Why Should You Care About Saving If You Could Die Tomorrow?
If you were going to die tomorrow you should spend your money however the hell you want. You want a one way ticket to the Las Vegas Bellagio for a bat shit crazy night out with the boys? Hell yes, you go do it.
Dying in One Month
Shit, I'd say if you were going to die in one month you should spend your money however you want.
Though as we get to the one month time frame I imagine we start to think a bit more about our life. "What would I really want to spend on?" Maybe you get that cherry'd-out convertible woody wagon you've always dug. In it you take a road trip to see some gorgeous natural wonders of the world and spend time with close friends and loving family. That sounds like a pretty nice last month.
Dying in Six Months
The doctor tells you you have six months, 1 year left to live. What about then? I say you spend however you want.
Oh, you're talking to me? Boy, that's even tougher to think about. I'd probably take all my closest friends on a surf vacation. I'd go camping with my mom, dad and sister, and I'd hug them. And I'd hike to the tops of the Santa Barbara mountain peaks alone and take in this planet.
I would do all the things I'd do if money was never a limiting factor. I probably wouldn't blow it all in one night. I'd want to make those special moments last my entire year. But I'd probably spend it all down slowly over time to create a few more wonderful memories doing things I love with the family of people near to me.
Dying in Five, 10 Years
You've got five years, 10 years left. What about now? I've thought a lot about this, and you know what? You spend your money however the hell you want.
Though now how much money you have saved up becomes a bigger factor in the equation. If you spend $20,000 a year you'll need $100,000 to $200,000 saved to make it to the bitter end without any inflow.
If you've already got that money saved and you know with certainty you will die in 5 or 10 years, you'd probably live those 5 to 10 years out pretty similar to the case above. But I'd imagine you'd probably keep some of your day to day life similar for a while, like going to work.
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Work – being a creator, a producer – is a wonderful part of life. If your work is already the job you've always wanted then you keep doing that. And you give that work every last ounce of your beautiful energy.
But what if your work isn't what you've always wanted? Maybe the time you're spending in an office from 9-5 is just okay. Maybe it used to be great, even what people or your family thought was "your thing," but deep inside today you know it has lost its lust.
One thing you've always dreamed of doing is being a high school math teacher. You love mentoring kids and being a part of their growth. You have 5 to 10 years left to live. You have enough money in the bank. It's obvious what you should do. You leave that office job and go become a high school math teacher. And you give those kids every bit of your energy.
Changing Your Self Identity
But making that switch from your office job to your dream job isn't that simple. Leaving your office job could come with leaving your deep rooted self-identity.
You have ten years left so you really need to think this decision through. You let your mind wander ten years in the future. You picture yourself with only a few days left to live. You're in a rocking chair swaying back and forth with your old friend, your wife, your son, your daughter.
They ask, "Anything you wish you would have done, dad?" Your eyes fill with puddles, "I wish I could have impacted the lives of those high school kids." A tear falls down your cheek, "That would have been really meaningful and fulfilling. Instead, I kept the job everyone thought I loved, but didn't want to do any longer."
You come back to today. You have ten years left to live and the biggest thing holding you back from living your dream is the outside world's perception of you based on a job that no longer fulfills your life. What do you do? You stand up and go become a high school math teacher.
For in doing that, those who love you won't mind. In reality, they'll probably love you more for it. And those who mind? When it gets down to it, their perspective doesn't matter.
Flexibility from Stashing
But maybe the situation has another layer. Maybe you don't have the money saved up to cover five years of your lifestyle as a high school math teacher. With only five years left, it's time to start weighing things out.
You could decrease your lifestyle cost to match the math teacher's smaller inflow. By doing that you could switch to your dream work immediately without the financial woes.
But maybe decreasing your lifestyle cost over those last five years isn't what you want either. If you haven't saved, or haven't saved enough to cover that extra life expense you're not willing to part with, then you can't afford the immediate switch to the dream work you've always wanted to do.
You could work your office job for two more years to create the side pot you need. You could also add 8 hours of overtime to your office job each week for a year to build the side pot quicker. But neither of those sound like how you want to spend 20-40% of the rest of your life.
You start thinking, what in your life brings me true happiness? Your 3 story house? Your BMW X5? The designer shopping sprees on weekends? If I gave up the payments on one or two of those I could make the switch after just a few months more of work and still have a wonderful life.
The change to the house, the car and the math teacher job may tear away a bit more of your neighbors' and friends' perception of your self-identity. But when you have 2 days left to live, their perception of the size of your house or the brand of your car won't matter one bit. Nor will it define who you truly are.
You decide to move to a new less expensive house. You get that less expensive car that will get you from point A to B just the same. And you go become that high school math teacher. You continue to live your life as if money was never a limiting factor.
Dying in 20, 30, 60 Years
So you have 20, 30, 60 years left to live. How will you spend them, lucky you?
As for your money, you know how I think you should use it? I say you spend it however the hell you want. Yes, however you want.
There are endless possibilities and situations that could occur over your 20, 30, even 60 year timeframe. I couldn't possibly cover them all. Instead I'll show you a way of thinking that you could customize for your life's story.
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Almost all the actions we take in life are in pursuit of a greater happiness. Even someone on the brink of suicide is pursuing their thought of a greater happiness. It is how we take on this pursuit that writes the story of our lives. To understand how to navigate this pursuit, or our life's story, let's go visit our ancestors.
Know Your Ancestry
The time we live in today is much different than what our ancestors experienced 100, 1,000, 10,000 years ago. We have clean water at the turn of a faucet, protective roofs to shelter us from cold winds and food ready to eat in our own homes.
These things used to be our challenges. How will I find clean water? Where will I be safe and warm for the night? How will I get and prepare my next meal? Each was a life-or-death type of challenge that occurred everyday. Though today you don't live with these problems anymore. I know this for certain because you are reading this article on a powerful computer connected to the incredible internet.
But with this new style of living we have a different problem we need to take on each day. It's one that's completely overlooked because most of us haven't recognized how our bodies, which are hardwired in our ancestors' scarcity mindset, work in today's world.
Know How Your Body Works in Today's World
The world you and I live in today is overflowing with abundance. Not only do we have water, food and shelter readily available, we also have access to a plethora of gizmos and gadgets, a surplus of gorgeous, eye-catching clothing and a glut of finger lickin' food everywhere we look.
These amazing, wonderful parts of our society are not our problem. The problem is how we interact with them.
Our bodies, which instinctually react like there are daily life-and-death situations, are evolutionarily flawed to live in today's world. When we smell that warm, crispy bacon wrapped hot dog our mouth instinctually begins to water. Yours is probably even watering right now just after reading those words. It's not a bad thing, it's just our cro-magnon like tendencies convincing us to eat the bacon wrapped hot dog now because our bodies still react as if we exist in a destitute land.
But that couldn't be further from the truth. We know we'll find another bacon wrapped hot dog on the next street corner and the next street corner. And soon enough our minds begin to expect this immediate satisfaction.
And I don't just mean expectations for bacon wrapped hot dogs. We live in a time where mansion sized dwellings, sleek, beautiful, fast cars, handheld computers and cross continental travel are accessible to everyone. If one isn't accessible to you it shows up on every screen, billboard or magazine, driving home the flawed notion that these insanely great pleasures should be something we expect.
Because these situations arise again and again, these expectations become our mind's reality. The result is that if our expectations aren't satisfied immediately we throw a fit or feel like a failure.
If the wifi drops out for a few minutes we cry, "Are you kidding me!? The wifi's down again!" Or if we 'downgrade' from a mansion sized home our neighbors think, "Gosh, that poor, poor family." And we feel like a failure. Even our reactions to these inconsequential problems play out as if the situation had life-or-death consequences.
It is not our bodies that are our daily problem. It's these habitual hedonistic practices that we need to overcome. They no longer benefit us.
Meet Your Conscious
That's where the deep beauty of our species comes in. It's what makes us different from any other animal. It's consciousness.
We, as humans, have the power of conscious decision making. When instinct tells us to do something, we can be conscious of that feeling and in turn control our choice. To take on today's daily problems we need to awaken our consciousness. We need to be conscious.
To do this, with relation to today's problem of gluttony, we first need to recognize that increasing opulence has diminishing returns.
A man can spend and spend buying a bigger and bigger house, a faster and faster car and a larger and larger private jet and one day find himself sitting alone in his mansion staring solemnly at it all thinking, "What is this all for anyways?"
Though a man who brings the basic luxuries of food, water, shelter and community to his life will consistently be grateful to have each necessity readily available.
The further and further you trek up the opulence scale the less and less happiness you gain from the new additions of things brought in to your life. Our world today puts these massively opulent opportunities in front of us all the time. But if you can recognize that these opportunities will only make you so much more happy, if even at all, then you will create more opportunities for the true moments of fulfillment to come up in your life.
"Almost nothing material is needed for a happy life for he who has understood existence." –Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations
Meet True Happiness
The next thing we need to recognize is "What is happiness?"
Happiness is not something one can derive from an external source. These type of dopamine releases are called, "Pleasures." They are the new surfboards, the new sets of workout equipment or the tasty slices of chocolate cake.
Each of these things give you a quick boost in pleasure whether it be for few minutes, a few days or even weeks. But in time they lose their lust as the initial excitement wears off.
If you haven't awoken your consciousness to today's exuberant societal expectations you'll probably end up thinking you need another new, bigger, shinier thing to make you happy again. But if you have become aware of today's extravagant societal norms and their relation to opulence's diminishing returns, then you'll find that there is a moment when you have enough. Enough to be truly happy.
Once you unlock the power of enough, you then unlock the power to create true happiness.
This true happiness happens when you exert energy into yourself. This true happiness happens when you take your family and kids on a treasure map road trip vacation you planned out. Or when you and a friend build a business together. Or when you simply take 30 minutes each morning for yourself whether it be working out, going on a walk or just sipping warm coffee while reading the morning paper.
True happiness is a feeling of long term joy that occurs from an internal sense of achievement, growth or inner peace. This is the greater happiness you want to pursue as you write your life's story. Not pleasures of the luxury items, services or trips.
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things of which he can afford to let alone." –Henry David Thoreau, Walden
(Re)Create Your Life's Story
After understanding all that, it's time to start creating your life. Or, if you're like me 3 years ago without much of a life direction and $900 in my bank account, it's time to start re-creating your life.
In this new journey you go pursue true happiness. It's not going to be easy. I won't lie. There will be huge bumps and massive obstacles on your path, especially at the start.
You will need to put yourself in vulnerable situations to get past the faulty societal, friend, neighbor, family expectations. And you will need to be stoic as you run in to the endless moments of evolutionary impulses for self-indulgences that show up in our world.
Those who really shift their life toward what they truly want all go through these. I am right now by sharing my outsider views as I write this blog! But by consciously taking on these challenges with gumption the long term joy you and I are looking for will be ours. It takes guts. Be vulnerable. It shows courage.
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Your New Journey and Money
You will also need to deal with money along this journey. And as I said before, I think you should spend it however you want. Though what I hope now is that you recognize more of "what you truly want."
What exactly that is is for you to define for your life. But once you define it move forward on your journey by aligning your spending away from the unnecessary, hedonistic pleasures and toward your genuine true happinesses.
If you're starting this journey and already have enough money saved up and invested to churn out enough income (think dividends and capital gains from stocks, rent from real estate or passive income from a business) to cover your new lifestyle cost, then great. You just need to get over the exuberant societal expectations to realign your life toward your true happiness. Not easy. But easier without money as a factor.
Maybe you're starting this journey in a similar fortunate place with a year or more worth of spending saved up. Not a bad spot to be in. Maybe your dream here is to become a physical therapist and maintain the freedom to adventure whenever you want. To go forward toward that dream not only do you need to become conscious of and take on the hedonic adaptations we all face today, you'll also need to consider your money a little bit more as it plays a greater factor in your ability to create your dream life.
Your schooling will likely cost more than the amount you have saved up. So you'll have to think about taking out a loan to pay for the schooling. To make sure you have the continued freedom to adventure after school finishes you want to make sure you're not underwater money wise. It might be good to get a small job while in school to help pay for classes, life, the loans and to keep your stash near that 1-year of spending mark so that you give yourself that continued flexibility.
When you finish schooling up you can tap that savings to give you a few months to breathe before starting your practice. From there you continue to spend however you want. But you should keep in mind that maybe 5, 10, 15 years down the road you may want to try another new venture. You'll want to have at absolutely minimum a years worth of cash sitting in a savings account to draw down if you so choose to make a crazy-awesome life change.
Though wouldn't it be even nicer if you had 5, 10, or 15 years worth of lifestyle cost invested and churning out a small income each month? That way when your mind spontaneously tells you it's time for a new dream you can react with grace and poise knowing everything will be just fine.
Though maybe you're starting this journey with little to no savings, possibly some debt and a spending rate of 90-100% of the income you get from your job each month. This is the most common spot people are in today because of the reasons described above.
It's a spot where money is a stressor and a limiting factor on your life. If the inflow from your job was turned off you wouldn't be able to make it a month on your savings. This is a scary place to be, but know that you can turn it all around. You've already taken the first step by reading this article.
Your next steps are to figure out how much you are spending and making every month. Then you need to figure out where you are spending your money. The first glance at where your money is being spent never feels good. But we know now that for our long term joy tracking this is the right thing to do.
As you start to re-tune your spending toward the things that bring you true happiness use the one number that takes you to freedom to help you decide what spending to cut and what to keep.
Why Should I Care About Saving If I Could Die Tomorrow?
You save today so you can live tomorrow however you dream.
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