Do you want to be as rich as Warren Buffet? Maybe you just want to be as entrepreneurial and laid back cool as Jay Z. Your dream might even be to live in a one room cabin in the woods. Either way, if you haven’t thought through the Big Why of money you are almost assuredly not allocating your funds in the best ways for you and your family.
Most folks do what they’re “supposed to do.” They drive a reliable two year old car. They purchase a 4 bedroom 2 ½ bath home about 40 minutes from where they work. They hate their commute every day. There’s a 52 inch TV on the wall of their living room. And a few other flat screens scattered elsewhere. And they’re all obviously hooked up to an expensive monthly TV service. This is the “stock lifestyle.” It’s what the all too often referenced Jones’ do. In this scenario the “stock lifestyle” is living the life that everyone else around you is living. It is rarely deviating from the norm. This way of life makes me cringe.
And it’s not just because it isn’t my cup of tea. I’m pretty sure that most of the people running in this type of rat race don’t want to be there either. They just don’t know how to define their Big Why of money. They don’t understand themselves well enough to make the right decisions with what they bring in every month. Instead of thinking outside the box (I’m obviously all about that) and making the proper changes, they succumb to a bland existence – one that would make a 21 hour Ted Cruz filibuster seem lively.
So what’s the remedy? How do we cure what ails us and quit living a bland existence?
The answer lies in defining your Big Why of money. Here are three suggestions to help you figure out yours.
Make a list of your priorities. Not just with money – in life. Is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro your dream? Maybe owning a vintage Mustang is something you just have to do before you die. It could be that you just want to live closer to work and stop spending two hours of your life in a car every day. I like the way you’re starting to think. Here’s the deal. Someone else isn’t going to make sure that your dreams are realized. That’s your job. And if you don’t start thinking about these things at some point soon life is just going to pass you by as you continue on in that bland reality I discussed earlier. So write these things down. Know where you are headed and where you ultimately want to be. And just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about retiring at 65 and skipping rocks at the lake. I’m talking here and now.
Brainstorm the possibilities. Brainstorming is a lost art. We don’t do it often enough in our work lives or our personal lives. So now that you know your priorities, how can you clear the clutter in your life in order to get there? Let’s say your family brings in $60k a year. You’ve got a mortgage, a car payment or two, some student loans, etc. Guess what? For most of us those aren’t static and unchangeable objects in our lives. Houses can be sold. Cars can be too. Just know that your current status doesn’t have to be the same tomorrow. Maybe your quickest route to that priority is downsizing and getting out of a mortgage that costs you too much. Maybe it’s getting rid of the car payment and driving a clunker. Cutting the cord could save you an all important $80 a month. That’s a decent little chunk for a sweet vacation at the end of a year!
Act accordingly. Now that you’ve made a sweet list of awesome stuff you want to accomplish and you have brainstormed the possibilities of how your money can be allocated more properly, do it! The awesome thing about the fact that you are still alive is that you can change stuff about your life. And to a seriously gargantuan extent! Did you know that if you lease a car as opposed to driving an old clunker it’ll be an over $10k hit to your wallet over just a few years? And how much does it honestly cost to climb Kilimanjaro? There are a few things of importance to me and I make it a point not to cheap out in those areas.
I love folk art. So my wife and I buy an awesome piece on our anniversary every year.
I love craft beer. So you’ll pretty much always find a tasty brew (or 12) in my fridge.
I love travel. I make it a point to take at least one awesome trip a year. Sometimes more. I still like to travel cheaply though.
Here’s the rub. I couldn’t purchase kick ass folk art, tasteful craft suds, or a $502 plane ticket to Ireland last November if it weren’t for compromises I made elsewhere. I figured out my Big Why though and it’s made all the difference. Because honestly, I don’t care about being as rich as Warren Buffet.
Have you figured out your Big Why? What are the important things for you about money? Are there any lifestyle changes you’ll make after reading this in order to fulfill your Big Why better?
[Photos courtesy of Marta, Mike and BlackCatTips]
21 Comment responses
I love this post! Definitely one of my favorites
We are making lifestyle changes. We have realized that we don’t need to be unhappy with our jobs in order to survive.
Thanks Michelle! I totally agree. The bummer is that so many people are. They just need to find out their Big Why!
I have totally been caught up in the ‘stock lifestyle’ in the past. Trapped in a job I dreaded, paying out money for all sorts of stuff that I didn’t need. I’ve cut right down and am facing up to a pile of debt. Once these debts are repaid, I intend to live my life in a simple way without the need for luxury and expense. I want to travel more and give my daughter experiences rather than material things. I need to start mapping out my vision for the future and plan how to get there!
Experiences over material things are so important Hayley! I would love to hear back once you’ve mapped things out and how that’s going for you. And congrats on getting rid of that debt.
yea- that’s so good “… give my daughter experiences rather than material things…”
This is a great post! When I sit in financial planning meetings with clients, the first thing I ask is where they want to go and why. It’s amazing how many people have not put much thought into it. What’s the point in working or earning money if you don’t know why you are doing it? It’s like driving around without a GPS. This is a great reminder to keep your eyes on the road.
Thanks Shannon! Your GPS analogy is perfect. If we don’t know where we are going or what we want we’ll do a lot of aimless meandering.
Many people consider that, to be happy, you need this and that. For us traveling was always something we loved to do and we’d like to expose our daughter to this, as soon as she can go with us. I think at the end of the day, what we’re left with is our experiences and the wonderful places we have seen.
For this we have cut down our expenses in other areas that are vital to some other people. We don’t change our car every 2 years, we don’t buy expensive clothing (and we do buy it when needed, not just to have a lot of it), we don’t dine out, we don’t get the latest gadgets as soon as they’re being released.
This allows us to save money on the long run and also pay for our travels, while we are happy and fulfilled. So, as long as you know what makes you ‘tick’, you’ll be able to achieve the goals and still be happy
Yep. You gotta find what makes you “tick.” If it is the latest gadget then so be it. Just don’t buy it because everyone else is!
Great topic. You are absolutely correct when you note that it is important to understand ‘why’ you are saving/investing and ‘what’ you hope to accomplish. Hopefully it isn’t just to have ‘x’ number of dollars and to do the same things that everyone else is doing. I guess you would say the people should save – and think – outside the box.
Definitely James. I love saving -and thinking – outside the box!
Great post and great topic Joel.
My why is simple: Freedom.
Put another way, time + money. And put yet another way, the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want, for however long I want. I don’t think one is free until they are financially free. Since I want this freedom sooner than later, my goal is extreme early retirement.
All of this wrapped up in a nutshell represents freedom to me. This is my why. This is what keeps me going no matter what.
Right on Brian. I like your Big Why. Mine is definitely different but I can totally understand and appreciate why yours is what it is. I’m still hoping to retire early btw, but I chose a profession that pays less in order to enjoy what I do every day. I knew that would mean a longer career, and I’m ok with that.
Man, this is dead on. That 4/2 1/2 house with a stiff mortgage becomes a large ape real quick. Locks you into the “job you hate” so you can pay to water your grass. What a life that is.
If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With WHY’, it’s a great read. Or search youtube for ‘Simon Sinek + Tedtalk).
Thanks Scott. I’ll totally check out that Ted talk this weekend. I’m a sucker for a good speech.
I think the freedom of not being tied down to debtors and the cushion of a good emergency fund alone can be a big enough why since it releases you from related stress (as you mention). But knowing what you want to do with your why is HUGE motivation to actually buckle down and do it!
I think the biggest thing you can “buy” with your money is time. Time to travel, time to spend with loved ones, time to spend as you wish. If I devote my money wisely and save now, I can “buy” time by working less when my husband and I start a family. As the primary breadwinner it will definitely be a challenge but one I’m excited to tackle!
I like and admire the way you think Emily. Money AND time is a winner for me too.
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