Years ago, when I was maybe four or five years out of college, I worked in an office of financial advisors – most of whom were older than me. At the time, my now wife still had the label “girlfriend,” and at the end of each work day I went home to a roommate and an apartment. Life was good and living was cheap. I remember coming into the office one day and my friend Eddie, who we called Eddie Money, because well, he had a good amount of it, was bemoaning how little money was left in his wallet. He said to me, “Enjoy it now. I used to live in a world of 20s. Go to the ATM, take out 20, maybe 40 dollars and it would last a week. Now, I live in a world of 100s. I go to the ATM, take out $300, and I’m there two days later.” I could relate to the first world as every Friday I would cruise to the ATM and take out, AT MOST, $40 to last me the weekend and usually longer. The second world, not so much. Eddie had four young children, had a nice home, and was successful in his career. So as I stood there listening I felt like I was getting a glimpse of what could be my life some day.
Fast forward 13 years, and although we have three, not four, children that second world feels a lot more familiar. I keep knocking, but that world of 20s just won’t let me back in. Whether it’s a quick trip to the local ice cream shop Papa Jacks, donuts up the street at the apple farm, signing up for Viola lessons or “little dribblers” through parks n rec, the 100s go, and they go, and for the most part they go to great and worthy activities/adventures.
I have written about “lifestyle creep” in the past. The idea that as your income rises, instead of having more money, you gradually start to upgrade your lifestyle, and because that creep happens in such a slow manner you don’t really notice it. What I have learned, and am continuing to learn, is that lifestyle creep is not the same as “just life.” I have not upgraded my wardrobe and the only creep I experience is my poor hairline. This is just life right now. So the financial planner brain in me kicks on and asks “do we need to do this or should we cut back on some of these things?” It is in these moments when the battle between lifestyle and just life happens. In this battle, there is no winner, nor an absolute right answer, it is just good practice.
I know that as long as I keep asking myself the question, if there comes a day when a firm decision needs to be made, I will be prepared to do so. Until then, I will secretly pine for the world of 20s, but deeply appreciate all the memories the world of 100s is creating today.
Happy Friday! Please stay healthy and be safe!