Friend-of-the-blog Brendon reached out to me this week for financial help.
He’s done so much good in his life. He’s 45, a father, a leader, an all-around great person. I bet you know a person just like him.
But on the financial front, he feels like he dropped the ball.
“I should have gotten serious about this 20 years ago. I’m frustrated that I blew a big chance and now I’m too late.”
Here’s my response to him.
More Than Money
First and foremost, there’s much more to life than finances. This goes without saying, but it can be easy to overlook.
Family, friends, love, health, direction, purpose. They’re all more important than a million-dollar retirement account. Money can make life easier, but it doesn’t do the work for you.
That’s the most important idea of this blog post.
Nevertheless, I understand his frustration and the regret that comes from wasted time. I understand that feeling of, “if I only knew then what I know now.”
But let’s not focus on the spilled milk, and instead think about the best steps going forward.
“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”
How does someone first realize they’ve missed financial opportunities?
Usually, by comparing themselves to someone they know.
It’s too easy to find someone in your life who is younger, smarter, better looking, more successful, and (as far as this conversation goes) more wealthy. It’s just a numbers game. You can be “better” than 99% of the world, and still be
“worse” than 70 million people.
So what?!? Good for them!
Life isn’t a zero-sum game. Their success does not equate to you being a failure. Their success doesn’t mean you’re behind.
If anything, learn from them! Emulate them. Copy their methods. But don’t forget to live your life.
Your Timeline Goes Beyond 60
Too many people think, “I only have 15 years until I retire…am I too late?”
Life goes beyond Day 1 of retirement. Life goes beyond 55, or 59, or 62, or 65
Your assets can work for you far beyond 60.
If you invest at age 45, those dollars can work for you for 30+ years!
The Big Three
According to BLS (who track all the CPI numbers that we use to determine inflation), housing, transportation, and food make up 60% of the average family’s budget.
It can be hard to decrease spending in these areas:
- Brendon’s mortgage is what it is. Should he move his family to a smaller house to decrease expenses? That’s a big ask.
- Transportation, in my opinion, is a place where most people can find big savings. The average driver doesn’t get the utility they pay for.
- And food is similar to housing. Can Brendon trim the fat (literally?) on his family’s food budget? Maybe there’s room to dine out less often. But the kids gotta eat.
Nevertheless, “the big three” are the best place to start a budget.
Don’t Forget Social Security
Investors of all stripes frequently overlook or underestimate the impact of Social Security (or their government’s equivalent).
According to SoFi, the average American retiree spends $4,000 per month.
And according to Bankrate, the average retiree receives $1,600 per month in Social Security benefits.
That means that 40% of the average monthly spending is covered by Social Security. That’s huge!
I get it—the conservative approach is to not count on Social Security and build your own safety net. But I think that’s too conservative, especially for someone who already feels late to the game.
Don’t overlook the power of Social Security.
Some Is Better Than None
This one is simple.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.– Chinese proverb
You can’t change those 20 years past. But you can choose to start today.
The End…For Now
This blog post has to end. But Brendon’s financial journey is just starting! And that’s an exciting prospect.
If you feel late getting into the personal finance game, I hope you’ll consider the ideas above. You’re better off than you think, and definitely better off than if you’d stayed ignorant for the rest of your life.
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