short term, long term

I confess that a lot of the advice I give on this blog is often something I don’t do myself. I’ll give a good example: on Memorial Day we had a bunch of relatives over and did a big “shashlik” – a Middle Eastern/Far East/former Soviet Union form of lamb shish-ka-bobs – had a few drinks of the little water and spent most of the day lounging around under a tent outside my townhouse, enjoying the first 80-degree day in the northeast this year. I didn’t think or worry about money, or this blog, or my financial freedom, or anything else, other than eating, having a few drinks and enjoying some leisure time under the sun.

I also bought a mountain bike and a child carrier seat this weekend (not frugal), and spent a lot of time riding around with Little Buddy exploring the neighborhood. It’s decent exercise – it’s not exactly jogging, but it’s fairly difficult considering we’re on a riverside and near the Atlantic, so we have harsh and heavy winds quite often. The point being: I was tired at the end of the day after eating FAR more than I have been accustomed to, exercising a lot and soaking up a lot of heat and humidity. Little Buddy was beyond giggly after receiving bike rides and Spiderman sunglasses to keep his eyes from tearing up.

So I lounged in my easy chair last night, glanced at my computer after a long day of eating, drinking and biking and thought of Brip Blap and decided “eh, forget about Tuesday.” In the same way I didn’t spend any time doing anything to better my financial situation, to make myself more fit or more wealthy. I chucked a day overboard.

I’m not really sure if this is a good idea or a bad idea. I’m not sure that I’m the type of person to devote myself single-mindedly to wealth-building. I think someone who WAS single-mindedly devoted wouldn’t MIND worrying about it. My brother-in-law, who’s a lifelong entrepreneur, fielded phone calls all day long about business ideas from his friends and business partners. I think he does a lot of this – I spent some time talking to him about his real estate investments and I was left, as I always am, a little bit dumbfounded by the amount of risk that risk-takers seem to take on without pause. I know a lot of people would say “oh, spend time with your family, don’t worry about tomorrow” – but is that short-term thinking? Should I be thinking about being financially free when my kids are in their early teens, or worried about spending a few extra hours with them now when they (based on my own experience) won’t really remember it?

But here’s the main question: am I a lazy git for jettisoning one of the last few free days before my next contract kicks in on watching the clouds, biking around with my son, eating shashlik and drinking vodka Russian old-school style? I don’t know. Part of me says no, it’s fine: life trumps the crass pursuit of money. Part of me says, yes, you’re a dope: first you waste a day here, then one there, then 10 years are gone and you’re whining about working until you’re 65. It’s a tough balance to strike. You want to be rich, but you want to enjoy it while you’re young; you want the enjoyment of running around with the kids and playing soccer instead of hammering away at your portfolio or working on your side businesses until you’re falling asleep at 3 am.

So it’s gone: Memorial Day is shot as a wealth-building day. I spent it drinking, eating, playing, talking and laughing. All well and good, of course, but then again it’s spent and it’s one more day I didn’t get any closer to financial freedom. I’m not sure sometimes that having financial freedom in my 50s and 60s is worth having nose-to-the-grindstone days in my 30s and 40s. Probably I’ll have a different opinion 20 years from now – if I’m still writing for this blog then you can check in and see.

The struggle between this long-term and short-term thinking is probably at the core of my mental struggle on a daily basis; trying to decide whether a short-term benefit outweighs a long-term benefit accompanied by short-term effort. Most people probably say fine, I’m going to charge this plasma TV or this Wii on my credit card and have fun TODAY – to hell with tomorrow, I’ll be old and won’t have any need for it then. Making that exchange once, or twice, or three times might be acceptable – but paying for your happiness today until you’re 65 or 70 is something I dread.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Stewart