Jesse on Retirement: “The Whole Idea is Starting to Bug Me”

“You pile up enough tomorrows,
and you’ll find you’ve collected
a lot of empty yesterdays.”
- Professor Harold Hill, The Music Man

The following is a transcription of YNAB podcast episode 80 (with some small edits for flow). Make sure you subscribe to the podcast to get Jesse’s weekly take on budgeting and personal finance.

We’ve been talking a lot – especially since I launched that investment course – about saving for retirement (or other things). And in that course I talked about how the purpose of investing is to grow your wealth. Period.

And…to become, oh, what’s the word, like a fat-cat type person. People are sometimes bothered by the idea of wealth because sometimes they see wealth being wasted, or being used flamboyantly (if that’s the right word) – for show, for selfish reasons.

But wealth does an awful lot of good – especially on a micro level: wealth for your kids – to provide them a great education, or to provide the necessities of life to people, or just to give to worthy causes, or to pay for your daughter’s (modest) wedding.

Wealth isn’t bad it all. The investment side of things focuses a ton on retirement and it’s starting to kind of bug me. Mark’s been writing on the blog about how he wants to move – well not wants to move – but running the numbers on moving to a 2-bedroom apartment instead of having his house, and it would mean $200,000 in ten years, and that could go toward retirement.

And then people came back with all sorts of insightful commments about how there are all sorts of other factors besides just the savings and investing for retirement.

In the investing course I really push people hard toward starting, and I’m not backing down from that at all. The average 50-year-old has about $1,000 to their name for each year they are old (or young, depending on how you look at it)!

But the idea of saving and investing toward retirement has tons written about it – you see book after book after book talking about howy you can retire – you can stop working. And I just want to say that I think you should take a hard look at being content now.

It would be really, really said if you had these great kids (as I do – five kids, ages eight and under – basically piled in like a stack of pancakes). And we’re busy with them – it’s crazy at the house, truly crazy – absolute chaos. And sometimes I’m guilty of thinking “When it’s just Rose…” (She’s the youngest – not saying she’s my favorite, but she sure is cute) …”how simple will that be?” All the other kids will have moved on, and I just think about how simple that will be.

And then at the gym the other day someone told me “Oh, man – when they’re teenagers, everything changes. It’s crazy.”

So here I am, looking ahead the future, always thinking, “Man, tomorrow. That will be something.” Instead of enjoying right now. Enjoying the chaos for what it is, and just finding the joy in the moment.

I was reading a sermon by a church leader who says (paraphrasing): “If you’re always focused on tomorrow, you have a lot of empty yesterdays.”

I feel like the retirement siren song is causing us – or could cause us to be looking to that day off in the future where we get to retire and stop working. Where we get to travel more, or do more woodworking, or gardening, or whatever it is you’re excited about doing when you have more spare time. Always looking forward and saying “Oh, that’s going to be great. I’ll just survive for today.” Instead of just enjoying the moment, enjoying today for what it is.

Whether you’re sitting in a cubicle, crunching numbers (which is what I was doing back in the day), or whether you’re making a podcast (which is what I’m doing now) – just enjoy the moment.

Everyone should go back to the podcast where I interviewed Leo (from ZenHabits.net) and listen to that again, because it’s a good exercise in being content. And when you’re content, maybe that’s the key to retirement: You may not ever really care about retiring because you’re just living in the moment and enjoying where you are.

Whether you’re in debt and slowly getting out, or you’re out of debt and looking to invest more – whatever you’re finances are at the moment. You can just be content with where you are and happy with the direction you’re facing – but you’re not looking off to some distant day and not ignoring – missing- what’s going on all around you.

Some food for thought.

12 Responses to “Jesse on Retirement: “The Whole Idea is Starting to Bug Me””

  1. Paula

    Being happy in the moment… requires being IN the moment. Some of your readers may enjoy as much as I do, this blog by a woman who realized that being focused on a smart phone too much was separating her from the precious moments of her family’s life. In your thoughts in this post, you’re seeing that looking too far forward takes you out of the present moment and removes the enjoyment of it. Being connected too closely to everyone else’s updates, or so focused on sharing pictures of your present moment can take you out of it, too. Anyway, I’m really appreciating these multiple reminders to be present and to love living in the now. http://www.handsfreemama.com

  2. Iron Mike Sharpe

    I don’t see how you can’t have both. I mean retirement planning only takes about an hour a month once you have your game plan in place. Plenty of time left over to enjoy the now.

    • mark

      Yep – I think that’s Jesse’s point: prepare for the future and enjoy the present.

  3. Jerald

    Good thoughts, and I agree. Working for retirement can be like people working for the weekend. As you said, constantly in survival mode with their eyes towards a future better day. I hope to always have work that is fulfilling and enjoyable so that it’s easier to find joy and contentment every day instead of waiting for the weekend or the weekend of life (retirement).

  4. Jeff

    Yes, definitely enjoy the moment, but don’t forget what’s coming down the road. You DON’T want to be working when you’re 85 (unless you’re in a highly specialized profession, or you’re an actor).

    I’ll be 58 in less than two months, and I want to be able to have the choice to retire when I reach 65. Right now, I don’t have that choice, so I will be using the next 7 years to drastically increase my net worth so that I do have that choice in 7 years.

  5. Marily

    I agree. BUT….I don’t think there are many people in this day that are sacrificing so much for retirement that they aren’t happy now. I personally do not know ONE SINGLE PERSON that fits that description. Mostly, we live in a society that’s living so much for today and not planning for tomorrow that they aren’t as happy tomorrow because of decisions they made yesterday. You want real happiness? Real happiness is looking back over years and years of hard work and sacrifice and seeing the rewards of it all. And living in the moment doesn’t mean spending all of the money you earn today.

    • jesse

      I think the key is to find happiness in the moment. Living for today doesn’t mean sacrificing for tomorrow, it just means finding contentment in the moment. That was where I’m coming from at least :)

  6. Tiago

    I would love to download the podcasts but I don’t have itunes – nor I want to install it. Is there any webpage that lists all mp3s to donwload? I know they are hosted under http://traffic.libsyn.com/youneedabudget/, but the file name changes every episode.


    • Noah

      If you have an Iphone or smart phone, you can download a program like Downcast and then do a search for YNAB. Any podcast I have ever wanted is available with a simple search. No Itunes or connecting to a computer necessary. I love it!

  7. Robert

    When I read the article about moving into a 2 bedroom apartment, I had 2 thoughts. the first thought was that this was an example of the kind of thinking that wealthy people do, meaning, they spend with their heads, not with their hearts. But then, I had a another thought: life is meant to be lived. Taking the house as an example, sure you could move into a 2 bedroom apartment and save money. But, would you enjoy it? Would you feel comfortable? Or would you be playing the waiting game, suffering now to enjoy life later, gambling on the bet you won’t die from sickness or an accident?
    I think there’s a fine balance between saving and spending, and that line is different for everyone. As I like to tell my wife, “everything has a cost, even money.”

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