Now that I have nearly reached the wise old age of 31, I can look back at some of my goals from my teens and twenties and have a good chuckle. In some cases I can even thank my past self for actions taken to reach said goals. Thankfully as I have evolved as a person my understanding and planning around finances has shifted as well. Rigid plans won’t necessarily be helpful to me as I am one that doesn’t like restrictions. If there are restrictions or someone tells me I can’t do something, you bet your ass I’m going to do it just to prove I can (it’s not a great attitude, and one that I’m working on mellowing). Vague, loose plans of some far off future are also not particularly helpful to me because they don’t seem applicable to my current everyday life. I try to settle somewhere in the middle, understanding what I want to do with a specific category without clamping down on it, and with a clear enough end point to strive for.
Ohh boy. This one has always been a biggie. Way back when I was young and naive, I assumed that I would own a fabulous home at 25, with four dogs running around the vast yard space and a fully stocked wine cellar. At 31 I realize not only how impossible that would have been for the area I want to live, but also how stupid. Let me clarify: living in and around Vancouver has never been cheap. Ever. It was certainly more affordable for my parents’ generation, but there was always a clear price hike compared to other Canadian cities (Toronto not included). As my goal started to shift towards a more realistic one, my husband and I decided that we would save together $50,000 and then shop around for a property.
We are now well on our way with that savings goal, and priorities are beginning to shift again. Even a year ago we had never truly looked at the math of owning – we simply looked at the cost of rent vs. mortgage. Thanks to multiple blogs and book readings, we now have a better understanding of all the costs involved. I’m currently thinking that I don’t want to spend 80% of my pay on housing, thank you very much. I love the apartment that we are renting, in one of the trendiest suburbs, with a waterfront view and hundreds of kilometres of trails on our doorstep. I can’t really think of why I would change that for a tiny one-bedroom with a view if the parking lot, all the while resenting putting my money towards it. My husband put it in a great way: what would make us more comfortable in a few years? Hundreds of thousands of mortgage still to go or a huge pile of savings?
Two years ago I did not have a retirement savings account. Now it’s where 30% of my cheque goes every month. At first I was unsure such an amount could be sustainable, but I’ve truly enjoyed watching it grow at a steady rate. Apparently the first $100k is the hardest to save, and after that it starts to gain speed. My current goal is to have that amount saved up by the time I am 36, but I do have a special ace up my sleeve that not many people get the privilege of having: I have a pension. I am very lucky – though in fairness, I contribute around $800 to it every month, so luck doesn’t necessarily play a huge part in it – to have this set up for me by my employment. Because I’ve only paid into it for a year and half, if I were to retire now I would get $3.48/month for the rest of my life. Sweet!
No longer am I viewing retirement as a far away land to eventually make my way towards. I am charging full-steam ahead, with the idea that maybe I won’t need to work as long as everybody else. Getting my husband on board is the next step. This is my one goal that I can’t see changing any time soon. Now that a FIRE fever has set it, I want to work as hard as I can to get there.
Old me would throw everything on the credit card and then wonder why I had no money left after I paid that bill. Current me enjoys getting a cash allowance of $100 every two weeks to put towards anything I please. It’s a system that has had plenty of trial and error and is becoming very comfortable.
My attitude towards fun was, for a very long time, that money should never be considered in the equation. With such an attitude I’ve had some amazing experiences: I went skydiving in Switzerland, backpacked through Eastern Europe, danced the night away in a tequila haze more times than I can count, and moved to Scotland on a bit of a whim for six years. As a direct result of my laissez-faire attitude, I also spent six months in Scotland in a cripplingly small budget. After rent I only had the pound equivalent of $20/month leftover for food and essentials. I had nothing left in my savings and had to scrape by. I remember finding a two-pound coin on the ground and having a sense of euphoria because I could add it to my grocery list. Since then, and that was in 2011, my fun goals have changed a lot. I want to have fun, of course, but I don’t want it to come at the expense of security and health. Now I take great joy in finding fun things that don’t require huge amounts of money, and splurge occasionally to go travelling.
You know, food and stuff. My goals have perhaps not had a huge dramatic shift in this regard, but it is a very important part of my financial profile so I thought I’d add it in. There is a gorgeous grocery store near my house that sells some of the most beautiful produce. I love shopping there. But. It is not unusual to spend three dollars on a cucumber – not even an organic one, just a regular old cucumber. Screw that. My life stuff goals are now focused on getting the best bang for my buck for whatever is best for my health. I don’t mind spending more for good quality, grass-fed beef, or eggs from pastured hens (I’ve visited both farms where these products come from, and can confirm that they are farms that actually care about the wellbeing of the animals, not the easiest profit). I spend plenty every week on fresh veggies, guilt-free, but from a more reasonably-priced store. Some things you have to realize are worth the money, if you can afford them.
One area of shame for me is my phone. I went a little nuts one day and marched straight out the door to sign a new phone contract. I didn’t even really want one, but I got seized by the spirit of Apple to get one of the newer models with all the bells and whistles. Thankfully I chose a deal that is relatively cheap, but I am locked in to a two-year contract because of my lack of restraint. One this contract is up, I will run this phone into the ground for a few more years, and from here on out my goal is to only buy secondhand phones and be on a pay-as-you-go basis. Only a year and a half to wait for that…
Changing the financial goals is not only okay, it is essential. I would recommend that everyone stop blindly following a goal and instead let it change as you do. I don’t mean that you drop everything and spend like there’s no tomorrow; I mean that you may decide you want different things over time, and it’s quite all right to switch focuses. Keep an eye on your future, keep saving for retirement and for emergencies (for the love of Pete DO NOT STOP DOING THOSE!) and then let the rest shift as needed. Good luck :).