Reading Budget and the Beach’s piece about money and happiness made me realize that I don’t think enough about happiness in the here and now. I need to stop and really examine whether I’ll ever feel safe financially.
So far, I don’t like the answer.
Protected by bank accounts
Logically, having a healthy emergency fund and savings account would go a long way toward giving me financial peace of mind. It would, at least theoretically, be insulation against the financial vagaries of life.
There’s some evidence that this would be enough. When we had the car accident, I was calm. In fact, I was calming Tim down, which was a surreal role reversal.
As I pointed out to him, we had more than enough in the car fund to cover our $500 deductible. There was no need to worry. At least, not until our new insurance premiums hit.
It’s always somethin’
On the other hand, you have to have healthy bank accounts. And it feels like we’ll never get the chance to build ours up.
We were making amazing progress toward the $25,000 goal for Tim’s dental implants. I could see the finish line. I envisioned taking the money we were chunking down into savings and diverting (most of) it into a SEP IRA.
And as we get older, the things we’ve fixed around the house will need fixing/replacing again. We’ll also probably have to contend with health problems that worsen and/or multiply.
Every time our finances threaten to break the threshold of the water, something drags us back down.
Everyone has a “somethin'”
Then again, a lot of people get dealt financial blows. Arguably, most of them have two incomes (or at least the ability to have two). Most of them also don’t have a ton of health-related expenses. Let alone things like $8,000 of uncovered, non-tax deductible, alternative therapies for health conditions.
But… We’re not the only sick people in the world. There are plenty of folks with chronic conditions who thrive financially (though usually two incomes are once again involved).
And even healthy people can have the occasional large and unexpected medical bill. At some point, most people will find themselves unexpectedly needing a new vehicle.
In other words, we’re not struggling with utterly unique obstacles. Other people contend with these too, but they manage to stay positive in both bank balance and attitude.
So part of this must be linked to my outlook.
What if it all went right?
So how much would my feelings change if we encountered positive progress?
What if Tim’s review had been approved? What if we were now socking away an extra $500-600 a month into a retirement account? Would I feel safe then?
Unfortunately, I doubt it.
I’d still fret about a healthy split between retirement and savings. Even once we had a healthy savings account — even if we were fully funding a SEP — then I’d be focused on paying off the mortgage early. Then about saving for a rental property. Then paying off that mortgage. Ad infinitum.
Not to mention the near-impossible task of balancing all those worries while still enjoying the present.
Positive vs negative savings
Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Maybe I can’t feel safe, even amid great progress, because we’ve only ever dealt with negative saving: medical debt, student loans, dental implants, etc.
Perhaps saving for positive goals — retirement, early mortgage payofft and rental property — would give me peace of mind. Maybe I’d feel more secure once we were shaping a good future.
But I just don’t see it.
I fear that I’m stuck with early onset bag lady syndrome. I’m betting that I’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Paranoid or pragmatic?
Of course, some would say that I’m being more realistic than reactionary. Two people with chronic health problems, both generating a large number of medical expenses and convenience taxes… That’s a lot of potential financial trouble.
Especially, like I said before, as we get older. Then again, one of the benefits of chronic illness is that you’re used to juggling health problems (and their related bills).
So maybe being on constant alert is simply pragmatic. But it seems awfully exhausting. And I think we can all agree that I’m already exhausted enough.
Live in the present, plan for the future
It’s not just about exhaustion, though. It’s about missing out on life because I’m too busy planning for it. It’s no way to live — as Tim is happy to remind me.
And when we come to comprises (even $20 ones) I’m usually glad that I budged.
So I need to get better about letting it go, without letting it all get away from me.
I guess it’s going to be about practicing gratitude and focusing on the positive. While still keeping an eye on spending and looking for ways to trim the budget.
Yep, piece of cake.
Are you fearful about your future, or do you find peace of mind in the progress you’re making? Am I being paranoid or practical?