Make your finances an afterthought
When I first discovered the world of personal finance, I was fresh out of college with money to burn. At the time, I had never been one for saving other than to purchase large wishlist items. However, that all changed when I stumbled upon Financial Samurai, a leading personal finance blog by the author of “Buy This, Not That,” Sam Dogen. Soon thereafter, I discovered Budgets Are Sexy, Mr. Money Mustahce, Physician on FIRE, and others, who would all change my relationship with money.
Going on eight years later, how I interact with cash is profoundly different, yet still evolving. I run a personal finance blog where I chronicle my understanding of how to save and invest. I have written guest posts on my favorite bloggers’ sites, including Financial Samurai, Budgets Are Sexy, and Physician on FIRE. And, unexpectedly, I work part-time in the finance industry.
I never foresaw any of these events transpiring or habits forming, but that is the beauty of life; it is always full of unexpected turns.
Nevertheless, my favorite part of finance is that how I spend my money is now an afterthought. While such a statement might elicit head turns from the passerby, I have solid reasoning.
When I started my financial journey toward literacy, budget mastership, and saving, I became engrossed in reading as much as possible. I would have fifteen to twenty browser tabs open, concurrently opening a new page as another closed. It was an enthralling time where I learned countless new concepts, portfolio construction models, and how to improve my relationship with money.
Naturally, when my employment situation teetered, and I was left searching for my next stepping stone, I pivoted and lunged head-first into the financial planning vocation.
However, such a sustained fixation on one aspect of life is not sustainable.
I still work in financial planning, but only part-time, partially thanks to my acquired saving and investing habits. Meanwhile, and most notably, I do not obsess over every last financial detail.
I live life trying to enjoy each moment while not worrying about the monetary component. Yes, I keep a rough budget of what I can spend each month, but it is not concrete, nor do I obsess over saving every last penny when I make purchases.
When my partner and I underwent a significant remodel of our home, I did not let our increasing expenditures make me panic. I knew we would be okay due to how we interact with money.
While obsessing over every last penny is normal and healthy when you first get into mapping out your finances, it is not a way to live life permanently.
Whether those on their journey to financial independence are at a stage where they can realize it, life does not occur within the constraints of a spreadsheet, and there is more than financial jargon and research to partake in.
Sometimes learning more is warranted, especially if you are new to the community or government rules change. Other times, using the knowledge you have acquired to set up a framework that you can live by with passive effort is more practical.
After all, we do not save for the sake of saving. We save to harness the freedom money can buy from the otherwise mundane repeating cycle of eating, working, and sleeping on someone else’s schedule.
Working is a natural activity that provides many of us with fulfillment. But to have control over your choices, such as where and how often you work, is something financial independence offers.
So, don’t get lost in saving and obsessing over money. Instead, make your financial habits so routine that they become an afterthought. One where you say, “Oh yeah, I did that because I already laid the foundation to living a better life.”
To achieve such a balance, I suggest the following:
•Dig into your finances and understand where you currently stand by creating a personal Profit & Loss sheet. Are you spending within your means, or are you over or under budget?
•If you are over budget, implement corrective steps to bring your spending within your income range by creating a budget. Then prune unnecessary expenditures as needed
•Create realistic short, medium, and long-term life and money goals
•Create an automatic savings plan using dollar cost averaging and passive index investing in retirement and ordinary investment accounts to accomplish your goals
•Let your finances coast while allowing automation to do its magic with once or semi-annual check-ins to see how you are doing and modify as needed
Unless you are already in significant debt or are severely behind in your retirement savings with little time to catch up, most people in the US and other developed nations can live fantastical lifestyles while ensuring they achieve financial independence. To accelerate your freedom, you can always earn or save more.
It is worth mentioning that you can take saving to an extreme. From personal experience, I have learned that I am not a fan of sustained denial if it creates a feeling of dread or increases the odds of failure. Instead, keep your budget balanced to accommodate the present and future. Success should feel natural and second nature, not like a punishment.
In closing, go and live life while making your finances an afterthought again for 2023. Life is far too short to waste such an opportunity. If you have experienced a similar or different trajectory than me, please share your experiences in the comments below. And, as always, have a great day!
Mile High Finance Guy
finance demystified, one mountain at a time