Living for Today

Last week, I attended the funeral of my friend Betty.  We had an intimate connection through church and participated in a retreat together several years ago.  Betty was a devoted wife, mother, and R.N.  Generally speaking, she lived a pretty good life.  However, her health had deteriorated after a stroke.  

Attending the funeral mass really got me thinking about life and death.  We all know we will die someday, but we don’t know when.  Without getting too morbid or philosophical, let’s focus on a tangible financial question related to the circle of life:

 

How do you live life to the fullest now, yet simultaneously save for the future?  

 

Maybe some examples will help.  Let’s suppose you get the sudden urge to travel to Fiji.  The adventurous, live-life-for-the-moment part of you says “let’s buy the plane ticket”, while the practical, level-headed side says “let’s plan for a trip like this.”  We each have a money personality, or a natural propensity to save or spend.  

If your natural tendency is to spend, do you buy the plane ticket right now?  NO.

If your natural tendency is to save, do you dream about the Fiji trip but never take it?  NO.

I propose a hybrid solution: plan for the trip.  Research how much it costs and how long you want to stay.  Decide on a specific dollar amount you need to take the trip, and figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet the goal.  If it costs $10,000 to fund the trip and you can only save $100 a month, you’ll be waiting a long time to take that trip.  Either figure out a way to cut the costs … perhaps going to a destination within the US you haven’t travelled before or getting a “side hustle” to set aside extra money for Fiji.

Here’s another real life example.  My good friend from high school (let’s call him Dan) lost his dad suddenly to a heart attack.  Dan’s parents were divorced at the time, and Dan was an only child.  So for a 20-something year-old, he inherited quite a bit of money.  Such a tragic event in Dan’s life spurred him to appreciate his own life, so he wanted to travel around the world for a year.  Did he start the voyage soon after the funeral?  No.  Instead, he turned to me in a time of need and asked for financial guidance.  I said, “If you’re going to quit your job, you need to have a plan for paying the bills while taking this amazing adventure.”

Dan was disciplined: he took my advice and budgeted for the trip.  In fact, he did so well with budgeting (and investment selections) that he and his girlfriend easily paid for the trip.  Dan returned to the US with the same level of his original inheritance!  He was able to go on a real African safari, backpack across Europe and South America, and propose marriage at the Great Wall of China.  

With proper planning and discipline, dreams truly may become reality. 

Your dreams are different than mine.  Regardless of the goal, follow these simple steps to transform an aspiration into real experience:

  1. Identify the BIG goal and translate it into a dollar amount.
  2. Take the big dollar goal, and break it into smaller pieces — monthly or quarterly is typically best.  Figure out if this goal is attainable over your desired timeframe. 
  3. If the dollar amount is out of reach, there are three options: 1) increase your income, 2) cut current expenses, or 3) adjust the goal downward to something more realistic.
  4. Do not compromise.  Work towards this goal with fervor and discipline.  
  5. Once you’ve hit the goal, give yourself a big pat on the back.  You deserve it!

Obviously, if you’re married, it would be important to include your spouse in these discussions to make sure you’re in agreement.  This is one area where couples can struggle.  You may work towards one goal, while your spouse is focused on an entirely different goal.  Doesn’t it all come back to communication?  If you’re looking for more detail in this area of spousal communication, please check out my other article here.  

I hope this left you inspired!  What is your dream?  What steps are you taking to achieve it?  Please comment below.

Deb Meyer, CPA, CFP(R)