The One Word that will Save Your Financial Life – No.

When all the MClets were little and still took consistent naps, I hated taking them to the store if they hadn’t napped.  The attitudes were tenuous at best…and mine wasn’t fantastic either.

However, I am proud of the fact that I wasn’t the kind of parent that gave into their every whim just to get them to be manageable during any given outing.

I’m not the parent that lets the kids run rough shod over me.  I firmly believe it is my job to raise them to be respectful and responsible.  Consequently, when I hear some other parent being challenged by their kid having a Category Four Meltdown in the candy aisle of the local grocery store, I can’t help but feel for them.

This kid lives inside all of us.

This kid lives inside all of us.

My sympathy easily morphs into respect when the parent stands their ground, regardless of the discomfort it causes other shoppers.  That same sympathy turns to disappointment when I see the parent cave like their a professional spelunker.  The look on Little Johnny’s face when his mommy or daddy gives in to whatever he was pitching a fit about makes me weep for the future because Little Johnny is going to be a pain in the ass his whole damn life.

As a culture, we are that screaming toddler in the candy aisle.  Our cries of “I deserve it” and “I work hard” echo through the halls of our disappointment when we realize the cost of sating a momentary salve in order to stop the whining.

All too often, we opt for short-term rewards at the expense of future benefits. Those rewards, whilst sweet at the time, tend to leave the tang of bitterness and regret when seen them through the lens of the long haul.

There is a way to avoid that regret.  It isn’t easy nor is it always fun. Neither is parenting, but it is our job.  There is one word that, if said often enough and appropriately enough, will grow to be the most powerful word in your vocabulary.

No.

Two letters. One syllable. People that don’t speak English understand it.  Babies grasp the concept.  There is no reason you can’t master it.

Denying yourself something in the short-term in order to gain something larger in the long run is not only a better deal, it creates more meaning.  It teaches you that delayed satisfaction is infinitely better and more powerful than settling for the easy way out.

Let’s use a real world example.

Cars.

We all love the smell.  We love the new-ness of it all.  We will talk ourselves into buying a new car after we’ve had our old one for a few years.  There are any number of “reasons” we claim.

  1. Safety – I will grant you huge strides have been made in automobile safety in the last fifty years; however, there is an infinitesimal difference in safety between your 2011 model and a 2015 model.  Be realistic.
  2. We’ll always have a car payment – This one just pisses me off. This is a mindset that has been repeated so often that it has become the mantra of the middle class. I haven’t had a car payment in nearly three years and I’ll never have one again.
  3. It’s an investment – The reality is that cars lose about 65% to 70% of their value over the first four years of their lives.  Would you invest $400+ a month in an investment that tanked like that?
  4. I deserve it – No, you don’t.  You deserve to retire with dignity. You deserve peace of mind.  Your family deserves security. Your kids deserve a decent education. Stop being selfish.
  5. I like new cars – I like Caribbean vacations and eating out.  Neither of them are good financial decisions if they are frequently done.

The fact of the matter is this: the average car payment as of this writing is $471/month according to CNBC.com. The average car loan lasts for a little over five years.

If you took that $471 and invested it and got an average of a 10% return over that same five-year period, you’d make $9,696.62 in interest alone. The total you’d have would be $37,956.62. In five years, the car you paid $32,160 (the average new car price according to kbb.com), will be worth somewhere around $12,000.

You are trading 32 grand for 12 grand. On what fiscal planet does that make sense?

But what if we extended that time period from five years to twenty years? You’re looking at $158,554.22.

How’s that car treating you now? Would your rather have a $12,000 car on your hands five years from now or $160,000 in your pocket?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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10 thoughts on “The One Word that will Save Your Financial Life – No.

  1. Oh, you and your healthy-people-with-money ‘problems.’ Personally, I consider it a good month when my monthly cost of medications doesn’t eat into my food budget.

      • Are you SERIOUS? For me, fiscal responsibility means being able to afford my medical bills and yet try to stay healthy on what as little as $100/month for food can cost. And I don’t live in a place where abundant fresh fruits and vegetables are available year round, so it’s not the healthiest food I could eat.

        It never ceases to amaze me how much people take for granted. “I can put $10/month aside if I skip that one medication” — not something anyone with a brain ever said.

  2. I appreciate you putting financial decisions into a somewhat tangible outcome. I am halfway through a necessary-for-mental health career change. Earning enough money (let’s face it, ANY money) to be able to start saving again – along with paying off student loan debt – is a dream, I hope it’s not an unrealistic dream…

  3. What I thought was a parenting article suddenly morphed into a financial planning article. o_O