It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture with investing. While building investment portfolios, sometimes it’s easy to forget to build the life you want, not the bank account you want. Like many others, I love reading other blogs focused on early retirement, financial independence, or frugal living. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I started this website to help others with personal finance and investing.
While a lot of the online posts can be helpful, others can be downright deceiving. There are many stories like this one, where a young lady paid off $220,000 in debt in under 3 years. It’s not until halfway through the article you find out the biggest reason for her ability to pay down debt. Her mother gifted her a house and allowed her to live rent free. I’m glad for her, but for most people this is not a realistic situation.
These types of articles can perpetuate a feeling of falling behind in debt payoff or savings rate. In an effort to save up as much money as possible, there is a point where we can take it too far. Living in a tiny house, refusing to turn on the air conditioning, or even selling everything to live in a van. These strategies may save money in the short run, but these types of lifestyle changes are unlikely to be sustainable long-term. You are not racing someone else to a financial net worth finish line. Some things in life are worth the premium and go beyond profit and loss. It is ultimately up to you to decide which things will become priorities in your life that you are willing to pay an extra for.
Cases That Make Us Smell The Roses
Each week, I care for patients who have illnesses that remind me to smell the roses. In the past several months, I’ve admitted several patients with new diagnosis ranging from stage IV cancer, meningitis with permanent neurological deficits, to a young doctor with Guillain-Barré.
Each time I care for one of these unfortunate patients, it makes me take a step back. These cases remind me that its okay to plan for the future, but that life is short. The plan with proper personal finances and investing is not to hope for a golden retirement, but to build the life you want and save for it.
Career Over Personal Time
A young lady in her 30’s was at home with her children and husband. She woke up one morning, went to the kitchen to make coffee, and had her first seizure. After she was taken to the emergency room, a CT scan of her head demonstrated a large brain mass. Biopsy would later confirm advanced stage glioblastoma multiforme.
This woman never would have guessed that the day she had her seizure, her life would forever be altered. She told me how she never traveled. This woman worked for a large IT company, spending much of her youth and free time trying to work her way up in the company. She expressed regret that she put many of her dreams on hold, missed important events with her children due to a grueling work schedule, all with the hope that one day, she would obtain those goals.
Illness Post Retirement
The second case was a man from a small town of 1,000 people. He retired one year ago in good health. This man and his wife dreamed of traveling. They were also building their retirement home on a lake that they had saved up for so many years. One day, he felt fatigued and decided to go to his PCP. His chief complaint was that he was no longer able to rustle up cattle into a pen like he once could not long ago. The physician ordered basic lab work where a CBC revealed a white count of 150k. Unfortunately, he was subsequently diagnosed with AML and his goals of a golden retirement were put on hold.
Save For Tomorrow But Don’t Overlook Today
I’ve gone into monk mode, spending as little money as possible per month. Right now my savings rate sits at about 69% of my net income (post tax). I’m excited to be saving more than ever! Even though I’m saving so much money, I still made room to inflate my lifestyle a bit. I enjoyed monk mode for half a year, but ultimately, eating beans and rice and trying not to turn the air on in the Texas Summer is not a long-term viable plan. I now pick several things that bring me a lot of joy. For example, for me its traveling and seeing family. All of my increase in expenses are built around being closer to family or life experiences with traveling. As long as your splurges fit into your budget, I say go wild.
Realizing That Some Things Are Worth More Than Money
I’ve been so frugal in the past that it has led to some serious regret. The largest regret I have is missing my best friends wedding while in residency because I was too worried about spending $400 on a flight and another $300 on a hotel. Even though I could have backed off one month debt repayment, I told myself NOTHING will get in the way of this debt repayment.
Those memories of watching two of my best friends get married is one that I’ve forever missed out on. Though, I may have saved some money in the long run, the sting of not being there to support my friends will live on. There is a line that can easily be crossed when trying to be too frugal. Don’t skimp out on important life events. You’ll most likely never get a second chance.
Enjoy The Ride And Find Your Passion
Ask yourself – what kind of passion you have? Spend money on those passions that bring you happiness and align with your financial goals. The golden years, or retirement, is not a guarantee. Enjoy the ride. Don’t forget to save for a rainy day, but know that its okay to enjoy the sunny days too.