What’s flexibility worth? How about freedom? Or happiness? And can you put a price tag on feeling secure?
There are a lot of things in life that money can’t buy. But in my experience there are plenty of things that debt can take away.
For some people debt is a tool, a way for them to leverage someone else’s money for their own gain. If all goes well it can be incredibly powerful! There are a lot of bloggers out there who have wonderful stories about making millions off of assets that they went into debt for, and those stories are certainly exciting and inspiring.
But in general when I talk to people about their debt issues, their stories don’t involve property management or investments. Their stories typically involve expensive cars, nice homes, and generally living above their means. The “American Dream” these days seems to consist of us having whatever we want, whenever we want. Today, usually.
Is this a problem with the culture we live in today? Sometimes I think so! I mean, I live in one of the wealthiest societies in the world, but for some reason financial stewardship isn’t something we feel the need to teach in our schools. It’s inevitable that our children will grow up with some issues to overcome when it comes to money management.
But there’s one trait that I think we could all work on, myself included, that seems to be at the root of a lot of debt stories. Patience, or the lack thereof. Patience is still a virtue, isn’t it?
The Inflexibility of Debt
Recently I watched a TED Talk where the speaker made the following statement:
“Think of borrowing money today as negotiating a pay cut with your future self.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s the exact opposite of what I want for myself. I want the flexibility of being debt free, not the slavery that it causes. I want the security of knowing that if I lose my job my family will still have a home to live in because it’s paid for. I don’t want to presume upon the future by buying things now that I’ll be working for down the road.
By being patient, by being content with what I have, by not allowing my pride to dictate my purchasing decisions, I can set myself and my family up for long term wealth and success.
It’s A Daily Decision
Lest you think I’m saying that I’ve got this all figured out, please be assured that I struggle with this just as much as the next person. I am not “wealthy” by any means, but my family and I live well below our means in the pursuit of financial independence.
According to my friends (and society at large), I have the resources to buy a house many times nicer than the one we currently live in. We could easily drive nicer cars or wear nicer clothes. We could consume more media, go on more vacations, and in general live a “nicer” life.
But we know what the cost of that life would be. We understand what lifestyle inflation can do to us, especially when we begin to try and keep up with the Joneses.
We have dreams of living a quiet life in the country as opposed to facing rush hour traffic and the hustle and bustle of city life. And we also dream of flexibility in our career pursuit, and of spending more time together as a family than my schedule currently allows.
But we understand that step one comes first, then step two. Save money, then spend it. And we’ve decided that as much as possible, we plan to keep them in that order.
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