Money Doesn’t Matter. Until it Does.

money matters

[As part of our weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com – a fellow blogger who retired at 43!]

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My cover as a blogger was blown last year when a story about us went viral.

I knew something was wrong when the blog went down. When it finally came back up, I had over 30,000 page visits and it was still before noon. On that day, we weren’t so anonymous anymore.

We then started getting texts from friends and relatives:

Hey, you’re on Yahoo!

You have a million dollars? What???? Huh??

To my surprise, it turned out to be a much less painless experience than I had assumed. No one asked us for money. No one treated us any differently. I was hoping that the article would trigger some interesting conversations about money, but that didn’t happen either.

Life moved on. Except for one person who did want to talk money.

Aunt K Loves Her Job!

One family member was excited to learn about our secret lives. The first conversation took place last year when we had the big publicity. It went something like this:

  • Aunt K: That’s so awesome that you’re planning to retire! Congrats!
  • Me: Thanks! How about you? At what age do you see yourself retiring?
  • Aunt K: Not any time soon. I absolutely love my job. I’d do it for free! I’d like to retire, but probably not until 65.
  • Me: That’s wonderful! If you’re doing what you love and you happened to get paid for it, that’s hardly working.
  • Aunt K: I know! It’s amazing.

Unfortunately, Aunt K’s bliss was not to last. A couple months ago, we saw her again and she was singing a different tune. While Aunt K loves her core job, there are other problems. She works in a school district that has issues with administration. The state that she teaches in is also mismanaging the teachers’ retirement fund, so she’s worried that all of the money she’s saving may be blown by politicians.

I feel bad for Aunt K. She loves teaching, but the circumstances around it have changed. Just last year, saving money wasn’t a priority and she dismissed the idea of financial independence. Now, she worries that she’ll never be able to stop working when she’s finally ready to.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I hear folks making excuses for not saving All. The. Time. Here are some of my favorites.

“I love my job!”

Aunt K’s excuse is the most common one that I hear. If you love your job, that’s awesome! What an amazing gift in a world where many folks dread their 9-5! You’ve got something wonderful there.

However, will your job always love you? Plenty of folks who worked at Enron loved their jobs too. There are always other factors at play. Robots and artificial intelligence are going to start taking more and more jobs. This will be a major societal change that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

“I’m going to die young.”

This is the favorite excuse of a good friend. He insists that he will die before he’d ever retire, so he doesn’t save. I’m not sure why; both of his parents are in their 90s and he has no serious health problems.

And why would you want to bet on an early death anyway? What’s the backup plan if you don’t die?

“The money won’t be there for me anyway, so why bother?”

Bad things happen to good folks. Maybe you know someone who retired in 2008 right before the Great Recession clobbered us all. Maybe a family member got taken by a Bernie Madoff character. This stuff happens, but not to most. Put your money away and stop worrying.

“I could never do that.”

A friend recently lamented her financial position:

We have nothing saved!

I replied with:

Get rid of the new SUV.

And:

Rent your mother-in-law apartment on Airbnb.

And:

Take local vacations instead of exotic ones.

Every single suggestion was met with the same response:

I could never do that.

Well, I hope you plan on working until a ripe old age because you know that whole retirement thing? You’re never going to be able to do that.

Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.

My mantra in life is this:

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Optimism is the only way to go through life. And a little preparation can make you a better optimist. Because I’ve taken care of myself financially, I’m prepared to deflect the curve balls that life throws at me. Money doesn’t matter most of the time. But when it does, and you don’t have it, it’s going to hurt.

To the folks who make excuses for not saving money, I say this:

Financial independence isn’t about quitting your job. It’s about options. If you love your job, stay there. It’s much better to work because you want to than because you have to!

And also:

You get nowhere running on the hedonic treadmill. Stuff doesn’t bring long term happiness. Spending time with loved ones and meaningful activity does. A frugal, simple life is the most efficient and rewarding way to live.

If there is anything true about life, it’s that it’s an ever changing, unpredictable journey. If you would told me 5 years ago that I’d no longer be programming computers or have a job, I would have thought you were crazy. But, the serendipitous turns of life are what makes it fun and interesting.

Just save some money so you can embrace the fun opportunities when they present themselves. Save enough so you never have to worry. Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.

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