Why I hate the phrase “If you had…” when talking about personal finance
Have you ever been in the middle of reading an article about savings and the following sentence catches your eye, “If you had saved $2000 since age 18 you would have a million dollars by the time you retire. Recently, this sentence has really begun to piss me off. Why? Because, I became aware of this many years after 18 was just a little glimmer in my eye. In fact 18 had become the annoying dust particle that sticks on your contact that you rinse off so that you can see clearly what you’re looking at right now. I didn’t save from the age of 18, so get off my case. I have to deal with my reality now. In fact I didn’t do the following:
1.) Save diligently
- Instead, I worked hard saved a ton of money and traveled to: Europe, then came back and hung out, saved money traveled for a year with Up With People, came back hung out, saved money then studied for 6 months in Paris.
2.) Not take out Student Loans
- Instead, I took out loans for undergrad and then grad school. It’s too painful talking about the amount. Let’s just say, I’m working on it. I don’t regret going, I don’t regret the loans. WIthout the pain of the experience I wouldn’t be blogging right now and I wouldn’t have had an evolution in how I think about borrowing money. Wouldn’t recommend this route to everyone. But, it’s the one that I’m on.
3.) Not spend foolishly
- Instead, I spent money on nights out, dancing, gifts for friends, school stuff, clothes-lots of clothes, shoes-lots of shoes, and did I mention I charged most of these items.
4.) Invest diligently
- Why would I invest? I was too young and too dumb to think about this stuff. And, no one had coached me on this as a life practice.
5.) Have a downpayment for the purchase of my condo
- Nope, just bought it with a zero down situation. Luckily, this was one purchase that was a diamond in the rough. I accidentally rocked this! I bought a condo that was half the amount of similar properties in the same great neighborhood. The only difference was my unit was a ground level unit. I also was smart about getting a conventional loan with a 30 year fixed mortgage. I am accelerating my payments and because my mortgage is so low I am loving life! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
All of these choices had both good and bad aspects to them. Going to university and grad school has opened doors to me that might not have been opened to me if I didn’t have this experience. Travel expanded my horizons, gave me world awareness, and made me a citizen of the world. Up With People introduced me to some of the most wonderful, loving people that I’ve ever met. They aren’t just friends they are now family. They cheer me on when I’m feeling down, visit me when they are in town (which is often). Open their homes to me if I’m ever in their neck of the woods.
The phrase “If you had…” doesn’t mention the bumps along the road of life, the money habits we have, the financial education we receive at home, our children, our spouses and all of the other elements to our financial life. Our financial life doesn’t and will never exist in a static situation.
People’s lives don’t exist in a bubble. So I will continue to look forward because looking back will only give me whiplash when I look forward again. I can’t change the past, but I can change my future. Rock On.
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