When I was younger, most Americans took the future seriously. Now, it seems like people are living for today and neglecting the future. Some people spend more time planning vacations than for their retirement. The personal savings rate has risen back up from its low-point of this decade, but it’s still less than half of what it was in the 1970s.
Why Balance Matters
I was talking with my uncle out in the desert last month and he asked me why I hadn’t bought a motor home yet. I told him that I was saving up and I was a couple years away from getting the motor home I really wanted. He told me that I need to think more about the present and not be so caught up with the future. My response was that I keep a balance in my life and it’s important for me to do both.
People often focus on one aspect with money, but I believe all three time-frames are essential. You can’t forsake the past, the present or the future. Sure, someone may get run over by a bus and never enjoy their hard-earned savings. But, they are way more likely to retire broke and struggle through retirement because they didn’t save for the future. Balance is the key to life and money. Whenever someone loses this balance, some aspect of their life will usually suffer.
Past, Present & Future
- Past – Debts & Mortgage
- Present – Bills & Spending
- Future – Savings & Investments
I told my uncle that I live comfortably on 70% of my income right now, while I save 30% for the future. My actual breakdown is probably closer to 20% past, 50% present and 30% future. When my mortgage is paid off, I will probably reallocate to 60% present and 40% future, depending on my income. Since I’m used to living like this, I will be able to retire on a fraction of my current income, depending on inflation. In any case, I think it’s important to maintain a healthy balance.
What is your time & money balance?
Why Time Isn’t Money
There is an old saying that “Time is Money”, but I don’t agree with this. Sure, you can trade your time for money, but it’s not so easy to trade your money back for time. The truth is that money comes and goes in our lives, but we can never recover lost time. So, it’s not an equal trade, nor is one interchangeable for the other. Each has to be managed carefully so they don’t create a scarcity of the other.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, I traded away too much of my time for money. I skipped vacations, worked weekends, had a side-business and went to night school. Yes, I got ahead financially, but it came at a high cost to me personally. On my son’s 9th birthday I realized he was half grown up and that precious time with my kids was quickly slipping away. I made some career changes to increase my income and restore the time balance in my life. Now that my kids are both grown, I’m glad I made that choice.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that life is brief. Spending all of you precious time chasing dollars is just about as sad as being broke and unable to enjoy your time. A little balance goes a long way.
“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting”
Ben Franklin – American Inventor and Patriot