So What’s the Point of Saving If Life Is Great Right Now?

Cherry blossoms in Brooklyn

One of my earliest memories is of my mom and dad at a dealership paying for their first car, a light blue Subaru, producing wads of cash from a kraft envelope. Credit cards made you overspend, so my parents didn’t have any, and stocks were the sure-fire way to flush your money down the toilet. Better to keep money at a local savings bank earning exactly 0.01% interest. Better to be safe than sorry.

Even at four years old, I saw a little spark of an idea that I’d always carry: I would grow up without a financial safety net. My parents did the very best they could, but they just didn’t have the know-how to set me up financially.

This vulnerability didn’t become real until I got to high school. There was no college fund set aside. While other kids around me picked colleges based on factors like majors, location, extracurriculars, or study abroad options, I felt limited to just one consideration: price.

I made the best decision for myself, but still, I really didn’t like that feeling of helplessness.

And that little spark I saw when I was four turned into a full-blown fire. If I never again wanted to have that feeling of not having a choice, it was up to me to do something about it. If I wanted to be able to do things that other people get to do, I’d have to have a financial plan.

Current You Vs. Future You

But not everybody is lucky enough to have that fire inside, sparked by the cards you’re dealt.

So if you’re not saving right now, here’s an idea: There’s this concept that I like, that we should think of ourselves as two different people with different wants and needs. There’s Current You, who you are right now (most likely young and cute), and then there’s Future You, the future version of you (most likely old and wrinkly).

I once had a roommate who admitted she lived paycheck to paycheck. When I asked her why she didn’t save, she replied, “Because I want to enjoy my life now. Like, I don’t want to wait until I’m ooolllld.”

This person was smart, the valedictorian of her high school.
She had her dream job.
She had written a couple books.
Basically, she was conventionally successful in every way.

And yet, the logic that an older version of herself would someday exist just never occurred to her.

It’s not hard to see why most young people don’t save. We live in a world of instant gratification, and Current You wants the sleek apartments, trendy clothes, the fancy vacations. And you have the means to have it all right now. What’s not to like?

The problem is, whether you like it or not, Future You is hanging out in the background. Everyone knows in theory they’ll eventually get old one day, but the idea of a Future You seems vague, and far off into the distance. Sketchy, not concrete. Plus, most people are afraid of getting old, so if you try to ignore it, it might go away, right? The understandable result is then Future You is left in the dust in retirement because Current You used up all the resources living it up.

Ask Yourself What You Want

And if you don’t have a why for saving, it’s hard to bother trying. Lots of people don’t see a reason to make sacrifices today for a person that doesn’t even seem real.

But I want to be kinder to Future Me. I want to give Future Me options. Because I was lucky enough to know what it’s like when feel like you don’t have a choice.

Here are things I’d like to be able to do:

  • If my boss decides to be an ass one day, I can just smash the printer Office-Space style and quit on the spot.
  • If my boyfriend decides he’s sick of me online shopping all the time and dumps me, I can move out right away and find my own apartment.
  • If I decide to retire way before 65, instead of being at the mercy of government handouts, I can peace out on a kayak in Southeast Asia.
  • If someone I care about is in a financial pickle (because life happens), I can hand them the money and say, “I’ve got this.”

Plan Now, Options Later

So how do I give Future Me these options?

By choosing not to spend all my money now just because I can. By planning now.

When you plan ahead, you can own your options. When you wait until the last-minute, you let someone else be in charge of your options.

Example: Say I want to fly to Paris this summer. I keep slacking off on purchasing the tickets. Life just keeps getting in the way. Six months out, with plenty of seats open, I’d have the luxury of flying my favorite airline. I could choose from first class, business or economy. I’d have my pick from a dizzying array of departure times. But what if I thought, ‘Hey, it’s just going to work out somehow…one day”. I wait until a week before to book this ticket. All of sudden all the options I thought I had disappeared. There’s only one seat left, in business class, on the worst airline, for the crappiest departure time. Suddenly I’m not in charge anymore.

I expect a failure to plan for the future to be like that, except with ten times more awful consequences. Maybe it’s a silly example, but you see the principle I’m getting at, right?

And that, my friends, is why I’m saving money now. So I can give myself the very best chance of having the luxury of options. Future Me better thank me.

Are you a saver? Why or why not?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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  • Finance Patriot

    I am a big saver for sure. I totally get the young you, spoiling the old you. The truth be told, you MUST do this in order to retire early. The law of compounding says the more you put away in your 20’s, like we did, the more you’ll be able to retire younger, such as 41, like I am planning on doing soon.

    Though may I suggest trying to get severance instead of going out, Office Space style? I am in the process of negotiating severance, for the first time in my life, and I find this much more profitable than just quitting.

    On a side note, why is it that all the well written blogs are hidden and don’t get tons of traffic, like yours? I see way worse blogs bragging about how they are making all this money blogging, but the actual writing ins’t nearly as succinct, well thought out, easy to follow, as the article I am commenting on.

    Keep keepin’ it real.

    • Hey Finance Patriot,

      Thanks for reading and the super kind words!

      Some of us newbies are still in “beta” mode, but I hear you. My favorite blogs so far are actually the ones that are the LEAST promoted. Better for me, since I like hidden gems.

      How about this? You negotiate your severance, and then, on your way out, you smash the printer Office Space style? Seems like a win-win to me. Good luck on the negotiation and FI. I’m sure you’ll get yourself a good deal.

      • Finance Patriot

        That’s a good idea, but they have given me some verbal amounts that are pretty attractive and given my desire to leave, I don’t feel like asking for more. We’ll see how this goes. 🙂

    • Yes! All my fav blogs are small, under the radar ones. The big bloggers are generally not the best writers and the bigger they get the less personal they are. They stop sharing so much of their story, and that’s what I’m there for. Inevitably, as a blog gets bigger and more commercial and starts to monetise, I wind up unsubscribing 🙁

  • Kate @ making it rain

    “The idea of a Future You seems vague, and far off into the distance.” Yesss this completely hits the nail on the head. I did this for most of my twenties, always figuring there was time to save later, that I would rather have fun now, and who knows what will happen tomorrow? Yada yada yada. It takes a serious shift in mindset to realize how empowering saving can be and how much freedom it will afford you down the road.

    You have been absolutely killing it and your blog is now a must-read for me!

    • Awww, thank you! I’m a fan of your blog, too–there’s an honesty about it that I really appreciate, and I think a lot of people in a similar situation can relate. Who hasn’t lived by YOLO? I know I have.

      Just like spending can be addicting, I think the same can be said about savings too. I’m a total weirdo but I check my net worth every single day. Seeing that number go up is just too satisfying.

      I hope you post about your Asia trip soon!

  • Great post LS,

    I was lucky to have some saving habits ingrained in me from an early age. It has really allowed me and my family to balance the future needs with current needs while still managing nagging student debt.

    I am always shaking my head at the 20 somethings in my office that don’t want to save because that would mean they are ‘adulting’. Since I work in the retail and fashion industry they would rather have nice expensive apartments and spend waaay too much on clothing and accessories. They have no concept of a future plan to be able to spend some now and save some for later. Maybe only one or two pairs of heels a season instead of 7 or 8?

    • Hey C!

      Saving just to save kinda eluded me when I was younger, but the thing that didn’t was that I unless I helped myself, no one would. I think another layer of it is people vaguely feel like “someone” will help them out when they need it. Or “it’s just going to magically work out.” That benefactor could be parents, a rich spouse, etc. I mean, if I had that that safety net I might have been less inclined to save, too!

      I think savings is going to always have a bad rap, unless people start to realize you can save AND have a pretty awesome life at the same time. Hence, why sites like ours exist! And that 1 or 2 pairs of really good shoes is better than 7 or 8 mediocre ones…

  • Great Post! I totally can relate to the two different people, future you and current you, and in fact I wish they could even talk some times haha! It makes me think of Wealthsimple ad also: “Invest in future you”.

    • I know, right? If only Future Me could tell me what she has in store for me, because I’m setting her up real good.

  • Melanie at Mindfully Spent

    I have been thinking about the future self a lot lately. I’ve accidentally helped her out a lot, but I’ve been considering how powerful it can be to be very intentional about it. In some free writing, I was reflecting on some of the short term ways we can help our future self: healthy food choices, exercise, healthy habits, but I greatly enjoyed your long term take on the issue and how it applies to retirement.

    • Nice job on journaling your goals. Sometimes I feel just the act of writing down what we want is a simple yet powerful tool to motivate you. It’s way too easy to push things off to deal with until “tomorrow.” And then all of sudden things happen like, you’ve maxed out your credit card or you’re 50 with no retirement savings. It’s good to always have the Future Self in mind at least, and then make an intentional decision, like you say.