During my commute home today, I decided to start a personal finance blog. I was inspired by the sudden realization that something about our system, our way of life, is broken. I’m not sure what – exactly – is broken, but in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I penned the following about how I felt in that moment:
Dear imaginary financial adviser:
You’re saying I have to pay $250 a month, for 18-20 years, just to pay for my yet-to-exist child’s college tuition? One child? For a public, in-state university?
You’re saying I have to save 18% of my salary now through age 67?
After paying for my two unborn children’s college tuition and my senior-citizen self, what about my present self? Can I afford a vacation? A down payment for a home? An emergency fund? Don’t even get me started on a new wardrobe. New clothes… what’s that?
We live in a world that expects people in their early 20’s to have the foresight and self-discipline to pay for retirement and their future kids years in advance. At the same time, they’re also expected to figure out their careers and save up for weddings and mortgages. If you don’t think that’s broken, you’re either in the one percent or extremely financially savvy. (If you started saving for your kids’ college tuition 10 years before they were born like this author recommends, I applaud you. That’s terrific. But I haven’t. Most of us haven’t).
But after I got home, I realized I was being way too hard on myself. Yes, it’s important to prepare for the future. But it’s also important to live in the present. To enjoy cheap wine and coffee. To count your blessings. I realize I’m one of the lucky ones: both blessed and grateful to even think about retirement, saving for my future kids’ colleges, and emergencies, when so many others cannot.
In reality, life is too short to spend time worrying about money. If you do, take a step back and do yourself and the people around you a favor by indulging in the little things. Nothing matters more than the present and the people you surround yourself with. And nature.