Reading personal finance blogs, I get a sense of an overall shift toward frugality among many of the writers and commentators (yeah, I’m good with the obvious). But, as with anything in life there are exceptions, such as “No Point Making Money If You Don’t Spend Your Money” which I read over at the Financial Samurai. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there who understand that you work hard to make a good life for yourself, and that you should get to enjoy some of the benefits of that hard work while you still can. That’s not to say, and I would never say that saving for the future is not important, because it is extremely important. But it is also important to create some sort of balance in life, and that is where the best piece of financial advice I have ever been given comes in.
Boys Will Be Boys
When I was a kid growing up in New York, myself all of my friends were into sports, and naturally sports cards. We’d get our allowance and go to the drug store to buy packs and tear into them like we were unwrapping gifts on Christmas (or in some of our cases, Chanukkah). Then, we discovered these stores that dealt in nothing but sports cards and memorabilia. I mean, talk about kids in a candy store! As time passed, and the hobby got more expensive, I took a paper route after school so that I could afford to buy more singles, packs, boxes, supplies, etc. At this point, my father would simply tell me not to spend all of my money on one particular item or at one time, since I never know where or when I will find something else I wanted to get. Of course, that was pretty hard to do when there were so many options and so much fun could be had.
I can remember how tough it was, knowing that I had this money in my pocket and being able to buy more of what I wanted. And, I’ll admit, I can remember times when I would ignore that advice and spend whatever I had in one place, on one box just because I though it would yield a great reward. Regardless of what resulted from tearing open pack after pack of cards, the feeling I had when I realized that there was nothing left to open and no more money left with which to do anything else was a horrible one.
Some Fatherly Advice
As time passed, things started getting more expensive, and as if that wasn’t enough motivation to get a “real” job, my high school was offering a work-study program which allowed you to get out early to work. It was a no brainer then, I’d work at McDonald’s, get out of school early, and earn significantly more than a paper route. However, it was a crazy time in the life of a NY high school student, because we weren’t allowed to work until we were 16, and drivers licenses were earned at age 17 with a passing grade in a driver’s education course. Well needless to say, that with all of my spending on sports cards, and now cigarettes (as I picked that up from the older guys I worked with who I though were cool), I really wasn’t putting too much away into my passbook savings account at the bank around the corner from our house–for those of you who are too young to remember passbook savings accounts, it’s kind of like a checkbook, but for a savings account. Ask your parents, they’ll tell explain it And, since I wasn’t contributing anything to my savings, my “car fund” was struggling too as they were one and the same and I ended up getting a 1986 burgundy Pontiac Sunbird with an oxidized roof and hood, which in 1994 wasn’t too flashy or even nice, but that story will be part of an upcoming post I’ll be working on after this one.
Of course, my situation could have been avoided had I listened to my father’s advice and held a little bit back from each check in the savings account. But, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as it would be a few years until I fully realized what he was trying to tell me. It wasn’t until I started my first salaried job that I got the big picture. It’s not that he was trying to hint that what I was doing with my money was a waste, nor was he telling me that I should be saving every penny. It finally hit me that he was trying to get me to strike a balance between the present and the future; to understand that I needed to have a plan for that future, but at the same time not to forget to live today as well. And it all ties back into what Financial Samurai was eluding to that there is no point in working and saving everything for the future if you are going to end up wasting what time you have in the present to live and enjoy life. It’s all about balance, my friends.
So, tell me, what was the most significant piece of advice you ever received? Don’t be afraid, it needn’t be profound or mind-blowing, just something that impacted you in a way that made you change the way you look at things, or simply something that helps keep you on track toward your goals. Heck, you can even throw the worst advice you were given if you feel compelled to do so.