With summer here, we’re all kinds of busy with random activities. I wasn’t going to post today, but there is something gnawing my behind that I have to talk about.
Humans just aren’t wired to think into the future. It goes back to our caveman days when we didn’t have to be concerned about living to 40, much less retirement. The only thing that mattered was staying warm, finding the next meal and avoiding the random saber-toothed cat. All of those things are very short term concerns. Never mind next year or even next week, finding some food was all that mattered.
We’re much better off now. If you live in a first world country, you can expect to live to a ripe old age in comfort. No need to worry about finding food when the grocery store is just down the road. If it gets cold, we fire up the furnace. Big cats with big teeth are no more*. However, our brains are still wired to think like our prehistoric predecessors. I can think of all kinds of examples, but I’ll concentrate on money issues. Here are two conversations I have had recently with young folks.
- Friend: We just had several rooms in our home redone. <the friend went on to explain the projects>
- Me: Oh crap, you should have called me. I know how to do all that stuff and could have helped you out.
- Friend: Oh, I already know how to do all of the work. I’ve done it before. This time, I just got lazy.
- Me: If you don’t mind me asking, how much did the job cost?
- Friend: It was only about $10,000. We paid $3,000 for the materials and the labor was only $7,000.
- Friend: I’m going to buy a new Porsche Cayman!
- Me: Cool car. Is your current one breaking down?
- Friend: Nope, it’s fine. I just want a Cayman. You should get one too.
- Me: That’s a pretty big cash outlay. You know I love cars, but that is just too much money.
- Friend (getting agitated): Dude, life is too short! You need to treat yourself once in a while.
- Me: Maybe some day, not right now though.
Let’s talk about both of these examples a bit more.
The first friend “only” paid $7,000 in labor. However, he is making the mistake about thinking about money in the present term, not 20 or 30 or 40 years out. Take a look at my fine artwork below to see what that $7,000 could have become in 30 years. He stated he was “too lazy” and just paid the $7,000. I wonder if he realizes how hard he’ll have to work to get that future money back?
Of course, the Cayman friend is a much more extreme example. Just the money that car will cost could fund the retirement of some individuals.
Both of these folks are thinking like cavemen and I wanted to tell them so. However, despite my caustic rants**, I’m a mellow person in real life. In both cases, I just let it go***. If I thought that there was even the slightest chance at teaching a lesson, I’ would have gently posed some questions in an effort to bring them around to my way of thinking****. In both of these cases though, I knew the effort would have been futile, so I just let the conversations run their course and then changed the subject.
Before I let you go, I have one more thing to say. In the second conversation, my friend said this when I resisted his attempts to buy the car:
You need to treat yourself once in a while.
I’m giving myself the ultimate treat; the treat of time*****. I still don’t know how I’ll use my expanded retirement, but whatever it is, it will be mine. I’d rather spend my time on my own terms than drive a Porsche to work.
*Unfortunate I say!
**This blog/writing is therapeutic and is my outlet.
***Crap, now that song is going through my head. You know what I’m talking about if you have kids.
****I find the best way to win an argument is to convince your opponent that the idea is theirs by guiding their brain to come up with the idea themselves.
*****I’ve told this friend about my early retirement dreams before and his response is always the same: ‘I probably won’t live to an old age, so I’m going to spend it all before I go.’
PS: Holy asterisk hell Batman! I hope you were able to follow all of this.
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