It occurs to me that despite me writing about personal finance and retirement every week day for almost six months I have yet to give you an idea of how I think about money. So in the interest of getting to know the inside of my head here we go.
Money to me isn’t a status symbol or a motivation to do much of anything. Rather I think of money as a tool to exchange my time for something I want/need. I also manage to keep myself very grounded by firmly separating my wants from my needs. Needs are only food, water, shelter, safety and love. The rest of the world could blow up and vanish and as long as I had those things I could still be happy.
Wants are a bit more tricky in the regards they come in two main forms: the ‘I want it now’ and ‘I still want it later.’ The most dangerous want is the ‘I want it now’ since it comes up in the middle of the mall when you looking at an item. I find this want is just a temporary reaction to the item in question. I really don’t even want the item beyond the moment when I think I want it. So most of the time, unless its a great deal, I walk away from the want and see if in a week it has turned into ‘I still want it later.’ Then I will often go buy the item.
The other weird thing I noticed about wants after I started to take better control of my finances is that some of them are just a habit rather than a real want. For example, I used to always stop and buy a drink when I bought gas for a road trip. Why? I don’t know, but I used to do it even if I really didn’t want the drink. I would buy one just because of the habit. Now I solve that issue by taking along a container of water and sometimes a coffee from home on a road trip.
The other thing I’ve learned about getting your finances into shape is after a while you start to have to let go of things. I used to check my bank balance/investments on a daily basis. Now I find it a waste of time. I already know roughly want is going to be in my bank account on any given day, so why check it? Then the investments, since changing over to index funds, I know that the markets swing up/down so I don’t care as much how I’m doing on any given day, but rather the longer term trend. I’ll learning to let go and just live the rest of my life.
The strangest thing I’ve learned about money is how yes it touches most of your life, but in the end it doesn’t produce any long lasting happiness. I remember the effort I put into something far better than the money I spent on it. I remember the company of great meal more than the food I bought. It’s never really about the money I spend in the end, but rather what I’m doing and if I’m enjoying myself that matters.
So that’s my little rambling tour of how I think about money. What are your thoughts?