Enjoying It

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser. He is married, has three kids and plans to retire at age 35.  Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post that I entitled, tongue-in-cheek, “Don’t Go on Vacation.” A few people strongly disagreed with my “advice”, and I don’t blame them. The advice to not go on vacation is terrible for anyone who seeks a balanced life, with some well-deserved down-time from a stressful job. Besides that, making a decision out of fear, such as avoiding vacation time for fear of losing one’s job, is a reactive way to live. What I honestly believe is that we should enjoy what we have while we have that opportunity.

I was at work a few weeks ago when a longtime client phoned to tell us that his wife had passed away. To me, it came as a surprise. She was almost 70 and it turns out that she had been battling cancer over the prior year, although they hadn’t told people about her illness. I told him that we would make it as easy as possible to combine the RRIFs and ensure he had enough income and set a meeting for later the following week. After hanging up, I reflected on their situation. They had lost the majority of their investments during the “tech wreck”, before transferring their accounts to us. They had set a goal to have $200,000 (again) before retiring, which required him to work until age 70. When he retired, they moved out of the big city to a condo in a small town, just getting by on their investment income and government pensions. They had three or four good years before his wife passed away.

When we earn income, we are forced to make a decision between spending it now, or spending it later. When investing, the goal is that the more we postpone spending, the more we can spend. The decision is tempered by the knowledge that we don’t know how long we will live. There’s no point saving all our money, only to die prematurely and never enjoy the use of it. Which raises the point that money is only useful when it’s used for something. So the issue becomes: what’s really important in your life?

It’s often the things that are intangible: people, relationships, experiences. So it seems advisable to make the most of the time we have together. In my case, I’d rather have less money, but more time with my family. That may mean working only four days a week, or taking memorable vacations while I’m working. It also means retiring as soon as I am able, instead of amassing a fortune. I occasionally think about what I’d like to leave my children at the end of my life. If I can leave them some money, that would be nice, but if I can leave them a role model and some great memories, that’s something I value far more.

What motivates your choice between spending now and saving for later? What would you do with your time if you didn’t need to spend so much of it earning money?

6 thoughts on “Enjoying It”

  1. I agree Robert, it’s all about defining your goals. In my case I find I don’t need many luxuries in life to be quite happy. One thing I’ve noticed that makes a huge difference in happiness vs stress battles is the number of hours I put into work. Consequently, my foremost investing goal is to retire as early as possible. I wouldn’t mind doing some travelling in retirement (possibly funded by part-time work), but by far the most important goal to me is getting out of the ‘rat race.’

  2. Great Post Robert… I always told people that if for some reason I had grossly miscalculated my required retirement income or for whatever reason ran out of money and ended up being a 65 year old Wal-Mart greeter to make ends meet for the last 10ish years of my life, at least I would have spent 25 years (from 40 to 65) retired and enjoying life while I’m still young enough to enjoy it…

    I’ve seen too many examples of people who spend their whole lives looking forward to retiring at 65 and fulfilling their dreams of going RV’ing… traveling to Europe/Australia… spending winters in Arizona or Florida… moving somewhere out of the city… etc… etc… only to find that… Their not physically able to do it… they have health issues that require them to stay near the city for specialists… Travel insurance at that age is too expensive… or worse case they (or their spouse) kick the bucket shortly after retirement….

    Like you said in your post… “… I honestly believe is that we should enjoy what we have while we have that opportunity…”

  3. I keep a balance. I am a frugal person and live without luxuries except for vacations and organic foods. One reason we spend for certain exotic travels now is that we may not do those when we are retired. We also buy organic food frequently (we grow some in summer).

  4. My University Money: I think it really does come down to happiness vs. stress. I believe some people honestly enjoy the corporate game, and good for them. But since I don’t fit into that category… I’m with you. I even believe that I may find teaching (my dream) has more bureaucracy, but I’ll have the freedom of not needing the job.

    Other Dave: Thanks for adding your two cents. I’m glad that others see it similarly, and that I’m not the only one who doesn’t mind the risk of having to work later, if I can have the certainty of not needing to work now.

  5. After having been quite ill earlier this year, I am determined to have the adventures I have always wanted to have before I get too old/sick/dead to do them. I briefly considered going the more savings route and delaying my plans, but then decided this was not the right choice. Life is the journey, not the destination.

  6. My main reason for not spending now is that there really isn’t a whole lot I want to spend my money on…I could probably live on 1/4 that I make now (which is about average in Canada), so it just makes sense to save it and attempt to have more time to enjoy the activities I do enjoy while I’m still healthy enough to do it.

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