Living For Today is Wrong

by Adam on June 11, 2010

Warning: This is a more ‘stream of consciousness’ post today. As I continue to work behind the scenes on definitive posts for how to find good unit trusts and the best ways to invest I thought I’d share with you something that landed in my inbox a few days ago:

The email in question was one of Brian Kim’s “Motivational and Inspirational Thoughts” (MIT) emails. Some might scoff that I subcribe to these MITs but I honestly believe its important to be thinking about your personal development regularly.

You may think it gets repetitive reading “be the best you can be” type content day in day out, but you should try it. There’s something special about reading inspirational things on a regular basis. Even the most positive person can find such content uplifting and give them a boost to make today better than yesterday.

Reading postive ideas and messages, either in books or online is something I would recommend

(and naturally I feel the same is true for reading and learning about money management for helping you stay focused on amazing and life-affirming saving goals).

And so onto the email:

There are some people who buy really nice things, but don’t use them.

They’re saving them for some “special occasion.”

And should one arise, they rationalize and say they’ll save it for an even
better occasion.

In short, they never get to enjoy it.

Enjoy it.

Today.

Give yourself permission to enjoy.

There is no perfect day in the future.

There is only the perfect day of today.

Normally I find Brian’s emails inspirational and easy to agree with. But this one kept me thinking.

Am I saving my money (and the ‘nice things’ I could be buying) for a perfect day in the future that may never come? Should I be thinking more about today?

Whilst living and being present in the moment and focusing on today are worthy goals, this message troubled me as it could be used too easily to justify not saving for the future. And this is dangerous particularly because:

  1. We don’t need money to enjoy today…but there’s always the possibility that we will need money to enjoy tomorrow.
  2. We’re never going to be younger than we are today and we have almost limitless options and paths as we walk through life. Yet each passing day sees our options and possible paths deminish. It’s great to save for the future for this reason as it maintains our options, or at least limits the decline of those options.

The email may be right that there’s only a ‘perfect day of today’ but the more you control your spending today, the greater potential you have to transform your future. And considering the power of compounding this isn’t being melodramatic or overy inspirational -small but consistant long term saving today can has huge implications on your potential wealth in the future.

This topic may seem rather deep for Friday but I hope you take a moment to examine any prejudices or beliefs you may have about spending and saving patterns now and in the future. Maybe I’m off-base? How do you balance creating perfect todays with planned tomorrows?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

The Other Adam

Hi Adam

Wow, two posts in a row, get me! I thought as a severe pessimist, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass to get my point across. I actually come out with a similar point of view to you here, but I look at it from a completely different angle.

Ok, I don’t save as much as you, and seen as I am soon to be housed, married and familied (when I say soon, I mean the next 5 years), I will probably never be able to save and invest as much as you. However, I am still saving quite a bit each month, and I will do my best to keep doing so for as long as I can, following your shining example.

However, I am not saving for the future. I am saving so that I have enough of a cushion in case something goes drastically wrong. So for me, I am not putting off ‘today’, I’m just covering all the possible options! I have also built enough disposable income into my spending to do what I want to do ‘today’, should the occasion ever arise.

I suppose the difference between us is that I am living to my means, rather than below, but into that I have built in an amount that I save every month. For instance, I am going on holiday three times in July (a festival, a stag weekend, and a theatre trip to London!), but in that month I have also budgeted to put £300 into my savings account.

So, if anything, I am trying to do both. Saving for the future, and living for today. Yes, this may mean that I am not as ‘well off’ when we reach retirement age, but I will hopefully have enough to help my future children through university, or help them start up in a house, or even enough just to live a little more comfortably through retirement. That’s assuming that the money lasts until then, my pessimistic nature has to consider that I may get made redundant, or part of the house will collapse, or anything else that could happen!

I apologise, this post is a bit rambling. I suppose what I am trying to say is occasionally, even the biggest savers should budget in something for today. Occasionally treat yourself. I’ll again bring up the image of my grandfather, sat next to a tiny electric fire going over his savings account, with his blanket wrapped around his legs. Every night he would shuffle back through the house, putting newspapers under every door in the house to keep the draft out. Yes, he saved a lot of money in his life, but by the end of it, it was pretty much all he had left!

Rightly Knightly

I think this boils down to personality difference.

You find intense fun in saving and financial thoughts. Your ‘living for today’ heavily involves this.

Others may not find the same fun and if forced to review their finances as much as yourself they’d find themselves brought down.

All in all, as usual, it is about moderation. If you lived everyday for ‘today’ you won’t prepare for tomorrow meaning eventually you’ll try to live for ‘today’ and be unable to through poor preparation.

Hope to Prosper

It’s easy to struggle with financial balance or to justify extremes in saving or spending. It’s no different from work, diet, drinking, relationships and other things that must be balanced.

The easiest way for me to deal with this is to work with percentages. I Pay Myself First at least 10% (curently 20%) and then I enjoy the rest of my money. As my income has increased, so has my spending and my savings. That’s the beauty of balance.

I wouldn’t enjoy wearing a blanket around a drafty house any more than I would enjoy retiring broke. You have to live for today and tomorrow, so there is no sense in neglecting one for the other.

Adam

@Ad – “I will probably never be able to save and invest as much as you” -I think the key thing is make sure you don’t compare yourself to other people, only yourself. You made a great comment -by making savings a part of what you consider ‘your means’ it becomes automatic and its not like you’re depriving yourself of anything.

@Rightly Knightly -I challenge you on your comment that I “find intense fun in saving and financial thoughts” -It’s not that its fun, but that the idea of a more financially secure future is even more ‘fun’.
I guess i find it easier putting things off than other people but the payoff seems so clear to me.

@Hope to Prosper -great comment (and 20% is a great rate atm). I agree there’s is a beauty of balance but you only really know if you’re truly balanced until after the fact -just got to keep aware of it as time goes on.

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