Let's talk about money, or more specifically, the lack thereof
Let’s get uncomfortable and talk about money!
I know, I know, money is a taboo topic. It’s a given that one shouldn’t talk about money in public unless one has written a book about it with one’s evangelically happy headshot on the cover as large as the title itself, which is likely something like “Make Your Lazy Money Get to Work” or “Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong, Numbnuts.” Money is such a taboo topic that I cringe every time a cashier brings it up with me.
But it is time we normalize money, as in, make it normal that everyone has it. Especially me.
I would very much like more money. And for it to be not lazy. And for me to prove I still have sensation in my pecans. I do not, by American standards, have enough money. It occurs to me now that if I’d like an early retirement in, say, 10 years – which I very much would – I should start to consider thinking about preparing for it.
And that means revamping the way I invest.
Here’s how I handle investing: On all-too-rare occasions, I find myself stumbling into meeting all my basic needs. Like my dogs. Housing and utilities. Food – and I mean good food. Car and gas. Several varieties of insurance. Clothing – summer clothes, winter clothes, semi-formal clothes, business casual clothes, pajama clothes, loungewear, active wear, all-weather wear, and periodically underwear. Culture and entertainment. Brunch, the occasional plane ticket, ad-free apps and streaming services – because having ads forced into my eye- and earholes should not be the cost of being not rich.
(You might think I’m being facetious with this list. I’m not. Every life deserves some joy, some relaxation, some freedom to engage with the things that make life worth living beyond mere survival. Cut corners, by all means! Just leave some corners to cut, student loan payments be damned; I, for example, choose not to put toast under my avocados.)
After all that, I sometimes find a five in my coat pocket. I think, “Maybe I should invest this.” Money wisely apportioned can, in fact, grow. The right strategy can reliably double or triple your wealth each decade. So in 30 years, my fiver could be worth as much as $135, which will equate to approximately $5 in today’s dollars.
This is still not enough to set me up for life. So I think I might as well buy an ice cream. Or if it’s a big enough windfall, a new guitar.
This has to change. Not the ice cream part, and not the guitar part, but the working-my-whole-life part that if we’re being perfectly honest, I am not cut out for. Don’t get me wrong – I do not see myself sliding into a monotonous, stagnant retirement existence. I have loads of work I WANT to do. I just want to do it without a boss, or set hours, or external expectations of any kind. On a beach at times. If I can afford the beach wear.
I have been working hard enough to deserve some hope of this kind of reprieve. Or if not hard enough, at least long enough.
When I started working, you could still go through airport security without a plane ticket. When I started working, car windows in my price range still had cranks. When I started working, gas cost a dollar and you had to rewind movies and calling a girl meant that literally anyone in her entire family might answer the phone.
I am OLD, and if I hope to retire before I hit 50, I need to get smart. Real smart. Like, savvy smart. And possibly cheap. And, above all else, I need to get very, very, very lucky.
Because let’s face it: you cannot smart-and-savvy yourself into retirement within a decade. Neither can I. Not without damaging my health by working extra jobs and eating crappy food. Not without squandering the 10 youngest years I have left in hopes of, what? A strong economy, a mystery inheritance from an uncle kept secret from my parents for all these many years? Finding a rare Civil War-era $5 bill in my coat pocket?
Maybe this is why money is such a taboo topic. It seems entirely and increasingly possible that by not listening to the financial education I didn’t receive as part of my schooling, I made choices at 17 that now directly impact my ability to quit the labor force early with a reasonably high standard of living.
At this point, there’s only one thing that can make me feel better about my future. Say hello to the proud owner of a brand-new 12-string guitar. Hey, maybe now I can busk for my ice cream.
– Zach Hively