in FS, Planning, Psychology

Fantasy vs. Reality: Paving a Path to a Promising Future

On Saturday night, I had dinner with Wendy and Dennis, two Get Rich Slowly readers who recently moved from Phoenix to Portland. We talked about a lot of things — most of them nerdy. We also chatted about the ever-evolving nature of Get Rich Slowly.

“I’ve noticed you’re writing more about credit cards lately,” Wendy said. “Is that because you’re using them more often?”

“Well, maybe,” I said. I thought about it for a moment. “My stance on credit has certainly changed in the past five years, so that might be part of it. But it’s probably just an accident. I seem to cover subjects in phases. I might write a lot about frugality for a while, then write a lot about investing, then about making more money. I guess I’ve just had more to say about credit cards recently.”

Wendy confessed that the credit card information doesn’t do much for her. “I’m phobic about credit cards,” she said.

“That’s okay!” I said. “There’s nothing wrong with being phobic about credit cards. I used to be scared of them too. I’ll never argue that you’re making a bad choice by avoiding credit cards.

“I’m open to the possibility of using credit cards when I know I’ll use them to spend only the money I have,” Wendy said, “but I’m not ready yet. For a while, Dennis and I had a prepaid card, and even with that, we had control issues.”

Numbers versus emotions
We talked about how our money problems didn’t happen because we were bad at math, but because we were unable to separate money from emotions.

The first tenet of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy is that financial success is more about mastering the mental game of money than about understanding the numbers. Wendy summarized this perfectly when describing her past spending habits: “When I bought things, I didn’t buy them with numbers; I bought them with emotions.” She’s trying to do better now, but it’s still a challenge.

You always think the Future You will have more money,” Wendy said. “It’s okay to spend today because you’ll find some way to pay for it tomorrow. But you never think that the Future You might drop out of college or have kids or get into a car accident. The Present You doesn’t really know the Future You.

I loved this insight. I’ve thought often about how the Future Me always seems to be vastly different than the Present Me — and different than I would have predicted. Yet I used to make dumb decisions in the present as if my future self would somehow develop the superpowers to save me. Instead, Future Me simply ended up cursing my past choices.

Fantasy versus reality
How tough is it to predict your future path? Here’s a simple test: Think about where you were five years ago — where you lived, who you spent time with, what you did. How does that compare with where you live today, who you spend time with, and what you do with your time? Chances are your life today is much different than it used to be — and much different than you might have predicted it would be.

Here are two examples from my own life:

    • When I was a junior in college, I expected to graduate, settle in a big city, get a job as a counselor or therapist, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. I had no inkling that five years later I’d own a house in my hometown, work at the family business (something I swore I’d never do!) in a job I hated, and have over $20,000 in consumer debt. No inkling. (Only the “get married” part of my expectations proved to be correct.)

 

  • Five years ago, I was buried under more than $35,000 in consumer debt, still worked at the family business in a job I hated, and hadn’t even conceived of Get Rich Slowly. (I was just beginning to read personal-finance books.) I could never have imagined that today I’d not only be out of debt, but also have substantial savings and be a full-time writer.

Sometimes your future life fails to live up to your expectations, and sometimes it exceeds them. But in nearly every instance, you cannot predict where life will take you. In fact, you can’t even predict what will make you happy! No wonder Present You often does such a poor job of setting things up for Future You.

Present You versus Future You
When I speak to college students, I warn them to not spend based on their expectations for the future. It’s tempting to believe your future self will be richer, smarter, stronger, and more successful — but that doesn’t always happen.

What can you do about it? How can you strike a balance between today and tomorrow? There’s no mystery. You can fund your future by making smart choices in the present, including:

    • Have a plan. Based on who you are today and what you know about life, set goals for the future. Sure, these goals may change. That’s okay. Use these goals to create a budget or financial plan in the here and now.

 

    • Practice conscious spending. Stop spending on the small, unimportant stuff so that you can afford the things that matter to you. This requires long-term thinking, but it’s worth it.

 

    • Avoid debt. Don’t expect your future self to be able to cope with the financial mistakes you make today. Don’t make things tougher for yourself than you have to.

 

 

Before our dinner conversation returned again to dorky topics, Wendy made a final observation: “Once I stopped thinking about the Future Me as being different than the Present Me, my whole perspective changed. I started making decisions on what I needed and could afford today instead of what might happen tomorrow.Exactly!

To stop making poor decisions with money, it’s often necessary to ignore fantasy and deal with reality. Instead of counting on Future You to save the day, do the hard work now. Your future self will thank you for it.

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45 Comments

  1. This is an excellent post. The first time I tried to think back to a 10-year-younger version of myself, I was shocked at how unrecognisable I was. The 30-year-old me thinks the 20-year-old me was a naive reckless and nerdy fool, and the 20-year-old me would probably regard the 30-year-old me as a conservative overpaid jerk. I am comfortable with this. My values and ethics have almost entirely changed, and continue to do so. And therefore, I expect the 40-year-old me will probably also be very different.

    So when people tell me that finance is all about long term goals, I ignore them. The best gift I can give to my 40-year-old self is a fat bank account to do with as he sees fit, rather than trying to second-guess his values, and that’s my motivation to save.

  2. I’m phobic about credit cards too. When talking with one of my neighbors he, who loves his credit card rewards, only puts bills and other items he would pay for anyways (i.e. gas) on his credit card.

    I might do that, switch my bills from auto pay from checking to auto pay from my credit card, but I won’t go back to using credit for day to day spending. While I always paid of my credit card in full and accumulated a ton in rewards I realized after I stopped using credit that I spent at least a 1/3 more using credit. Even though I could “afford” that 1/3 more in that I always paid off my credit card, all that money spent was more than I should have been spending.

  3. I think Wendy’s idea is completely true. We always believe that our future will be better than our past (financially speaking).

    I think this is why there are so many kids graduate college and then suddenly feel the need to reward themselves with a new car that will drown them in payments for the next 5 years. They believe that they’re going to be living the life and making big money.

    The reality, though, is that many of them won’t find the job that they are seeking, and they might get caught in a career that they never visualized.

    We need to be optimistic about the future, but we also need to take off the blinders and be realistic. Things might not work out like we plan.

  4. When I was in college, I wrote some notes to myself as a 25 year old, a 30 year old, and as a 40 year old. When I was in college, we still used typewriters and punch cards, so the idea of the Internet or personal computers was extremely foreign, so naturally a few goals are charmingly archaic to look back on.

    The amazing thing to look back on however is how closely my life has followed the path I envisioned for myself back then. Even at age 21, I realized that I wanted to be living in a suburban/rural setting and that I wanted to be married in a strong relationship and build a family. It’s like I not only understood my heart at an early age, but I had no trouble making choices that were completely aligned with those goals.

    OTOH, as a 40 year old, I also notice the complete lack of financial goals. The 21 year old me already had CC debt and horrible money management skills, and I clearly had no concept of what a healthy financial life would entail. If you’d asked me back then about what my finances would preferably be like, I would probably give a relatively improbable and vague answer such as “I will be paid a huge salary so that I can buy stuff without worry.”. Because I had no vision for how financial and budgetary control could help me out, all of my actions in that realm were directionless and often damaging to me long-term.

    Really the only plans I regret now, at age 40, were the ones I wasn’t aware enough to conceive!

  5. Great insight. I’m ticked at my past self (only a year and half ago) for purchasing yet another brand new car with another brand new car payment. We could be so much farther along with paying off the rest of our debt if we had just bought a beater. Oh well. Live and learn.

    Now the key is remembering to not make similar mistakes again.

  6. I’m in complete agreement with the statements at the end of the post.
    One might think that just because “the Present You doesn’t really know the Future You”, planning is useless.
    On the contrary, planning forces people to prioritize, thus affecting one’s spending habits in a positive way.
    But what if someone’s hierarchy of values is dominated by the urge of buying expensive shoes? 🙂
    I think that educating people about “conscious spending” is the real challenge.
    Bye,
    MR

  7. Saving for retirement and emergencies is recognizing that a Future Self will likely be different from a Present Self. The point is that many people err on the side of being overly confident and optimistic when imagining future states. This has been pretty well established in the literature.

    This blog makes me realize how different we are when it comes to money. I have no trouble envisioning scenarios in which I’ll be short of cash, and I err on the side of underspending today.

  8. @4 Nancy L

    One of my high school teachers always said – and had as a big sign at the front of the room – “Nobody plans to fail, but some fail to plan”. Which I think sums up the issue you noted.

  9. Also, I wonder how many people who are afraid of credit cards had the opportunity to practice using them as teenagers with education from their parents?

  10. There’s a paradox here.

    You don’t want to tell people to focus on the present. It’s caring about only the present and not planning for the future that causes debt in the first place. But you are right that there are limits to our ability to see into the future and that we need to keep those in mind in all planning efforts.

    I try to imagine more than a single future scenario and adopt money plans that work well under as many of the somewhat likely scenarios as possible. For example, if you win the lottery, you will wish that you had spend more when you were younger. But that is an unlikely scenario. In most scenarios, you are better off having saved something. You don’t want to go too far, though. Go too far with saving and you cut off opportunities for meeting new people and learning new skills and developing new passions that can open growth (both financial and otherwise) opportunities.

    Rob

  11. I would guess that many folks will reach a holding pattern at some point in their lives. Although we’ve got two more kids than we did 5 or 10 years ago, our life and our goals have not changed substantially at least in the last 8 years since we completed a large addition on our home. And barring some unforeseen disaster, our life likely won’t be too much different 5 years from now either.

    5 or 10 years ago, I’d have been happy to discover our current financial situation. I’d have said we’d met all our goals. However, now that we’re here, I’m not happy and I feel we’re sorely lacking in liquid and long term savings, even though we’ve got a fully funded retirement and nearly a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank. I didn’t realize how aging (and perhaps two more kids) would make me so much more cautious and concerned about socking money away.

  12. “I started making decisions on what I needed and could afford today instead of what might happen tomorrow” — that’s a great way to go about things. I take it a step further though, and don’t assume that things will always be as good tomorrow as they are today. Of course I hope they will be even better, but realistically they could also be worse. (People get laid off, etc.) If you leave yourself plenty of wiggle room, things usually go very well.

  13. I remember listening to a financial advisor on a talk show suggesting to visualize when using credit cards you are STEALING from your future self.
  14. Am I the only one who expects my Future self to have LESS money? So I avoid debt (including credit cards) at all cost, and constantly invest in tools and learning new skills.

  15. #8, it’s funny, my favorite teacher had a sign below her clock that said “time will pass, however you may not”.

    My life didn’t wildly vary from my goals. The only difference is that I had planned on paying off my mortgage debt by now. I’m a little behind schedule. Of the things that I can control, they are pretty much where I want them to be. I just hope everyone stays healthy, alive and well. Everything else is just gravy.

  16. #14 Peggy. I think that’s where I am too. I do think we’ll have less money in the future. I also think the economy of the last couple of years was a real bucket of cold water for me. For the first time in my adult life people we know to be good workers couldn’t find comparables jobs to the ones they’d lost, at least not in a reasonable time frame. They’ve been forced to make do on much less. I suppose it’s been like that in other parts of the country for awhile now, but in the Northeast, not so much.

    I feel like if I’d have known 10 years ago I was going to feel this way, our mortgage would be completely paid off and we’d have that much more security.

  17. JD — on a completely unrelated-to-finances note, I highly approve of the dinner conversation. You’d get along fabulously here in Austin. 😉

  18. I too have a hard time evisioning a future with more material wealth. I think I will personally be okay and I think both my aging parents and IL’s will be finanically self-sufficient, but will need way more care and attention than they do now.

    Culturally, I think we are in for a long rough patch until we realize that trying to constantly growing GDP is not sustainable and that we need to live lives with less money and more emphasis on community and relationships we are sunk.

    BTW I think my 40’s self likes my 20’s self better (the simple student) than the more work, money and status driven 30’s version.

  19. @ Rob #10:

    Good points! I believe, however, that no paradox exists here. One can remain in the present moment (make conscious choices) AND have conversations, so to speak, with the past and future selves.

    One may listen to what the past and future selves have to say; however, one need not live in the past or future to do this.

    If there is a paradox, it is that living for a brighter tomorrow kills today. Tomorrow never comes; tomorrow is death; life exists in the present moment.

    The solution to the paradox is contentment.

    The solution to remaining in the present moment while planning for the future is to listen to the advice of the future self, which is actually “advice” deriving from past actions (experience). In other words, live now but consider the future; live content; live responsibly. It’s a balance.

    “Always we hope
    someone else has the answer.
    Some other place will be better,
    some other time it will turn out.
    This is it.
    No one else has the answer,
    no other place will be better
    and it has already turned out.”
    ~ Lau Tzu

    “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” ~ Epicurus

  20. “You always think Future You will have more money.” This doesn’t just apply to five years from now, it applies to two weeks from now!

  21. at 49 single/never budgeted in my life.

    until last year a dodgy builder took me for 10k.

    total debt 48k.made a plan to clear it in 4 years.1st year come dec–ive reduced it by 12k/which i would never been able to do unless budgeting.

  22. I tend to hope that the future Me will have more money, but plan for the future Me to be unemployed.

    I have had to pull back from this scenario recently, becuase I realize that I am constantly squirrelng money away for later, while not living up to my full potential today.

    I have had “Saver’s remorse” too many times recently to be fully happy with my savings plan.

  23. perhaps it’s nerdy of me to distinguish between the definitions of nerdy, geeky, and dorky, but i’d say the topics of discussion were geeky and not nerdy.

  24. Excellent observation about future me. I’ve never looked much into future me. Yes, I know people always talk about 5 years plan and 10 years plan and where you want to be, but I’m already busy living with my present self. In the last year or so I’ve been putting more thought into future me and I am making changes so I can be where I envision in the future. It’s dangerous to bet on your future earning and generate debt today. On the other hand, I’m looking into a future than I will be making less money and planning to accommodate that with more saving today.

  25. The future me vs. current me should apply to all aspects of your life. We don’t know the future and basing our present decisions on it is folly. Base your decisions on what you know and treat future possibilities as just that, a possibility (with increasing lower probabilities the further out they are).

    For example, in my personal training, I counsel people not to use the old “well, I can eat that extra slice of cake now because I’ll work out later!” line because it’s almost never true.

  26. “Yet I used to make dumb decisions in the present as if my future self would somehow develop the superpowers to save me.”

    But your future self did save you. Maybe not with superpowers, but still.

  27. Phenomenal post, that was quite a delightful read! I distinctly remember envisioning what my life would be like in grammar school, but those aspirations only involved my career and family. I had no inkling how to create a healthy relationship with money. My past self was completely ignorant to the world of personal finance, and my present self has paid greatly. While nothing catastrophic has happened, I simply did not capitalize on ample opportunities, and I certainly was not proactive. Surviving was the goal and expectation and not thriving.
    My present self is doing a favor for my future self by consuming all the information I can about personal finance with the end goal of redefining my relationship with money. A job is a privilege not an entitlement. Being a dual income household is a blessing. Going to work every day is a sacrifice – I can honor that sacrifice by paying off debt, staggering indulgences, having budgetary boundaries, establishing an emergency fund.

  28. First: Dorkness Rising is awesome.

    Second: I had the same realization as Gal #25. Making decisions now that require my future self to act better than my present self usually ends badly.

    Example: Writing. I have daily writing goals. Some days I don’t feel like writing so I’ll tell myself, “I’m going to read this book now and my future self can deal with writing later.” Inevitably when later comes I’m no more enthusiastic about writing and I may be a bit resentful at my past self for forcing me to choose between writing and sleep. I like and want to write and I end up resenting it.

    It’s much better to do things that increase rather than restrict your future self’s options. No guilt, no resentment, more success.

    It’s also better to deal with your issues now rather than later. Your future self is more knowledgeable only if your present self learns something. If I’d dealt with my “I don’t wanna write” issues when I had them, I wouldn’t have put off writing and my future self would know how to handle times when I didn’t feel like writing.

  29. Great post! I remember doing this to myself ‘back in the day’. Thinking, “I’ll buy xx now because I just know I’ll have the ability to make more money next year to pay for it all.” Inevitably, life got in the way, another kid was born, etc. etc. and I just never got a handle on my denial. Then I was hit with a job loss that caused a massive shift in my thought pattern and, I guess, an ‘awakening’ to my foolishness. Today, I live for the present. I absolutely do not count on my ‘future self’ because of the utter unreliability of such fallacious thinking IMO. I have a long way to go to make up for years of financial mismanagement but I try to make each day a step away from debt and overspending.

  30. Nancy L @4: You’ve reminded me of something I’ve thought about a lot in recent years.

    With our current economic situation, especially in my dying industry (print journalism), I often feel more comfortable with being 65 and almost retired than being one of the youngsters who face a more uncertain future.

    OTOH, I envy the young people who are getting much more, and better, financial planning information than even existed 40-some years ago.

    We didn’t plan back then and for some of us, it shows today.

    There’s no real moral or lesson here, just a comment.

  31. I thought I was the only person that considered this idea of “Future Me”. I love when I realize that “Past Me” did something that benefits me now (i.e. Math minor, paying off debt, saving, marrying the right woman, etc). It can even be as simple as when “Past Me” irons the clothes and makes the lunch the night before for the “Present Me” who woke late and is in a hurry. I find myself literally thanking “Past Me”. I think planning and preparedness has become such an integral part of my routine that I think about “Future Me” constantly and subconsciously.
  32. @Anree (#31)
    I love your comment. I think being consciously aware that your past self has made things easier for you is an excellent way to reinforce doing similar things in the future.

    Actually, that’s where I am with my fitness. As I’ve written elsewhere, taking the cruise in France last month was eye-opening. I saw all these 65 and 75 and 85 year olds who had trouble even walking half a mile. But I also saw folks who had made fitness a priority. They were in better shape than I am at 41. I want to be like them, but the only way for the Future Me to be that healthy is for the Present Me to make the right choices.

  33. Long story short. At a young age I had saved a lot of money, including an inheritance. Successful jobs, then started a dream business which was successful and made me extremely happy. It never occurred to me that my husband would hate the business (we worked together) and he went into a deep deep depression. It was either sell the business or get divorced!
    We sold it, then were both unemployed for 2 years. Neither of us had EVER been unemployed in our lives! It was a shock. We hung on to our home but used our entire savings to stay afloat for 2 years while job searching.
    We now both have great jobs and I can tell you I feel like I’ve been reborn. We have tons of debt but we have a plan and so optimism is coming back into my life. I was even having suicidal thoughts, though I shared that with no one. I KNOW what people are going through and I ache for them. I will never ever take anything for granted again.

  34. If you’d told me upon my high-school graduation in 1976 that two years later I’d be a single parent, I would have flatly dismissed the idea. I wasn’t planning on having kids.
    If you’d told me in 2000 that in a few years I’d no longer be married, a newspaper journalist or living in Alaska, I would have laughed. (I was unhappy in the marriage; I just couldn’t see a way out.)
    If you’d told me in 2001 that I’d be broke by 2005, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had a good job and a savings account.
    If you told me in 2004 that soon I’d get a university degree without paying a dime and also making a living as a personal finance columnist, I’d have asked what you were smoking.
    We can’t know what will happen, and to some extent we can’t even plan for it. Life holds just too many wild cards. But we can set in motion some smart habits — living below our means, saving for retirement, putting together an EF — that will help see us through whatever happens.
    Incidentally, I *love* credit cards. If I hadn’t had a credit card during the divorce process, I’d have been up a stump. (Lawyers get paid by the minute.) I also get free stuff like airline tickets and gift cards from rewards programs. But I never spend more than I can afford to spend, and I pay them off every month (see “smart habits,” above).
    Obviously people who can’t spend responsibly should stay away from plastic. To me, they’re a tool like any other.

  35. This is such a great point. I can’t tell you how many times I was trying to justify purchases because “future me had the money”. Then an unexpected expense would come up then I’d be SOL. Sometimes you really do have to live in the now.

  36. @Bill (#30) I totally understand your point. In some ways my parents had it best, because they came of age in the boom years after WW2, when jobs were plentiful and housing was still relatively low priced. In some ways, I had it best, because I came of age in the first generation to really try to understand computers, so I was able to take advantage of knowing both the old and the new technology, and got a lot of opportunities simply by knowing programs that were too new to be taught in school. And in some ways, my son has it best, because the things he is being taught in school are already–in 4th grade–light years ahead of what we learned in high school and because there is still so much opportunity with the internet to set yourself up to do whatever you want to do. OTOH, if I really think about it, I could also come up for reasons why each generation had it the worst, lol!

  37. JD – I know what you mean about your future self and fitness/health. My parents are planning a 19 day safari in South Africa, Botswana (and a few other countries I can’t remember right now) for next summer. My dad turned 73 today and my mom turned 71. They have made fitness and health a priority their whole lives. Are they in perfect health? No…my mom just had knee surgery 8 weeks ago and my dad had a triple bypass about 10 years ago. However, they knew that when they retired that trips like this would be a priority for them (they have been all over the world…including a freighter cruise around the world)and they took steps to make sure their future selves would be ready – from both a health and financial perspective. I have to say that I have learned a lot from them and hope to do half as well.

  38. First time poster, this blog entry really hit home with me. Now in my 30s, I never would have envisioned the last decade of my life going the way it did. Long story short, by 24 I was well paid, had obtained several degrees, successful investor and eternally optimistic. At 29, bankrupt, jobless, homeless, and in the pit of despair.

    Currently, nearly recovered financially, employed, and a realist. Things are always in flux in life and there are no guarantees. The number one lesson I learned was to respect every dollar I earn. I still spend money on things I likely should not, but now its a conscious decision with value in mind.

    IMHO, the most important thing we can do for our future selves is to live the most healthy lifestyle possible and invest as much as possible in income generating assets.

    P.S. Great blog J.D. From a long time lurker.

  39. This is a really great post. I’d like to give it a high five. 🙂

    It’s only in the last few years (I’m 33 now) that I realized my mind-set of “Oh, I’ll make money when I’m older.” wasn’t going to apply (thanks to my very pragmatic husband). I’m now making a decent amount, finally paying off my gazillions of student loans and living below my means – and it feels great! I wish I had this type of common sense when I was younger!

    Oh well. I’m sending this to all of my younger relatives who are in college now.

  40. I really appreciate the point about not expecting your future self to be a completely different person from who you presently are. I think I’m just starting to get to a point where I can imagine slow but steady progress with things just as they are. Even though I’m still on somewhat shaky ground, I’m in a far better position than I ever had been before. When you’ve spent the last five years going straight from college to grad school, then to a full-time service sector position in a bad economy, then starting out self-employed after moving across the country, it’s easy to feel encouraged by a bit of stability and progress. I’m still paying off debts, including student loans I expect to be paying for decades. But I’m only about $200 from paying off my only credit card, and I don’t expect the rest of my other debts to take that long to pay off. They’re mostly medical bills, but luckily not for exorbitant amounts.

    Recently my boyfriend and I have realized that although we’re saving lots of money on housing compared to other options (we share a house with two friends in a cheap area of town), we’re still paying way more than we would if we saved up a hefty down payment and bought a small house in the same part of town. But we don’t have the savings; if we were to immediately try to get a place of our own, we probably couldn’t afford to rent anything more than a one-bedroom apartment in a complex. Been there, done that. So for the time being, we’re sticking with the housemates but making a concerted effort to keep eating out to a minimum, keep a handle on our thirst for craft beer, and sock money away in savings like crazy.

    Looking back, I imaged Future Me would be so different because Present Me was apparently incapable of providing a sense of safety or security. When you start living along the edges of poverty, it can be hard to imagine a scenario where you can get out of that situation. But after working in a new career for about two years, things are looking up. I still hug the poverty line, but the depression and hopelessness has lifted. Now that I can see a path, it’s almost a joy to make the same little sacrifices I’ve been making for years. Before, they were what I had to do just to survive and keep my account balances positive. Now I can see that circumstances are improving and the numbers are actually growing, bit by bit.

    Thanks for all your hard work, J.D.! I’m a long-time reader, and I think this is the first time I’ve commented.

  41. I agree with Gal #25 – this principle applies to all aspects of life, but it’s funny how people who are normally quite disciplined in other regards don’t apply this thinking to their finances. My hubby and I blasted our way through graduate school by our mid-twenties, working full time the whole way, and constantly applied the “my future self will thank me” thinking, but we simultaneously racked up thousands of dollars in consumer debt and student loans, which we justified, I think, because we were so disciplined in every other part of our lives. In retrospect, I wish I had balanced my priorities better: greater discipline with my finances and a bit less discipline with my time.

  42. Great article!!
    I don’t think I’ve changed all that much in the last 5-10 years. I’ve been in the same relationship, a lot of similar situations. It’s more like I’m evolving than changing dramatically anyway.
    One example is, 10 years ago we lived in LA and home ownership was something that happened to other people. Now we’ve been in our own place for the last 5 (a personal record for living in one place). Another is that after struggling for years to live within my means, now it’s almost easy. I’ve lived on the same or less money for most of the past 10 years. As a result my retirement savings have gone from less than $5k to more than $30k, and my liquid accounts went from no cushion to a $1k cushion last year to a $5k cushion this year.
    I agree that the best I can do now for my future self is to keep saving… and also keep enjoying my life. No regrets.

  43. As the others said, there are some great observations in this article. I used to spend income increases before they happened. So when the raise came through, it wasn’t joyous or extra — I was already in debt from anticipation!

  44. Using credit cards is about self discipline same as any other debt it is a tool. Pay off the balance and collect the rewards points dont spend more than you can pay off and dont acrue any other debt if you can help it unless it builds assets. I am thankful i’m 25 and know this just wish I knew at 18..lol