We live in a society that is obsessed with gratification.
Our cities are littered with drive-thrus. Our phones are loaded with apps that are designed to give us what we want, when we want it.
Amazon Prime, Shipd, Domino’s Pizza Tracker...you can even order a car online.
But too often, gratifying today’s desires comes at the expense of tomorrow. We use whatever extra money we have to treat ourselves, even when we know that we should set it aside for a nest egg.
I know this from firsthand experience.
Four years ago, my wife and I were teaching together, making more money than we had ever seen. And instead of building a healthy nest egg, I built a healthy pedalboard for my guitar rig.
But when I got laid off, that pedalboard couldn’t pay for our bills.
We had to dig into what little savings we did have for that. And when that ran out, we had to turn to credit cards.
And still, I squandered whatever extra we made. I splurged on restaurants, bought video games, and spent far too much expanding my record collection.
Thirty or fifty overdrafts in, I realized something had to give.
I started to look at people around me. Mostly, our families.
My wife and I had very different upbringings.
My dad owned his own business and spent very little of what he made. He lived in a modest house that he rented from a friend on the cheap.
My wife’s dad has spent his life moving between different sales jobs, living in houses he can’t afford and spending his bonuses on musical equipment. Sometimes, it’s a bit like looking at my future through a crystal ball.
So when I see that he has as much in his retirement account in his fifties as we do in our thirties, it’s hard not to see it as a warning.
His story is hardly unique: everywhere I look, I see people nearing—or at—retirement age who aren’t in any sort of position to retire. A man I know from my church had to get a job at a hardware store because their Medicare benefits weren’t enough to cover their medical costs.
This has gotten me asking one loud question...
What do I have to do to not need a job at a hardware store at 65?
His story is all too common. Only 15% of Americans have more than $15,000 set aside for retirement. The rest are forced to keep working for the rest of their lives.
And the longer I live, the stronger I feel the severity of the issue. And now that we’re in a better spot financially, I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes that I’ve made for so long.
I’ve spent enough time borrowing from tomorrow to gratify today. I’m ready to reverse the trend.