I don't know what more to say than this – saving money for retirement is boring. I am losing my mind from it.
I don't know how anyone does it…oh wait, no one does. People spend. People have fun. People cross their fingers, say a prayer to Baby Jesus, and hope that whatever they are doing works out. They are lucky if they are American. Things will probably work out for them, even if they don't save enough. We won't let them starve.
But we will make them work until they drop dead. For some, that's a fair trade.
Saving money is so boring that it almost made me more obsessive about money than I was when I was in debt. I didn't even think that was possible. As I mentioned in my last post, I was checking my Mint.com account ten times a day and counting the hours until my next paycheck, so I could work on my goal of fully funding two years' of Roth IRAs in just 14 months.
What if Saving for Retirement is the Wrong Choice?
What if all the personal finance bloggers you follow are wrong? What if the old saying “you can't take it with you” is the best advice of all? What if the debtors have it right? What if the best way to enjoy your life is to promise lenders that someday you will repay them if they give you a bunch of cool stuff now. What if you drop dead on your first day of retirement, and the fruits of your labor pad someone else's pockets?
These are all questions without answers.
As much as we try to speculate and give advice, I've been clear to you that I don't know the answers. I know how I feel and what I want, and what makes it easier for me to sleep at night. I know that I like the feeling of not owing a penny to anyone. I like being able to tell my landlord that I'm moving, packing up my apartment and heading somewhere else.
Being debt free gives you many types of freedoms, but it probably prevents you from having everything you want. Unless you are some type of money monk who has learned to completely control impulse, you have to tell yourself “no” fairly often.
Even though we are pretty secure, I still must practice discipline. Even today, as I do research on our upcoming trip that will cost at least $5,000, I have to say no to the $3,000/week villa rentals that are bathed in luxury. What I will end up with will cost less than that and will still be pretty nice, I just can't bring myself to go all out and spend like crazy.
Even If It's Wrong, It's Still a Way Out
Personal finance is a way for middle-class people to escape a system that is designed to make the elites rich without risk and keep the poor dependent on handouts like credit and welfare.
This is something I learned in 2008 when it became clear to me that debt freedom is where I wanted to be.
When things got tough, I saw the rich get bailouts, the poor get handouts, and the middle class get left out.
This is a recipe for disaster.
When a society's “middle class” is destroyed and the chasm between the wealthy and the poor widens, everyone eventually loses.
Personal Finance Means Escaping
Personal finance, defined as paying special attention and devoting special care and effort to one's own personal (and family) finances, is the only way make it possible to be okay. No government bureaucrat is going to step in and personally pay off your debts.
This means that personal finance can be viewed as escapism.
And yes, for many of us, this means that paying special attention to our own personal finance problems means that we can't be fully engaged in changing the overall system for everyone.
And yes, I recognize that is what the elites want.
But I'm OK with that.
I've worked in politics for ten years, so I have a pretty good grasp of what is going on. I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but it's pretty naive to think that this downward spiral can be reversed without massive pain and suffering.
So in a way I am advocating that the middle class stop playing the game. Jump off the treadmill of consumerism and ambition. Learn to say that enough is enough, and more importantly, learn to be satisfied when you've had enough.
If you are full, push your third helping away.
If you have a perfectly good TV, throw that Best Buy ad in the trash.
As a personal finance blogger, I feel a bit like Ayn Rand, who advocated that the poor mistreated elites simply drop out of society and stop “helping.” Her job was to make it seem like it is the poor and ordinary who are oppressing the rich and extraordinary.
But instead of talking to the elites, I am talking to the middle class.
The poor haven't dropped out – they never showed up to play in the first place. In many cases, someone who appears “poor” is someone who has learned to live with less. In many cases, someone you think is “poor” may actually be more well-adjusted than you.
Personal finance is a way to drop out of the race to the bottom. The only way to win is to not play. So instead of looking for new zero-interest credit transfer offers to keep your ship of debt afloat, find a plan to pay off your debt for good.
Stop kicking the can down the road and hope that someone will come along and help you out.
The only person who can help you is you, and personal finance is your toolbox to fix your problems.
Just make sure you are seeking out personal finance advice from small non-corporate blogs and ignore “advice” from corporate shills.
Escaping the Worry
My writing and thought patterns as of late have been about escaping the crushing feelings of failure when one emerges from debt slavery into the world of “do I have enough money.”
I think I am finally making progress. I looked at the spreadsheet I use to track my finances yesterday and realized I hadn't looked at it in over 10 days – a goddang miracle.
This is because I've engineered my finances to essentially be on autopilot. All my bills are autopaid, either by my credit card or my bank account. The only bill I pay each month is my credit card. The one thing I'm trying to stay focused on is hitting my investing goals every two weeks. It's been a struggle, but I'm finally getting there.