I have been thinking a lot about my financial aspirations, or my lack thereof.
The truth is, I don’t think much about where I want to be financially. I find financial planning to be both boring and daunting. It is an area I know nothing about, and I’m not interested in knowing anything about, but that I have to know something about. Oh and it’s totally overwhelming.
One of the blogs I’ve been reading is written by the wife of a couple that has big plans to retire early (like, WAY early) in 2017 to a homestead in the woods. She is in her mid-thirties and pregnant with her first child. Together they save 70% of their income and they are on track to meet their goal of retiring in 2 years. They are already looking at plots to buy so they can start building their house.
This woman doesn’t have a budget. Her spending plan is to not spend anything. Ever. They only spend money on the absolute essentials. She writes a lot about how it’s easy not to spend money on anything because every dollar spent on things they don’t need is being taken away from their dream of retiring early and homesteading in the woods. It’s easy not to buy stuff when you feel that doing so is robbing you of your ultimate goal.
Reading her blog I wondered if being money conscious would come more easily to me if I had some set goals. Then I tried to think of a financial goal I could work for.
And I thought. And I thought.
And I couldn’t come up with anything.
Is that sad?
I mean, I wanted to buy a house, and we did that. And then I wanted to live within our means, and we’re doing that. And now I want to be saving, but that goal is so amorphous and undefined.
I considered paying down my student loans faster. Right now I’m set to have the remaining $7,000 paid off in 2 years. If I scrimped and saved to put another $100 a month toward that debt I’d be done a couple of months faster. I tried to get excited about that goal. I waved it front of my face (metaphorically, of course) every time I had the urge to buy something unessential, but the idea of paying off that debt a few months earlier didn’t do much for me. Even when I told myself I could start having a cleaning lady once a month when the debt was paid off, I still felt pretty blase about the whole thing.
I reminded myself that I’ve been woefully neglectful of my children’s college funds (ie they have not been created yet) and that we need to start aggressively putting money in 529s, but again I find it hard to conjure any real sense of urgency. The cost of a four year degree is already so daunting and the projected numbers are outright devastating, anything I might save now feels ineffectual. The same goes for my retirement. All of these goals are so far in the future and so shapeless as to remain devoid of substance. I can’t imagine ever having enough money to retire, and many articles assure me I won’t, so it seems silly to deny something now just to put it toward a retirement fund that will never support me anyway. My generation will have to work until we’re in our 70s anyway, so what’s the point?
Of course there is a point, and I believe strongly in saving for retirement; I’ve been doing so since I was 27. But putting more away for the future is not a financial goal that helps me save today.
I think I just have to set up a budget that automatically contributes to these funds and my goal will be to stay inside that budget. Maybe that is how I will make this work. I don’t see myself embracing any financial goal that will inspire me to stop, or even drastically reduce, my spending. I don’t think what works for this woman will work for me. And that is fine, as long as I figure out what does work for me.
What are your financial goals? Do they inspire you to spend less?