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It Doesn’t Matter That You Can’t Take It With You

Hi guys! Thanks for all your incredibly kind words on my last post, Steve and I really appreciate them. I’m currently in Jordan spending time with Steve and his family, but I’ll be back at the end of the month. I hope you are all having a wonderful January! 

If your excuse for why you refuse to save for your future is, “I could die tomorrow!” or “I can’t take it with me!”, you’re a moron. And I’m not trying to be mean when I say that. I’m just trying to save you from your moronic thinking. Because I was also a moron when it comes to savings until recently (and I’m still a moron about a lot of things).

Before I explain why we’re morons, I’m going to come clean about something. Even though I have several friends in the personal finance community who are super into early retirement (and whom I absolutely adore), I always thought it was stupid. I had this idea that those who saved so much weren’t truly living.

I mean, god forbid they died early, they would never get a chance to spend their hard earned cash. Sounds juvenile now, but that’s truly how I felt.

And then, I was rocked with my first two deaths in the past four months — my grandfather and my mother-in-law. Not only did both change my life, but they changed my entire [financial] belief system.

One would think these deaths (especially my mother-in-law’s, as it was unexpected) would make me feel like saving was a waste of time because it could all be taken away tomorrow by the cruel reality for many people that is untimely death. They actually had an opposite effect.

So how do I feel about “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow!”, now?

Many people way smarter than me in the PF blogosphere have pointed out that it is HIGHLY unlikely that you will die early, and this is very true. But those of us who respond more to the emotional side of things rather than the statistical side *raises hand* may understand better when I say it this way — maybe it doesn’t actually matter whether or not you can take it with you.

The very arguments “you can’t take it with you” or “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow” assume that money is actually the most important thing in the world when you die. Like, on your death bed, you’re going to be so pissed you didn’t buy those Manolos (shoes, for the menfolk). But guess what? Even if you don’t spend all the money you saved in your life, it really doesn’t matter.

What DOES matter is that you spent a lifetime cultivating meaningful relationships. Your loved ones don’t give a shit about what type of car you drove. They don’t care whether or not you were a baller, shot caller. What they DO care about is the relationship they had with you, and that’s also what they’ll remember.

Good news on this, guys. Relationships really don’t cost that much. Meaning — shocker alert! — your life’s worth is not determined by the amount of money you spend or what you spend it on. That’s actually completely irrelevant compared to the type of person you are for richer or for poorer.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Life is short. Buy the shoes.”? That is the most ridiculously idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe instead of YOLO-ing like crazy when it comes to spending, we should be applying this “life is short” philosophy to our relationships.

To overusing “I love you”.

To laughing too hard at the inside jokes no one else will ever understand except for you and your best friend.

To calling your mom regularly to see how she’s doing. 

All of which, by the way, are free.

You don’t actually have to spend every dime you make to have a fulfilling life. In fact, one might argue you definitely shouldn’t. If you can’t be satisfied with a life spending less than you make (assuming you make a decent living wage and are not in survival mode or close to it), you have bigger issues that cannot and will not be solved by money, no matter how many zeros are at the end of your paychecks.

Basically, if you aren’t saving much because you are afraid you won’t be able to spend it all before you die, pull your head out of your ass and start saving now. If you happen to die before you spend it all, I promise you won’t care. Like, swear to god, you really won’t give a shit.

So here’s my new outlook on life and finances:

1) Early retirement is not stupid. Thinking it is stupid is stupid.

2) Whether I die tomorrow or when I’m 110*, I am going to keep on saving for my future. Even if, god forbid, I didn’t have much of a future ahead of me, I’d rather die with too much than too little.

3) Personal relationships ALWAYS trump money. Therefore, discretionary income that is not being saved should be spent on cultivating these relationships (date nights, plane tickets home, etc.) before buying shit I don’t need (which is almost everything I’ll ever buy).

4) Saving so much that you are depriving yourself and your relationships is just as bad as not saving. Balance is key.

5) It really, really, really doesn’t matter that I can’t take it with me. And it doesn’t matter that you can’t take it with you, either.

You might die earlier than expected. That’s the honest truth. But don’t use this highly improbable scenario to justify a life of excess and irresponsibility. Don’t be a moron — save for your future like you are going to live till you are old and gray and live your life like you aren’t. It’s really not that complicated.

Have you ever hesitated to save because “you might get hit by a bus tomorrow”? Do you realize how moronic that belief system is? Are you totally embarrassed for me that I used to really believe that?

*If I’m lucky enough to live a long, long life, I’m totally playing the unfiltered old person card as soon as I possibly can. I’ll be shaking my cane at young whipper-snappers yelling wildly inappropriate things before 70. Hide yo’ kids.

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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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