During my many years in the workforce, I’ve come across all types of people, from the hopelessly lazy to the most industrious and every type in between. But one thing that most people have in common, regardless of their ambition level, is the tendency to have no real goals or plans in mind when it comes to what to do with the money they earn.
What I find to be one of the saddest things is learning about the person nearing retirement who worked so hard that almost everything – and everyone – else was pushed to the side for decades. In some cases, the only thing that person has left is a big pile of money, but frankly that means nothing if they have nobody left to share it with nor a heart to share it in the first place. In fact, I’ve met nobody in that situation who is happy or contented with life, often the opposite.
Even sadder to me, however, is the person who worked hard but has absolutely no money to show for it – or very little. This is entirely because they had no plan for how to manage it. I can’t imagine the feeling of working so hard for so long, only to be shocked into the realization one day – when it’s really needed – that most of the money was squandered away, with little to none saved or invested. Now, that person is forced to rely on a government pension that is roughly two-thirds of what they were barely surviving on before.
I’ve marveled at times about how people can spend so much time and effort getting to the place where they eventually earn a very good income, but then spend little to no time or effort learning or even caring about how to manage it. To paraphrase the saying, ‘It’s not what you make, it’s what you do with what you make.’ In other words, a person earning over $100,000 per year, for example, is not an automatic candidate for a comfortable retirement – if they didn’t manage it wisely, their income level meant absolutely nothing in the end. Yet there are people who have made far less per year who, by realizing that every dollar is precious, have set themselves up for a very comfortable retirement.
How can people spend so much time and effort to earn a very good income, but then spend little to no time or effort learning about how to manage it?
Another saying that comes to mind is ‘Easy come, easy go.’ Just ask almost any lottery winner ten years after the big payout to explain this one to you. I also think this applies to a person earning a high income, where every dollar is not precious but rather easily taken for granted. They get comfortable with their lifestyle and so busy maintaining it that they don’t stop to think that one day it will come to an end. They’ll either get too old or perhaps handicapped by a health or other personal or family issue, causing the days of abundance to end. Although the high income was not likely ‘easy come,’ it was easy to get complacent and assume that it would always be there. Often, the high income is ‘easy go’ since any extra money is spent trying to further that lifestyle instead of the person learning contentment and starting to set aside extra money to save and invest for the inevitable “rainy day.”
I believe that the root cause of people not caring to address the issue of making a plan about how to manage their money – in other words, how they will go about saving and investing a portion of their income – is the fear of confronting our mortality. To think that someday we will no longer be willing or able to work is to realize that we’re getting closer to death, and that frankly scares most people to the point of entirely ignoring planning for their future.
The root cause of people not caring to make a plan to manage their money is the fear of confronting our mortality
Some might think that the eventuality of our death means that there’s no point in caring too much about money, but this could end up hurting us and others in the end. First, this means likely struggling financially in our later years, also creating an unnecessary burden upon those around us. The worst thing you could do is leave your family with unpaid debts that they will be forced to deal with. Or, before you die, forcing a financial burden upon them if you get sick or handicapped because you didn’t build up enough savings or investments while you were healthy to pay for all of your bills.
So if you’ve come across this post and you’ve been working hard and perhaps also earning a great income for some time now, but have little to nothing to show for it, ask yourself this: why? Are you avoiding the issue of starting to save up a nest-egg or to start investing out of fear, ignorance, or both? Or, do you just love spending so much that you don’t want to cramp your style by setting any of it aside?
There’s a whole lot more that I could get you to start thinking about, but you ultimately need to consider not just your own future financial health, but also its impact upon the lives of those you care about.
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