Sitting on the beach during a recent family trip I found myself calculating in my head how much the trip had actually cost. Air fare, gas, food and lodging, incidentals, extra diapers, and time away from the office all began to add up. And then I realized it didn’t matter. Not that my finances don’t matter, but the cost of the trip (which we had budgeted for) didn’t matter. I came to the realization that – if I always saved and never spent I would miss my children laughing and playing on the beach – memories I will never forget.
Why do we work? Why do we save? Is it so we can look at our personal balance sheet and say “wow, look what I have. I need more and I’m never going to spend a dime.” No. We work to provide and we save to reach a certain level of comfort, luxury, or experience.
Sometimes it seems that everywhere you look someone is telling you to save. Save for retirement! Save for college! Save for a rainy day! Save for a new car! Save for a new house! Save, save, save, save, save!
But what if just once someone said “spend!” Not frivolously, not on a whim, but spend to create a memory, a good memory. Spend to enjoy life. Spend to embrace all your hard work and effort. I’m not saying this just to justify my own vacation. In fact, in 2013 Americans forfeited over 169 million days of paid vacation time (CNN 2014). That’s the equivalent to $52.4 billion in time-off benefits!! Why? Did the board meeting solve world hunger? Would a week of absence weaken the company so much that there would be no hope of recovery? Would missing work for a week really destroy our career and our finances?
The truth of the matter is that, since we were little, we were told to save. Just like we were told that if we missed just one practice we would not be on the starting roster of the little league team. What our parents forgot to tell us is that we work to provide, we save for our personal desires, and we should spend wisely and with a plan to enjoy the fruits of our labor. (For all the children out there, a word of advice, I missed several practices and still made the starting roster of the little league team. So don’t get worked up if you miss a few practices.)
Go enjoy life! Take your wife out to a nice restaurant. Treat your children to a day at the amusement park. Send flowers to your mom for no reason. Pick up the bar tab next time you’re out with friends. Life is full of amazing experiences and opportunities. Working and saving are great, but only if you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Work hard, save smartly, and enjoy life!
Jonathon Rowles Captain, USMC (Ret.)
Disclaimer: (have to do it) – This blog should not be considered financial, investment, legal or tax advice. Consult your licensed financial professional, tax advisor or legal counsel. This blog is for educational purposes only.