You can’t take it with you. It’s only money. Life is short. He who dies with the most toys wins. All common expressions that remind us that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and a great excuses to buy now and pay later. Messages that can be hard to ignore when you have experienced the sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one. Messages that can lead to out of control spending or what I like to call the “Spending Death Spiral.”
Early on in our marriage, dear hubby and I were very financial responsible. We had a household budget and strict spending rules. I even called hubby “tight” on occasion and told him that all his efforts would only serve to make me a wealthy widow. He didn’t find that very funny.
Then something happened. A sudden and tragic death in the family. A death that made my wealthy widow comments more than a joke, it made them a distinct possibility. Things changed. We entered into a period I now call our spending death spiral.
It happened slowly but escalated over time. Profound grief mixed with the realization that our loved one never got to see retirement made “live for today” our new mantra. We set out, unconsciously I think, to build the life we were supposed to want. We super-sized our home – twice. We walked into a car dealership and bought two brand new cars at the same time. We bought fancy appliances and motorized toys. Oh, and I can’t forget the stupid hot tub. Our spending was out of control.
I went along on this wild ride as a willing participant. I am sure that at times I even encouraged it. Then one day, I realized our endless line of credit was maxed out. What? How could that be? Oops! That was a turning point for us and the pendulum has now started to swing in the other direction.
The funny thing is, while we entered into a spending death spiral the same unfortunate loss had the exact opposite effect on others in the family. They entered into what I would like to call the “Saving to Live Spiral.” We were too busy spending and moving to new homes to notice. I see it now – it’s about saving to build the life you really want. Saving to ensure financial freedom and independence. Saving to make sure I enjoy a retirement – however I choose to define it – because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
I now choose the saving to live spiral.