage shed that had been collapsed from snow. I wrote about it here in this article.
As you can see, part of my conservative up bringing is trying to perform as much maintenance I can. This saved me money over the years.
My latest hobby since retirement is to take up some simple woodworking projects. So far, I have made a slab picnic table, two benches and a bunch of log stools or end tables. These logs were rescued from our town recycling center.
I have also made walking sticks from branches I've found.
Educating My Kids...and My Education
My three kids all grew up in Yorktown. They attended local schools and learned about the Christian faith at our local church of St. Patricks. My two eldest kids attended SUNY Binghamton. My youngest son attended U. of Washington all State Schools. They are more economical and provided excellent training for their chosen careers.
I myself went to CCNY when it was free. I got a BS in engineering in 1974. Later, while working at IBM Research, I went back to school at night and got a MS in Computer Science with NYU. All tuition was paid by IBM as part of their professional development program.
The best part of my schooling was what I learned on the Fencing team. Today, I am giving back by volunteering to serve as an Alumni board member. I've also been involved with helping the Women's Varsity Fencing Team. My story is documented here.
This article is a snapshot of my conservative life. Conservatism is about a view and attitude towards living. It just fit with my political beliefs of a conservative. A belief that self reliance, and individual liberty is the best path to happiness and prosperity.
A belief in a higher power that guided us and protected us as a nation.
I am not trying to tell anyone how to live their lives. I can only offer my experiences and let the reader make up their own minds.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Jack Lee