Avoiding the Downside of Saving

Like all good silver linings, saving often comes with a storm cloud. Too often, people fall into the trap of forgetting to live while they are digging out of debt. Once you get into the habit of spending every spare cent to pay down debt, retirement, or a college fund, it gets easy to ignore the present in favor of the future. The downside–or potential downside–to saving, debt repayment, and frugality is a deferred life. Whether it’s deferred fun, deferred education, or deferred personal development, it can be detrimental to you and your relationships.

Changing Reality

Changing Reality

My wife and I have had this conversation. We’re in the groove on our debt repayment. We are making excellent progress right now. Since we’ve got it all automated, it leaves us time to plan, dream and consider our options. We’ve been looking at converting a hobby into a business venture. Doing so will involve a $1-2000 investment. If we can make it work, my wife will be able to quit her tolerable, comfortable, soul-sucking job within a couple of years. If we can’t, she will still have moved her hobby into an advanced–and more fun–level. That’s a win either way, but our initial reaction is to postpone. We already know we’ll have to postpone the purchases until we’ve saved for it, because we refuse debt in all forms. Our initial reaction has been to postpone saving, effectively deferring development with long-term potential to improve our lives until our debt is completely gone.

We’ve been discussing this, off and on, for months. We have finally decided to start saving, but only when we have money that is purely extra and we’ve tucked money into all of our other savings goals. It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to be an acceptable compromise given our situation and values.

Regardless of your situation, it is important to remember not to defer your life while you tackle your debt or savings goals.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

3 comments

Don’t Screw Future-You

A conversation between me and my temporally displaced self.
Future Me: Excuse me, Jason?
Me: Yes?
FMe:
Me: May I ask what that was for?
FMe: Of course.
Me: What was that for, jerk?
FMe: That was payback for all of the hell you have put me through.
Me: What?!?  I’ve never even met you, before.
FMe: Of course you have.  I am future-you, and I’m sick of getting screwed by past-me, that is, you.
Me: Huh?
FMe: Listen close.  You’re not  the sharpest brick in the box and I don’t want to explain this twice.
Me: ???
FMe: A long time ago, when you first met our wife, you were dumb.
Me: I don’t appreciate….
FMe: Shut up.  I was dumb then, too.  Remember?  You…err…we bought a new truck, built an addition on our…err…your…err…whomever’s house, got married in the same year.  On top of many other expensive decisions.  Do your recall?
Me: Yes, I do.  So what?
FMe: If that wasn’t enough, you and your smoking-hot bride are still shopping like you’re rich. You drive a new car.  Your kids wear new clothes.  You’ve got a house full of new furniture.  How did you pay for all of that?
Me: Naturally, I charged it.  Zero payments, zero interest for a year!  Pretty smart, huh?
FMe: What happens in a year?
Me: I don’t know.  I’ve got a full year to figure that out.
FMe:  I’ll tell you what happens!  Future-you, that’s me, gets screwed!   Your raise didn’t come through.  You had a baby. The truck broke down.  Your wife took maternity leave.  A roommate moved out.  You took a loss in the stock market.  You didn’t plan!  You had no savings to cover any of those problems because you were too busy servicing debt to pay for your current life.
Me: How was I to know?
FMe:  Life happens!  You never know what is coming next.  You need to plan and save for what might happen.  Otherwise, you’ll just accumulate more debt to be serviced by yours-truly.  That is not acceptable.
Me:  So?  What are you going to do about it?
FMe:
Me: Really?  Again?
FMe:  I’m struggling to pay your debt. Your son starts college next year, but you’ve left me completely unable to help.  Your daughter wants to get married in a couple of years, but the Father-of-the-Bride can’t afford a tux.  My wife, your beatiful bride, wants a vacation that I can’t afford.   You’ve screwed me, dude.
Me: I’m sorry.  What can I do to fix it?
FMe: Buy me dinner, first.
Me: Huh?!?!?
FMe: Stop the excess spending. Spend less than you make, for a change.  No credit.
Me: None?
FMe: None.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Only spend what you can afford. Budget.  Pay off those nasty bills.  Don’t leave me hanging.
Me: So, what you’re saying is that, if I don’t have the money, I shouldn’t buy it?
FMe: Exactly.  That’s the path to wealth, freedom, and financial independence.  Live in the real world.
Me: Gee, thanks, Future-Me!  Now I know.
FMe: And knowing is half the battle.

What would your future-you have to say to you?

Enhanced by Zemanta
No comments yet

Future Dreams

While jogging with my wife a few days ago, we had a conversation that we haven’t had in years. We discussed our dreams.

It’s an important conversation for couples to have. What are your hopes? What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in 10 years? In 20? In 50? Planning for the future gives you a map for the present.

My wife and I hadn’t had this conversation in years. A few days ago, we did. Our life-goals are simple and achievable.

I want to leave the corporate world and support my family with writing and the training classes I do. I want a chunk of land outside of any major metropolitan area, but close enough for the entertainment and shopping. I want enough land to expand my classes on my own property, relying on no one.

My wife wants enough land to have some horses. It was unspoken, but I think she wants my goals to take off so they can support her goals, too.

We want a comfortable retirement and we want to help the kids with college.

We’re a bit behind the game for college funding. That’s ok, though. There is nothing wrong with a kid working his way through college and learning those life lessons.

We are also behind on the retirement. But, if I can support us doing the things I love, I don’t need $X million. Retirement isn’t a cessation of activity, it is taking the time to do the things you love on your own schedule. If writing a book while sitting on my private range is enough to fund our life, that’s the perfect retirement.

Enhanced by Zemanta
No comments yet

How to Have a Perfect Life

A few years ago, my wife and I were discussing life improvement, the options in front of us, and our future goals. She said she felt trapped by the scope of our goals and didn’t know where to start. That led to a discussion on

goal

goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

achieving our goals, which led to this.

Examine your life. Take stock of every aspect of your life. What pleases you? What upsets you? What do you do that adds no value to your life?  Or worse, removes value?  What do you do that adds the most value? What would you like to change? Eliminate? Improve? Count the small things. Nothing is insignificant. Write it all down and be specific.

Analyze your list. Are there any obvious patterns? Is there a single thread that is making you miserable or affecting multiple other items? Would eliminating 1 factor improve 90% of the rest? Is there a bad job or a toxic relationship ruining your happiness? Be honest and be critical.

What are your dreams? Where would you like to be in six months? A year? 5? 10? How would you like to retire? When? Write it all down. This is now your life plan.

Set goals. Set concrete, definable goals. Set goals that have an obvious success point. When you reach your goal, you want to be able to point it out. “Lose weight” is not a goal. “Lose 50 pounds in the next year” is a measurable, definable, concrete goal. Set incremental goals to reach your larger goals and, more importantly, your dreams.

Here’s an example:

Dream: Retire at 50.

  • Incremental Goal: Get a 10% raise within 6 months
  • Incremental Goal: Eliminate debt within 3 years
  • Incremental Goal: Max out 401k contribution
  • Incremental goal: Save 150,000 within 10 years
  • Incremental Goal: Save 45k each year after that.
  • Retire

When you are setting up your goal plan, make sure to include the analyzed items mentioned earlier. These are the things that will make today happier for you.

Now, you have examined your life. You have analyzed the results. You’ve gathered your dreams and compiled a goal plan based on your hopes, dreams, goals and desires. What’s next?

We’re going to take a page from David Allen. It’s time to Get Things Done. What do you have to do next to reach your goals? What is the next step? Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the scope of the entire list. Select one single item from your plan and look for the one single next step to make on the path to that goal.

Going back to the retirement goal plan, the next step towards a 10% raise could be researching salaries for your job description in your area to give you ammunition in the meeting with your boss. It could be updating your resume to hunt for a better paying job, or even just studying up on some resume tips.

If you want to run a marathon next year, the next step is to start walking every day to train your body.

If you want to improve communication with your spouse, the next step is probably to let her know.

If you want to eliminate debt, the next step may be setting up a budget or canceling unnecessary services like cable.

Every goal has a path leading to it. If that’s not true, you haven’t defined a concrete measurable goal.

Examine your life. Analyze your situation. Know WHAT you want. Know what you want to change. Set goals to get there, one step at a time. Take a single step towards your goals.

Then take another.

What are you doing to reach your goals and improve your life?

Enhanced by Zemanta
2 comments