Welcome to Part III of our blog about retirement from Z to A. Today we’ll be talking about money.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying , “Money is the root of all evil.” Now, just in case you didn’t know that’s from the bible and the quote is actually, “For the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (emphasis mine).
It should be noted that the writer was talking about Christian “leaders” using Christianity to become wealthy. They craved money more than the truth of their faith.
Well… enough of that; we’re not here for a lesson on religion.
Money is not everything, but it is something. It is a tool and a much needed tool in our world. Just like a hammer, a saw or a wrench is needed to build or fix things, money is needed to pay bills and buy food.
When we’re planning our retirement from Z to A we need to figure out how much money Z will cost us and how much money A will cost us. But more importantly we need to figure out how much the “present” IS costing us.
Before you can truly plan for your future you need to know where you are now.
When I was 19 and working as a dishwasher I was lucky enough to have a roommate to help pay the bills. My problem was that I thought drugs and alcohol were more important than rent and food. Turns out I was wrong.
Thinking this way for just a few months got me to where I was unemployed and living out of my dad’s garage. I would sneak in at night and sneak out early in the morning. I’d walk the streets, hit up some friends with the hope of finding some mind altering drug that would take me away from my situation, for any amount of time. Then at some point, usually about 1 or 2 am, I’d find my way back to the garage. Not my best moments.
I bounced from job to job, apartment to apartment, room to room and couch to couch until I was 22. At this point in my life I was living in a small bachelor apartment, unemployed once more… just waiting for my unemployment cheques to kick in.
One day, something in my head clicked. I was sitting on the couch wondering how I was going to get my daily dose of drugs and alcohol, when I realized… this wasn’t the life I wanted. This is not the person I wanted to be. Like so many people I had dreams of moving to the big city and becoming a millionaire. I didn’t want to be the lazy, untrustworthy, douchebag guy that I was. I knew that deep inside me was a better person, a better man. But how was I going to find this man, this better person who slept deep inside me?
I had to get out of this town. I felt like I had to go far away where no one knew me. The only way to find myself, I thought, was to lose myself. I had dreamed of moving to BC since I was 17. Rarely did a day go by that I didn’t talk about it with someone.
All of a sudden and from out of nowhere, things started falling into place. I had to get out, I was going to get out and I let everyone know. Then as if by magic, I was introduced to this great guy. He was heading to BC for a few weeks. He was planning on driving across the country and asked if I wanted to join him. Badabing, Badaboom, I’m in BC.
Long story short, I came back home, packed my things up and a few months later I’m living in North Vancouver.
I figured since no one knew me out there I could become whoever I wanted to be. The funny thing is that after I found a place to live (thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend) I ended up going to a bar and having a few drinks… Long story short (again), I woke up at a bus station and had no idea where I was. Turns out I was about a 2 hour drive away from my place. WTF?
While I was making my way home I figured that if I was just going to be the same guy I was back in my old city… I might just as well move back and forget all these “becoming a better man” ideas.
So, I made a decision that day. I was not going to put myself in a situation where I was hanging out with drunks and drug dealers anymore. I was going to change the crowd I hung with. I would force myself to be a better person, by being around better people. I decided it was better to be alone, than to be with people who were going to drag me down. I really wanted to be the man I knew I could be. Within a year I was bar manager at a four star restaurant, I met the woman who would become my wife and I was really enjoying life for the first time.
So why am I telling you all this? I want to make the point that wherever you are right now in life, you can change into the person you really want to be. You have an opportunity to set yourself up for a better future. A future you want.
I’m not going to tell you that you’re going to make it and that if you put it out in the universe it’s going to come true because the universe has no choice but to give you what you want if you just ask for it. But I will say that you can give reason to everything that happens to you and that if you talk about it to everyone you know and meet new people and put out the feelers and work on yourself that at some point things will change. And as the changes come they will keep coming if you work on it.
Does that mean that you won’t falter? No. Everybody fails and falls. But without failure there is no learning, there is no moving forward.
A few months before we retired from our 9 to 5 life, a friend said this to me.
“It is incredible and you and your wife keep trying new things. You don’t worry about failing or looking like fools; you just keep trying. You have no choice but to succeed big at some point.”
“What makes you say that?” I asked.
He responded, “You’re always stepping up to bat and swinging. You’re playing the odds. At some point you’re going to hit a home run.”
“And you don’t think that’s crazy?” I asked.
“I think it’s great!” he said.
“Thanks for those words of encouragement J. Have you thought about listening to your own advice?” I asked.
“I’m not like you.” he said.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” I responded.
If you want a good future for yourself and those you love, the odds are, you’re going to have to plan for it. The good news is that by planning for your retirement two things happen.
- Your future self will thank you.
- Your present life is very likely to improve.
I will work on the assumption that most of you reading this are working full-time jobs at or just above minimum wage (just like I was when I started planning from Z to A). I’m going to write with the idea that you’re starting from the bottom. You’re in debt and are struggling to get by. If you’re not… then you’re already ahead of the game.
Ok, here we go. You want a better future, you want to retire some day and stop “working”, great. The first thing you need to do is think about whether or not you really want it. Because if you do want to change your future, you’re going to have to change your present.
I want you to know that it’s ok to change plans. As my wife and I were making plans and moving toward plan A, plan A kept changing. Sometimes we wanted more and other times we wanted a little less.
Even when we worked our way down to plan J, we were still massaging our plan A. To be completely honest, if we’d simply stopped at plan J and simply continued life there and never made any more efforts to move toward plan A, I think we would have been just fine. But, that’s not who we are or were. Therefore we continued.
Remember that wherever you end up in the Alphabet of retirement, it will be a better place than you would have been with no plan at all. Does that make sense?
We had plenty of people who thought our plan J was incredible, that they dreamed of getting to our plan J… the problem was they just dreamed about it and they thought that making plans for their retirement was too difficult, too complicated or too much work. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Ya, that wouldn’t work for us.”
Making tough decisions.
One day I said to Hunnee, “I can either drink and live with plan J or quit drinking and keep moving toward plan A. I can’t do both.”
I like to drink scotch and wine; I liked it a lot. It was an expensive habit and being the kind of person I am (I come from a long line of high functioning alcoholics), I knew for me personally that I needed to quit drinking if I wanted to achieve plan A. I told my wife that she could still enjoy her Vodka. I wasn’t going to stop her from imbibing. (She chose to quit with me.) It was a choice we made. I love our teamwork.
We had to choose what was more important to us.
Drinking and plan J or not drinking and moving forward one step closer to plan A.
For some, drinking will be more important and that’s fine. I’m not you. For others it won’t be drinking, it will be gambling or going out to restaurants or smoking, or drugs or cars or whatever.
There is a very good chance that when you start making plans for your future self you will have to make tough choices, important choices. You need to weigh the value of everything you do. Is this more important than that?
This whole process is about making tiny little changes. I’ve often thought about the saying, “faith can move mountains” and one day I realized how true it was.
I thought, here we have a person who sees a mountain and wants to move it. He grabs a bucket and picks up a load of dirt from the mountain and moves it. Then another, then another. He keeps doing this day after day. Suddenly, some of the people who were watching him join in, while others shout words of encouragement. Still others mock him.
Most acknowledged his determination and they were moved to help. More people joined in and one day the mountain moved. All because of one person’s faith.
The question I’m asking you right now is, “Are you ready to move your mountain? If so, grab your bucket and let’s get ready to rock. As you start moving dirt and people see you moving back and forth, you will inspire people to join you in your quest. As you help others move their mountains, they’ll help move yours. Not only will you improve your life but the life of those around you.
So money… When do we get to the money part? We’re there… look in the bucket.
The bucket contains all the money you make, all the bills you pay and all the money you save and most importantly all the hopes and dreams you have.
In our next blog we’ll talk about how to use money as a tool and how to make it go farther.