I was recently listening to an episode of the Death, Sex and Money podcast about a woman in her fifties who had to leave her apartment in New York, where she had lived for most of her adult life, because the building was being sold and she couldn’t afford to rent anywhere else. She considered moving in with her mom (!!!) and then decided to move in with her sister in Los Angeles (because if you’re looking for low cost of living, LA is a good bet?).
She has her own set of circumstances, and I’m not here to rag on a middle-aged woman who had to leave her home and friends and life and move across the country. That’s a really crappy situation.
My point is, she didn’t get the chance to make that decision. She didn’t choose to move because she wanted sunny weather and a new life experience. Her money made that decision for her. It wasn’t a case of some tragedy befalling her – there was no sudden tragic medical diagnosis or a need to care for someone else. It was decades of poor planning.
I put way too much value on my freedom to ever want to be in that situation.
I want to make choices because they are things I want out of my life, not because they’re a financial necessity. I don’t want to lose my home because I can’t afford it. I don’t even want to skip an awesome-sounding vacation with my best friends because I can’t afford it.
So I save. A lot.
If you’re in the first few years of adulthood, 50 seems impossibly far away, or at least it does to me. Heck, I don’t know where I’m going to live, what I’ll be doing, whether I’ll be a parent, or even what my name will be (assuming I get married eventually). One of the few things I do know is that I want to ability to choose those things and create the life I want.
If you hate the idea of having to move in with family for financial reasons at 25, imagine having to do it at 50. If you can’t get control of your budget now, that’s going to follow you through your whole life; you’re not magically going to wake up one day with a $2 million retirement account.
On the other hand, if you choose now to set up automatic savings, keep your necessary spending limited, figure out what you can cut from your discretionary spending without feeling deprived, and get out of debt … well, it’s a lot less likely you’ll be kicked out of an apartment in your fifties.
Making the right choices now can help to ensure that you get the chance to make choices later.