It’s (not) all about the Benjamins: Remember Why

Slow down you crazy child. You’re so ambitious for a juvenile, but then if you’re so smart…tell me why are you still so afraid.  Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about? You better cool it off before you burn it out.  You got so much to do and only so many hours in a day. ~ Billy Joel, Vienna

Billy Joel had it right when he said that there are “only so many hours in a day.”  When we focus only on our financial goals, we may set ourselves up to miss the point.

While time in the market is one of the most important principles in investing, it is not everything.

In the end, it’s not all about the Benjamins.

Keeping Perspective

There are many phrases in and out of pop culture to describe what Billy Joel sang about.  Some people scream, “YOLO!” (You only live once).  Others say things like “Life is too short.”  They are all really getting at the same point, which is that life is limited for all of us.  So, we should spend our time making the most of it.

As a prior philosophy major, I have to mention that this line of thought can certainly lead to hedonism.  (Hedonism = following whatever gives you the most pleasure).  This is not what I have in mind.  In fact, the most common thing you will hear me telling my kids is to put others first.  I clearly don’t believe in hedonism.

Yet, there is something to be said about life being too short.  You have to live a little.  And while there are tools (like The 10% Rule) that can help us to find this delicate balance, it remains difficult for many.

Some really good books have been written about how spending money on things does not bring as much joy as we anticipate.  Other research suggests that spending money on experiences with the ones we love is more likely to bring us joy.

Life really is too short

Billy Joel got it right. Life is too short. Make sure it doesn’t pass you by.

For any of the readers who work in medicine, it really is too obvious that life is short.  Every day we see tragic cases of people who have died too young; too early; too soon.

This may, in part, explain why physicians are notoriously bad with money. We often take the short view and spend it all.

On that note, I want you to think about a singular moment in your life where you were full of unadulterated joy.  Stop. Really think about it.  What was that moment?

For me, one of the most prominent memories was the birth of my first kid.  When she was born, I felt so undeserving to have a healthy and beautiful little girl. She was (and still is) a gift from God.

I remember holding her in my arms that night while my wife was fast asleep recovering from her Cesarean section.  Tears of joy streamed down my face for a good thirty minutes.

Now THAT memory is clear to this day.  I also remember her riding her bike for the first time, the first time she swam, the first time she met her little brother and sister.

In fact, the day my youngest was born the love my older kids had for that little baby made any doubt we ever had about having a third child vanish.

Memories on the Table

While a big focus of this website is to promote ways to build wealth and live the moderately frugal life, a bigger picture focus is the “why.”  Ultimately, we want to build wealth so that we can obtain financial independence.  Ideally, this cuts the strings that bind us to things we may not enjoy.  It also frees us up to take part in the things we do enjoy.

The point is this.  I don’t want to live a life full of regrets, and I don’t think you should either.

My hope is to be able to look back and to say I lived my life to the fullest while I served the people around me.  I want to be able to say I attended my kids recitals, games, and performances.

Hopefully, we will have eaten a family dinner most nights and discussed the day’s events.  I hope that my wife feels unwavering support for her both professionally and at home.

At the end of the day, if I work hard and have slightly less money left on the table so that I could build more memories… I am perfectly okay with that.  Sometimes I can hustle a little too hard on my side hustles.  These are, of course, fine to work on.  They just cannot happen at the expense of building memories.

Remember your “why”

Like many things, we can have it both ways if we make a plan.  We can build a life of memories while we build our wealth.  It just requires us to be intentional with our decisions and intentional with our spending.

What this post lacks in specific and practical advice, I hope it makes up in abstract concept.  It is important to not put your life on hold so that you can save for some future date that may or may not happen.

None of us are guaranteed to make it to retirement.  Many people die just after they reached the promised land of retirement. And, even if we do make it, that retirement may or may not be better than your current life.

So, live it up.  Build those memories.  Use some of that selective moderate frugality on experiences with the loved ones around you.  Most of all, remember your “why” for building wealth and don’t forget to enjoy some of it now.

What do you think?  Are you living a life that is building memories you’ll cherish?  Are you missing the point waiting for that promised day to come?  Share one of your favorite memories below in the comments!

TPP

6 thoughts on “It’s (not) all about the Benjamins: Remember Why”

  1. Money is a tool, not the endgame. I also try to balance my life and make time for my family. I see so many peers sacrifice their time now in hopes of having a rich future. The consequence is they are not available to make memories with their children now. And when they finally make it- it’s too late. The kids are grown and gone.

  2. Yes. Well said. Money doesn’t buy love, and experiences, and children, and even pain. We have to forget to take the time to experience them all.

  3. Just a few nights ago I read the obituary of a 46 year old surgeon from my hometown. I remember him just starting his job when I rotated as a med student 10 years ago.

    The path to FI is easy…live below your means, save, invest in index funds, etc. THE hardest part for me is finding contentment with life during this accumulation phase. Being part of a physician couple, money is plenty but time is at a premium, especially with young kids at home. That is why I am very seriously looking at part time options as opposed to “grinding it out” for 8-10 more years then retiring, which would be possible. I want to find a way to preserve longevity on my job which I like, and at the same time enjoy both my years now and in the future

    • Man, you hit the nail on the head for me, too. This is EXACTLY how I’ve felt lately. And I am just getting started in my career. This is too break neck of a speed to keep up with the things that are truly important to me. You are leading by example, millennial Doc!

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