Sometimes when I wake up and stare at the reflection in the mirror, I get a little depressed. I’m nearly thirty, and I see that the hairline is starting to shrink and the waistline is starting to grow. I fight back the thought… are my best days behind me?
I enjoyed high school, but I loved college. I may have spent a little bit too much time out with friends and not quite enough time in the library, but I received a great education and made friendships that will last for the rest of my life. Rather than eulogizing my youth, I will just say this… I made the most of my years of college and graduate school, and I have no regrets. I have many great memories. Unfortunately, I also have many student loans.
While these loans may make it hard for the future to live up to the standard set by the past, my plan is to ensure that my best days are still ahead of me. How am I going to make sure that my adult life, all the way through retirement, is financially secure? How am I going to continue to have great times and build lasting memories? How do I make sure my best days are ahead of me?
I’m going to employ these five strategies:
Strategy 1: Find a way to make memories without spending a ton of money.
Spending a fortune on a fancy vacation may be a great way to build memories, but it isn’t the most frugal way. I’ve learned that a camping trip is a great alternative vacation. When you think back on your great trips, the amount of fun you had has nothing to do with how much you spent. Along the same lines, rather than going out for a romantic dinner, cooking a meal together can be just as much fun.
It seems for every expensive way to make memories, there are inexpensive alternatives. I plan on filling my life with these inexpensive alternatives.
Strategy 2: Put together a plan to pay off my debt.
There is no sugarcoating how big my mountain of student loan debt is. Law school is expensive, and I needed student loans to make it happen. My personal plan is to dedicate my career to public service and take advantage of the student loan forgiveness options available.
Even if you are not interested in working in public service, there are many ways to pay back your loans. The key is to make a feasible plan and stick to it.
Strategy 3: Build multiple income streams.
This is a concept that is fairly new to me. The idea here is that you do not want to put all the eggs of your financial future in one basket. Markets crash, companies go under, and the impossible happens. My retirement will be in many diverse places ranging from cash, to real estate, to the stock market. I’m also considering joining my state’s national guard. It would be a great opportunity to serve and provide another income stream for my future. While the advertisements on this website don’t yet pay for the cost of hosting, but I hope one day that I will also be able to earn a little money from my internet exploits. Ideally, these totally independent revenue streams will put me in a position to roll with whatever punches the future may have in store for me.
One key tip here is to recognize your talents and find a way to use them to pick up a little extra money on the side. Over the years, it can really add up.
Strategy 4: Save what I can for retirement.
Seeing the additional withholding I have set up on my paycheck can be painful. Paying off debt is stressful enough and I need every penny I can get my hands on. However, I also need to make sure that I have a few pennies at my disposal when my working days are over.
If you are wondering if it is better to save some or just put everything down towards your debt, the answer is that it depends. For example, if you are able to save for your retirement with pre-tax dollars, you have too look at the interest earned plus the tax saved and compare it to the additional interest you will have to pay on your student loans. That is a really complicated way of saying that the math is a bit fuzzy. I choose to put some aside for retirement and work with what is left to pay off as much debt as possible. I think this balanced approach is the surest way to build my financial future.
Strategy 5: Learn to live within my means and embrace it.
True Story: Today I saw a gorgeous Ferrari on my walk to lunch. I would love to own a gorgeous Ferrari. Unfortunately, I have a ton of debt and a very limited salary. That means instead of being the guy in a Ferrari, I’m the guy who goes to Subway gets the two dollar sub, fills out the customer survey every day so I get a free cookie, and washes it all down with a complimentary water.
When I walked back from my lunch I caught myself in a deep state of envy gawking at the Ferrari and ignoring everything that was going on around me. In my head I heard a voice: Take a picture, it lasts longer.
So i did:
The point of this story is that I am beginning to learn how to live within my means and embrace it. While an Italian super-car may be out of the question, I’m lucky to receive a steady paycheck in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. I have it pretty good. I may long for it to be even better, but I’m not going to let what I lack get in the way of enjoying what I have. In order to accomplish this, I have to make sure there is a healthy gap between what I earn and what I spend. And just because I spent $2.18 on my lunch, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Plus, today I got an extra treat. I got to enjoy the beauty of the Ferrari without the huge car payment.
How are you planning your financial future? What is your secret to enjoying life but still making sure that your best days are ahead of you?