In A Cinderella Story, Hillary Duff (Sam) tells Chad Michael Murray (Austin) “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought – useless and disappointing” and in many ways, I feel the same way about saving; because when my friend asks me what I want to do when I retire, the first thing I do is imagine that my 401(k) is Austin and then I tell it the quote above [this does not mean I hope my 401(k) will kiss me when I hit retirement and end the long drought that is my lack of income.] But—why is it that saving for my future feels like an early 2000’s romantic comedy. Well, I guess for me it is because we can’t always imagine ourselves that far in the future and we would rather not think of that drought that never seems to end, but like any good Cinderella story, I know that my perfect prince [my hunky and strong 401(k)] will be the thing that saves me from the dragon in the end.
Now I know what you may be thinking of me right now, “Lord what fools these Mortals be!” quoting Shakespeare in his A Midsummers Night’s Dream, but as always there is a method to my madness so if I may… I will continue with my fable.
I guess the problem with saving for a rainy day is the stress that comes with waiting for the shoe to drop, for the thunder to start, and the lightning to strike. The rainy-day fund hinges on the moments that fall out of the sky but what if you are someone who is more accustomed to the drought? What if you are like Cinderella waiting for your ‘Princeton Guy?’ Well I guess it comes back to some of the philosophies we began with a mere six weeks ago. You have to ’trust the process.’ You see, what made Cinderella become a princess was that she was the only one in the land who wasn’t obsessing over the prince. She kept her nose to the grindstone, worked hard, thought smart and despite Disney leaving the tidbit out… she had pretty legit 401(k) savings (kidding). But in all seriousness, preparing for a comfortable retirement often does seem like ‘waiting for rain in a drought.’ It feels like a sacrifice or a pay cut for a day that isn’t coming any time soon, but if the reason we like romantic movies is to see people fall in love in the end, then maybe by loving our investment portfolios we can do the same. Maybe saving for a rainy day is what allows us to appreciate the drought, rather than dreading it.
Envisioning the person you want to be and the life you wish to live isn’t useless or disappointing, in fact, it’s not all that different from a fairytale. Sure, the wardrobe is different, the prince (dollar bills) gives you paper cuts rather than magic kisses, and the dragon often looks a lot more like your boss in a wig than a monster breathing fire, but your mid-summers night daydreams don’t have to end in an immediate happily ever after. In fact, I would argue that the waiting for your prince to come is actually the best part.
Look, I won’t lie, day dreams are fun, heck I have at least ten a day when, with open eyes I doze away from reality, but if you really think about it, the ability to live our dreams and fully experience our day dreams was never about being there, it was about the ride along the way. If Cinderella lived happily ever after from the jump she would have never learned the hard lessons that came with surviving an evil step mother.
So let’s take a minute and talk about my evil step mother: over spending.
So, the other day, my teammate and coworker tells me I am going to lose all my money, in his defense I did want to spend a lot of my income on gifts for others (family members) and it had come up in conversation once or twice (honestly more) and in the past couple months, I will confess I have spent a baffling amount of money. [The other day my friend and I bought laser tag for our phones… just because we could (but soon found out that the app was down in the United States—still bummed) and dinners out have never been so consistent.]
During major life changes [a crossroads—if you will], like the one I have currently been given I believe that we attempt to find comfort in the tangible, but what I am coming to realize as I come down from my gold rush style head rush, is that investing in an intelligent and intentional way now will lead to major financial victories in the upcoming and retirement years. It is for this reason I am so grateful to work at an institution that inspires both health and wellness.
If you are like me, you like to spend your money on adventures with friends and nights out. Personally, I find more joy in unexpectedly treating others than I do myself – and stores are just an excuse to pick out things I know my not-so-baby brother would love. For me a disposable income means more trips. Trips home, road trips, international travel, and even adventures down the street to grab a bite and some ice cream. And July is the perfect month for those things, but if we have a certain number of July’s in our life how could we change one and stretch the next for two?
In this blog I always talk about how you can save money by ‘being healthier’ but another big part of that is paying attention to the health of your wallet. You don’t have to be an investment mogul to make money, but you do have to have the means and the money to invest. When we talk about 401(k)s we are referencing an investment portfolio of sorts that culminates into the kind of savings you can support yourself on when the time to work is over and all you want to do is golf all day in Florida. And while it isn’t rocket science, I won’t say I fully understand it yet, and on most days, I doubt the majority of us do. But isn’t that what the future is for? Isn’t that what comes after the happily ever after? Or would we even know what happily ever after means if the camera always fades out before we can see what it leads to.