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

20 Replies to “short term, long term”

  1. It is a balance, being financially smart and also making sure to live your life. I like to think that those things that you’re enjoying and adding to your life are worth it and necessary in order to maintain sanity, health, and also to be able to keep the motivation on the other days. We all have to loosen up the strings and live a little to remind ourselves WHY we’re working so hard for financial freedom. Give yourself a taste occasionally so you remember what you’re working towards in the future. But not so much that you are setting yourself back years before you’re free. Bleeding your money away on a Wii and big screen TVs is not the same as allowing yourself a day of relaxation and not worrying about money. Glad you had a nice weekend. Enjoy your new bike!

  2. I’ve owned enough “stuff” in life to know that any short term thrill at playing with a new gadget quickly dissapates. The experience of a day with your family and bonding with your son will be with you for a long time, and will outlive you in the character of your son.

    You’re extremely fortunate in two respects; one because you have a rich and engaging family life, and two, because you have the financial wherewithall to enjoy it occasionally. You, Steve, are a very wealthy man.

  3. I would absolutely not think twice about the day you spent with your son and family being a “not-wealth-building” day. In my mind, there are two reasons why:
    (1) As Emily (above, in another comment) has already indicated, you are building up wealth precisely in order that you may be able to enjoy more such days. You should certainly take the time to remind yourself of what this feels like and why it’s worth it. Also, you will likely work harder and more willingly when you do work now, having taken the time to really relax and recharge.
    (2) You do yourself a massive disservice (I think behavior psychology confirms this) when you go back and re-evaluate hedonic, pleasurable pursuits in light of several other goals that you “ought” to have been pursuing. As a result, you actually detract from whatver relaxation or re-charging of the batteries that you accomplished when you were out enjoying yourself. In other words, try not to think along these lines.

    Of course, this is qualified by the fact that you shouldn’t keep doing this all the time, and one should certainly re-evaluate big (and perhaps flippant) purchases in terms of whether they served their purposes.

    One way to get around this issue is to mentally pre-plan “time off” days, both in terms of which calendar days you will have off, as well as a certain bank of “goofing-off time” that you can draw on from time to time. Either way, unless it’s the day that you pitch your big idea to the VC that’s most likely to fund you, taking a day off when you can coordinate with friends and family to actually have a good time is probably a complete non-issue. Enjoy it, smile, and return to work the next day feeling refreshed.

    This is all, of course, just my opinion. Nice post, though! Just don’t think too much/post about these things if doing so starts to detract from the time you spend with family!

  4. You absolutely did not waste your day. Maybe your little guy won’t remember it exactly but over time he’ll remember that his dad spent days like this with him. We all need a break now and then to re-charge.

    The fact that you even worry about this means you realize the state of your financial health. That you question whether it’s an issue shows that you pay attention to your finances and you won’t let yourself waste away in hedonism (though biking with your son and the occasional shot of “health water” is hardly hedonism to me).

    And you know what? The fact that you have been taking care of your finances allows you to spend a day on a new bike and enjoying your family. I’m guessing you didn’t go into debt over this right? Days like this are what we make ourselves more financially free for!

    I wouldn’t say you wasted a day at all. You’re here putting up great content as always. All the money in the world won’t give you back your children’s childhood or family time.

    Yes, you have to be aware of your time and your expenses. But if you don’t LIVE life once in a while then what is the point?

    (Oh, what bike carrier did you get? How was it? Been considering getting one of those bike trailers to take my son around in.)

  5. Somehow, I don’t think you’ll be on your deathbed thinking about how you “wasted” Memorial Day 2008. You might, however, remember the wonderful time you had with family and friends and the enjoyment you got from that bike and child carrier.

  6. I agree with the others here. There are multiple ways to invest our time. I recently read this quote from E.B. White:

    “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

    I think you just chose to savor the day!

  7. I think what you did was absolutely right and wonderful. The blog will always be here. You’re money won’t grow or go away if you don’t watch it for a few days.

    But time with your family is something that you can never get back, or redo…once it’s gone, it’s gone.

  8. Well, I do think you wasted that day, since you *didn’t* spend it in single-minded pursuit of your wealth-building goals. But why is that a bad thing? You just made a spur-of-the-moment revision of your goals to include character-building for your son.

    It could have been worse – rumor has it there was a Flavor of Love marathon this weekend…. 🙂

  9. You wrote about exactly what I am struggling with now. The desire to have a life and the desire to really work on my finances/work. I’ve lost some fiscal motivation for a variety of reasons and I’m trying to spend more time with the people I care about now that I am crawling out my fiscal hell. My balance between getting fiscally fit again and become a social person is a delicate balance.

    I spent Monday sitting in my yard, flipping burgers, drinking beer and just enjoying the company of my friends. I could have been working on my blog, I could have been working on my resume, I could have been doing a lot of things, but I chose to enjoy the day off. Do I regret it, maybe a bit, I could have had a stretch of uninterupted computer time, but it was a glorious day to spend outside with friends. As Dorian said, we still have a life to live.

    Sounds to me like you had a grand time. Hope you get to do it again soon.


  10. Don’t regret anything. If you’re going to have a day having fun, then just do it and don’t look back. If you want to evaluate whether you’re doing the right things or not, then you need to look at the big picture, not the noise of one day, or one week. It’s about how you spend your time overall, rather than how you spent it just the other day.

  11. Jeff@MySuper-Charged Life , thank you for a wonderful quote. It’s so true!
    tough choice ;o)

  12. Problem is that you never really know if your short term efforts will pay off in the long term. Saving for retirement is a good example of where you might be thinking “should I be saving more?” or “should I forego buying xxxxx and save the money instead?”. When you retire, will you be able to look back 10,20, N years and identify all the actions that lead to that particular retirement date?

    As far as wealth building days – how do you know that any wealth building efforts you might have done on Memorial day would have lead to any more wealth? What if you had stumbled across an investing idea that ending up losing a lot of money?

    I like Plonkee’s comment about the total effort that matters rather than any one day.


  13. Gotta be one of the most recurring things of life…

    ***To work and save or enjoy and spend***

    I think the answer is… No. I think both are frivolous.

    I think the solution is to be O.K. AND, find a whole new grading rubric.

    Even people who have more money than they can grasp in their mind are still debating between the best way to make those decisions… The human will tend to live in constant conflict in the grass is greener on the other side mentality, until they find a way to reconcile it. Which… is essentially finding the meaning of life and reconciling inevitable death.

    JEEZ money can bring up such good topics!

    The man who plays will always consider what he missed by not working, and the man who works will always consider what he missed by not playing.

    Just be OK regardless. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

  14. I never choose to delay happiness for the pursuit of money. I follow the flow of my life and energy, day by day. Some days I’m full of energy, ideas and fire, and my focus aims sharply at the “big”, long-term picture. I consume the “work”, effortlessly and blissfully.

    Other days, I’m blissfully lazy. I sleep in, chat on the phone with a friend for hours, fingerpaint with my daughter, zone out with a good book. I stay in my pajamas all day long. My lengthy to-do list will be there tomorrow, and the next day.

    My mom, as she was dying, said, “The only time we’ll be caught up with our list of things to do is when we’re six feet under”. Kinda puts it all in perspective…

    Go with the flow, I say. Enjoy the journey.

  15. Thought I’d better come back and clarify something.

    Perhaps you’re thinking, “well, yeah, Millionaire Mommy, easy for you to say ‘goof off when the mood strikes’, you’ve already reached your financial crossover point”.

    I’ve gone with the flow of my energy all along. As a business owner, there were days I’d work tirelessly all day and accomplish an astounding amount of to-do’s. I was so in the zone I had to tear myself away from it.

    Then there were the days I dreaded the work. I took it easy, procrastinated, recharged.

    Overall, I put in 20 to 50 hours a week.

    Work smart, not hard, is what I always say!

  16. Great comments, all! I fell too far behind to respond to all of the comments individually (story of my life) but I’d still say that I understand that time spent with family, or enjoying life in general is not wasted, but at the same time – if my goal is to retire at the age of 46, say, and I don’t plow massive effort into that, was that time well spent? I love spending time with my family, but if I exchange one day now for 365 days in the future, is it time well spent? To Mike’s point, of course I can’t know if I would have generated income or lost it, but certainly sitting around drinking Bud doesn’t generate it, you know?

    Anyway, insightful comments, all – I swear I need to create a Brip Blap comments blog separately 🙂

    1. I agree with -remodelingthislife

      You have to balance it, I have set up auto draft for my long tern capital (retirement and college fund) and I forced myself to have fun and pay living expenses with the rest

      Either way I'm having my cake and eating it too

  17. I agree with -remodelingthislife

    You have to balance it, I have set up auto draft for my long tern capital (retirement and college fund) and I forced myself to have fun and pay living expenses with the rest

    Either way I'm having my cake and eating it too

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