The wife and I are about to embark on the greatest adventure of our lives: a one-year sabbatical to travel Central America. We’ll be driving the middle of the Americas in what will be our home for the time: a class B RV. So, we’ve been shopping for just that.
Of course, I’ve shared with a few others our plans – and with this blog post, the whole world. (If you want to follow along on our adventures, check out www.DangGoodLife.com.) Similarly, I’ve mentioned to a couple people that we’ll be buying a new vehicle. And the response I’ve gotten – while conventional – is exceptionally puzzling:
You’re buying a car? Congragulations!
Of course, it’s me that’s that weird one. For me to find cause for celebration in the response to a (large) purchase makes me strange. But – if you think about it – I’m in the right. And by, “if you think about,” I mean, “allow me to convince you that spending money does not warrant celebration.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite: spending money is bad.
Congratulations on Enslaving Yourself
In an episode of The Financial Mentor podcast, host Todd Tresidor said it best. Tresidor described an experience early in his career, when a co-worker announced (showed-off?) her most recent purchase: a new BMW. While Todd’s co-workers oohed and ahhed at the shiny luxury automobile, Todd saw it for what it really was. Paraphrasing Todd:
You’ve just further enslaved yourself to this job.
Time for Money
It’s no secret that W2 employees and entrepreneurs alike trade their time for money. That money can later be traded back for time (like paying a CPA to do your taxes instead of doing your taxes yourself). But, that money can similarly be used acquire unique experiences (like taking a gap year to explore Central America) – or similarly, that money can be lit on fire (as in buying a BMW, or going out to eat at Chili’s every Tuesday night).
Of course, I’m biased. But, I feel that money should be used strategically and thoughtfully to get what you want out of life. And, hopefully what you want out of life isn’t a bunch of stupid stuff. (I’m using stuff in a literal way – as in (rather meaningless) physical objects.)
And while it certainly can make sense to trade your time money for the things that really matter to you – i.e. a gap year to travel – I always remember that any decision to trade time for money is simply irreversible. Once you trade your time for money, you can never get that same time back.
Now, if you’ve been thoughtful about surrendering some of your younger years for cash, you’ll have managed to save onto some of that money, money that you literally gave up some of your life for.
Saved Money is Stored Life Force
I find myself in this very position today. I have traded a decade and change of my time for money. Fortunately, I’ve managed to save some of that money (but not all of it).
Here’s where things get weird: this saved money – to me – represents my lifeforce. This money is years of life – years that I can never get back. This point is kind of a big deal. So, I’ll say it again:
Saved money is years of your life (stored up). These are years that you will never get back.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve saved a lot of money over the years – or just a little. Whatever amount of money you’ve saved, think about how long it took you to save that money. (And, if you feel like you’ve saved only a little bit money – but have worked a long time to do save that money – then you should be even more thoughtful about how you that money!)
As with other humans in our capitalist system, I’ve managed to store – to convert – some of my life energy into currency. Again, I can never get back the time I’ve given up. But, I can very carefully assign my stored life force (i.e. money) to places that might justify that very sacrifice of my younger years.
How Long Do You Want to Work Until Your Retire?
Related to this is the idea of retirement. You use your most productive years to work and save money – so you never have to work again. Naturally, you’ll spend money along the way just to be able to keep working – i.e. food to keep you alive, and clothes so you can show up at work wearing clothes, and therefore keep your job. The catch is that most people spend far too much money then they need to along the way – delaying their retirement (if they can afford to retire all). That is, it’s harder to save money for retirement if you buy a new BMW every few years.
Congratulations on Expending Your Life Force
This brings me full circle to the inspiration for today’s post: the (now) puzzling responses I’ve gotten when telling folks I’ve been shopping for a new vehicle.
To me, I see spending money as a very important decision. Because it’s not just money I’m spending; when I choose to spend money, I choose to spend my life, my time, my energy, and my focus. So, I pretty much don’t want to spend any money – at all – ever. Because each time I spend money, it means more of my precious life I must surrender, more time I must forfeit doing something that I may not necessarily enjoy doing.
(Of course, there are folks who love trading their time for money, i.e. their work. And that’s great. And that’s not too say that I don’t either. But, tastes change over time – as do work environments. What can be a great job one day, can be a terrible one tomorrow. Company mergers happen. Economic cycles occur. Your circumstances today will never be your circumstances forever. The future is simply unpredictable.)
So given my new outlook on time, money, and the waning number of days I have left on this earth, hearing “congratulations” as a response to my proclamation to expend a good deal of my life force is now deeply disturbing to me.
Why Expending My Life Force Makes Sense
I’ve shared different parts of our plans with different people. Some people know all about our plans to travel, others only know of our plans to buy an RV. For those that know the whole deal, they’re excited – as are we. Who wouldn’t want to take a gap year to travel? (Side note: I can think of a few less adventurous people.)
Yes, we’ve saved money. To save that money, we had to give up a lot of our lives. But for us, the trade of this money for this trip (including buying a vehicle for this trip) makes sense.
Of course, just buying stuff to buy stuff is silly. And that’s where these congratulations rub me the wrong way. Perhaps if some of these folks knew our entire plans (and not just plans to buy something), the congratulations would be more warranted.