Why being finacially stable kinda sucks

Girl Ninja and I spent a wonderful four-day weekend in Palm Springs for Thanksgiving and, as you might guess, we got in super late last night. While today’s post won’t be a long one, I still think the message is important. And that message my friends is this: Being stable kinda sucks.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on life, money, jobs, housing, cars, location, kids, savings, etc. I don’t know why, but it seems like a few times  a year I get in a little funk. A funk where I start to convince myself being “responsible” is overrated.

Even though I’m happy with my job, I sometimes dream about being fired. Not because I think unemployment would be fun, or getting another job would be a cake-walk, but because I’d probably learn a lot about myself in the process of looking for new work. I know I have a great gig, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes dream of working at Subway.

I’m also not so convinced investing, saving, and just general fiscal responsibility is all it’s cracked up to be. Discretionary income can be a headache. A few years ago, I had a ton of student loan debt and a much smaller income. Every dollar I made went to paying down my massive debt. Life was simpler back then. But now that the debts are paid off, and my income has grown, I’m more stressed than I was when I owed $28,000 to Sallie Mae.

How much of our discretionary income should we save? How much should we put in to retirement? Should we go to Hawaii this summer because we can afford it? What type of car should we buy? How big of a home do we want? Blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “being broke is awesome”. I’m simply trying to bring attention to the fact that fiscal responsibility is no walk in the park.

I feel really weird writing a post about why being financially stable isn’t that great. I’m probably coming across as really ungrateful and/or unappreciative of the blessings GN and I have. That definitely isn’t my intention, as I know we are extremely fortunate to be where we are. That said, I’m hoping a few of you can relate. Anyone understand where I’m coming from? Can you give a few more examples why being stable kind of sucks?

p.s. How was your Thanksgiving.

p.p.s. If you are Canadian (Mo D, and others) you didn’t have Thanksgiving, so how was your weekend?

38 thoughts on “Why being finacially stable kinda sucks”

  1. Hi! I know that feeling well. Often, I have no idea what to DO with the money that I have. Should I save it for retirement? How about a rainy day? How much is enough? .. and those of course were conflicting with the ‘I want to own buildings!’ and ‘Let’s make a Koi pond in the living room!’ fleeting moments.

    The main thing that bugs me about financial stability is that the goals are taken away. There’s nothing really to work toward, without a bigger goal – and sometimes that seems super ostentatious.

    Thanks for writing. 🙂

    • I am with you on this! It is like a rock group that made its first few albums about how hard it is to make it and not having money and life on a beat up tour bus: AND their music is great. But then they end up making it big and all their later songs suck because the music and the lyrics have no soul. They lost their edge and their hunger to “make it”…

      That’s how I feel about my job and my financial situation sometimes: I am too comfortable and I have a lot to lose, so I don’t want to rock the boat. And not rocking the boat is boring, really boring and soul-less. I made it and now I hate it…

  2. HEY NINJA! OMG… you gave me a special shout-out in your PPS!! Now THAT’s a way to start a Monday!! Because Hubby worked afternoon shift last week, this weekend, I was able to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of him on his way to the bathroom in the morning; we spent the weekend doing regular chores/errands, but we did buy our family Christmas gift… a new digital camera… we desparately needed one, and since Hubby will be at UFC 140 in Toronto on Dec. 10, I thought we may as well get the camera ahead of time. While he’s at UFC, I will be enjoying our hotel suite in downtown T.O…. YEAH ME!!

    We can relate to your story to some degree; while we still have some debt and don’t have the amount of money you and GN have managed to stock away, we’re still really lucky to have good-paying jobs that allow us to save for retirement/pay bills on time/have a little fun… I would LOVE to not have to work full-time, but we’re lucky all the same. I’ve been telling my Mom for over 25 years being an adult sucks… I still feel the same way!

    Glad to hear you adn GN had an awesome Thanksgiving! 🙂

  3. If you want to work at Subway, but don’t want the $8/hr paycheck, then it’s simple. Instead of saving up your money to buy a house, just save up your money to buy a Subway. You can work whatever hours you want, and hire a manager or two for any hours you don’t want to be there.

  4. I have been in this funk throughout the entire 2011. I ask myself, What if I am so focused on being fiscally responsible that I miss out on being in my 20’s. We have no kids, and yes it would be responsible to save for a house, but when will I ever get the chance to go to Europe again? Should I wait til I am 65 to go to Europe? Who knows if I will be healthy enough to travel at 65? I do not know the life that is ahead of me, and if I worry so much about money, then I will never truly live. I dont want to have any regrets when I get older.

    • Well, Matt, I’ve addressed this point on your blog a couple of times, so if you’re still checking in here, I absolutely think you can and should manage a few trips if that’s what you most desire. The goal of home ownership is considerably overstated, in my opinion, and there are numerous advantages to renting (including the fact that all your maintenance is included). Renting gives you more geographical flexibility and frees you from the constraint of having to pay down the greatest single extended expense you are likely to incur in your lifetime, as well as the dangers of going into negative amortization or (worse) foreclosure.

      My own solution was to buy a c. 750 sq ft apartment in a mixed rental/co-op development. (I believe co-ops are most common in the Northeast, but they are similar to condos.) The purchase price was perhaps 1/3 or even 1/4 of a typical house in my area, and I get all the tax advantages of home ownership along with all exterior maintenance included in my monthly co-op fee. Since I live by myself and want to be close to NYC, I’ve been there 22 years and my monthly payments are about that same as Ninja’s.

      People have to stop worshipping at the altars of Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman and allow themselves to live a little (without, of course, getting over their heads in debt). I’ve been to Europe perhaps a dozen times mostly between 1990-2005, and yeah, maybe that’s meant a few bucks less in my retirement account – which is always fluctuating anyway along with the markets. I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for anything.

      • Larry…for me…life is all about experiences and sharing memories with people. To me that is real living. Although I do believe that we all need to be fiscally responsible…ninja and I tend to take that to the extreme. Our fear is that we will be unable to provide in the future, but the truth is, our wives will appreciate us more for living out our dreams.

  5. This is funny, because I’m not where you’re even at yet and I’ve had these thoughts. I did figure out a solution. It’s as simple as having more important goals to achieve. Living a life that’s worth something. After the debts are paid we’re going to put everything on auto pilot. More important goals involve our kids and entrepreneurial dreams. The money is a small part in the huge scope of life. People hit points in their lives where money isn’t a factor and they follow a higher calling. A passion, if you will.

  6. I’ve never been in your position of being so stable in finances despite taking all the proper steps to punch my debts in the face. My hubby lost his job and had to take a pay cut with his new job, so I forgive me if I’m less than sympathetic to your plight. Before that, I was putting away savings on a consistent basis and didn’t have any debts except my one credit card balance, but a job loss eats up money very quickly.
    I’ve been reading your column for awhile and always enjoy your advice, but I can’t agree that being financially stable “sucks” in any way, shape, or form. Be grateful for your stability. It is much better than the alternative.

  7. I agree that being financially stable in no way sucks, unless comparing it to being super affluent. My wife and I notice other people our age seemingly living above their means. Some attend every concert that comes to town, take trips frequently, drive newer vehicles, and the like. I know we could have many of these things if we lowered our retirement and savings contributions, but have a goal most people would call ridiculous if I shared it with them. I want to have a million in net worth by the time I’m 40. 10 years to go.
    I have subscribed to the teachings of Thomas Stanley in that I would rather be wealthy, than look wealthy. It sucks to not splurge like everyone around me sometimes, but I think in the end we’ll be able to do things our friends cannot because we made conservative choices along the way. No guarantee we will get there, but aiming high in goals never hurt anyone.

    I personally think stable is sexy! Who’s with me?

  8. What really sucks is when you’re financially stable and then unstable relatives come out of the woodwork with issues related to very bad life choices that they made earlier.

  9. I find us in the middle – we are stable in the sense that we have steady jobs/income and the ability to “punch” debt in the face and continue to save for our “wants” in life. I know that one minor or major event would set us back very quickly – therefore are stability is relative to our current situation. We have discussed what our future will look like w/o debt, etc. I can see where the “thrill” would be gone. Although, we want different things out of life then you do Ninja and we are “punching” debt in the face now so we can have no guilt with spending in the future.

    We are not planning on having children (gasp!) and probably will not even buy a home…we want to have experiences – travel, concerts, etc.

  10. You are way over thinking things. I suggest a break, Try a new hobby, take a class, go to the museum, plan that vacation. When I’m in a funk I look at my Bucket List or Day Zero List at http://www.dayzeroproject.com, which is a list of 101 things in 1001 days. That usually gets me back on track towards my goals.

  11. I know what you’re trying to say. I’m struggling to find long-term work right now but I am happy that the past year I have been focusing on mostly PD – blogging, reflecting, setting goals. I have the time to do these things while I still live with my mom. I know that once I have my own home, I likely won’t even have time to keep up with my blog!

  12. Becoming financially stable seems impossible to achieve. Even if you have high earnings, it does not totally guarantee financial stability. It largely depends on your attitude and behavior in dealing with your personal finances.

    The increasing cost of the primary commodities, bankruptcy and job losses are some of the factors that cause financial problems. As long as you are earning, it is sensible to manage it well. You will need to combat it with many trials and temptations but in managing it well,

  13. My 4 cents:

    Q How much of our discretionary income should we save?
    A Eight months to a year’s expenses is more than enough. Cash is liquid and safe, but it’s earning nothing now and loses to inflation. You actually have more cash than I do, but I also keep a short-term treasury fund in my IRA that I could draw on easily.

    Q How much should we put in to retirement?
    A You might look into Wade Pfau’s blog for a good answer. He’s a researcher very interested in this subject, and he responds to questions. At your age, it’s hard to give a firm answer, but the big issue for you is whether Social Security/Medicare can survive without major cutbacks by the time you retire. I am a proud liberal Democrat and always will be, but we have to address these programs seriously if they’re to be around in 40 years so that the people paying today for my SS will have SS of their own.

    Q Should we go to Hawaii this summer because we can afford it?
    A Of course.

    Q What type of car should we buy?
    A Unless you need a car now, none.

    Q How big of a home do we want?
    A I say go small both in size and cost for your first home. If there are no children, you don’t need much space. Consider a condo rather than a detached house. You can move up if needed later.

  14. I’m right there with you on this. Being normal and average keeps you under the radar. Once you elevate yourself and start becoming successful, people will criticize you, become envious and expect more responsibility from you since “you have the money”.

    There’s a lot more pressure to stay on top of your game, then to climb up the ladder. People want to see you climb, struggle and finally make it. Then they want to knock you off the top when you’re there, so they can replace you.

  15. There’s so much conflicting advice out there, and it’s never fully qualified, that it drives me around in circles and probably makes me more anxious about my finances than I need to. Four different sources will tell you to have 2, 6, 8, or 12 months of an emergency fund, but doesn’t say if that’s normal spending levels or bare bones levels. Someone will say, “save X% of your income,” “put Y% in retirement,” or “don’t spend more than Z% on housing,” and everyone will say something else, and they don’t say if that’s net income or gross income, etc and it all becomes this cacophony that drags your thoughts in every which direction.

    Forgive me for the engineering analogy, but I should be working on my controls homework right now. You have a pretty stable (literally!) situation – if you didn’t change anything and nothing major happened to disturb you from your financial current state, you’ll just keep on the same trajectory. A bigger disturbance might cause a bit of a sidetrack for awhile, but since you’ve got yourself set up well, you’ll be back on track relatively quickly. If your controller has really tight bounds, though, any tiny disturbance (perhaps a piece of advice) will cause an immediate response either in action or mental energy, and over the long run you’ll spend a lot more fuel (or energy) trying to stay within that set of bounds. That’s called bang-bang control. If you allow a little more leeway, your little engine might speed up or slow down a little more than in the first case, but you’ll spend less energy overall than trying to maintain very tight bounds. It’s up to you what your “controller” for your finances is, but it sounds like you might be running out of fuel here. Maybe take a step back and figure out which priorities you need to spend a lot of time considering right now, and decide which ones you’re OK with a more general plan for the future on but don’t need action on presently.

  16. I’ve been struggling with this for so long now. It is funny that being financially fit could ever be a “problem.” We had a tough start at the begining of our marriage, so we saved every penny for many years. It took us 5 years just to go on our honeymoon. We are just starting to swing the other way and spend a little to enjoy ourselves. With so many things competing for our hard earned cash, it is difficult to pick one and then allocate a certain amount to it. Certainly a problem anyone would want 🙂 I just hope we are able to reign in our spending after tasting some of the good life we had been missing out on for so long.

  17. I think being financially stable is AWESOME, but I had to chuckle when you mentioned that you sometimes think it would be nice to be fired… I’ve felt the same way! I think I’d actually be quite successful running my own business, but I’m too chicken to quit my job and do it. If I got fired, I’d go for it because I’d have nothing to lose. Maybe in a couple more years I’ll be brave enough to fire myself and go out on my own.

  18. Ninja, i like reading your blog every day, but I’d prefer if you saved complaints of this nature for others. Find the nearest country club and go chat to the guys there about how your job is TOO stable, your income TOO hefty, and how you secretly wish you could pauper it up for a while and learn some magical life lessons.

    Because for people struggling to find a job, working through a job they hate because there’s no where to go, or scrimping and saving to get by and have the possibility of an independent future, the humdrum life you’re bored with is the exact answer to many fevered prayers. Can you imagine what your response would be if you came upon some healthy 18 year old girl who said she wished she had been born in raised in Africa, so she could be as thin as the people she sees in pictures? Find a hobby on which to spend some time and energy, splurge and spend some money in an atypical fashion, whatever- but for Heaven’s sake, at least appear to recognize and be grateful for your idyllic situation.

    • Did you not read this line….

      “I’m probably coming across as really ungrateful and/or unappreciative of the blessings GN and I have. That definitely isn’t my intention, as I know we are extremely fortunate to be where we are.”

      How does that not (as you say) “at least appear to recognize and be grateful for your idyllic situation.”????

      • I did read that line, and almost wrote another post just to mention that I’d seen it. I guess I feel that if you really recognized how fortunate you are, then you wouldn’t be longing to lose your job or have less income. It’s not fun and inspirational, just hard, when trying to make all the same decisions you are without any of the resources. Instead of having to research and decide what type of a car to buy, you’d get to investigate public transportation schedules, and decide if walking to the bus is safe enough for Girl Ninja to do every day. If it’s not, then what?

        I was serious when I mentioned a hobby or something- i think you’ve hit a post-wedding, post-move rut, and it’s turning one of your current hobbies (saving/money) into a burden. You like to be challenged, and right now you don’t have one to work on. Because if you took a step back and really considered the alternatives, I think you’d realize that the benefits of your current position vastly outweigh the ‘benefits’ of getting to struggle through life working a dead end job, instead of the guaranteed-raise, gov’t career you have.

        **Bottom line – Fiscal responsibility IS a walk in the park, compared to trying to live your life without enough money to get by (much less get by comfortably).**

  19. Don’t take it too hard, Ninja.

    Personally, I’ve had those thoughts just thinking of having a decent paying job. “What would I do with all of that money?”

    I just put a freeze on my cell phone account, because at the end of the day, it’s not something I need to be wasting money on right now. It’s going to suck in some ways, but to be honest, I always hated being connected all the time. But I don’t resent people who are doing okay, just because I’m going through a rough patch.

    I hate the “STFU and be grateful, because you have it so much better than XYZ person” mentality. When will people figure out that money doesn’t equal happiness? There are always tradeoffs. I’ve read about people who are voluntarily homeless, and sometimes the thought of not stressing over paying rent has been alluring. Wanting freedom (from whatever the pressures du jour are) is not the same as being ungrateful.

    We devote too much time to money, and don’t put enough time into relationships and passions. I think that’s one of our biggest faults as a society. Financial stability at what cost?

    Then consider that we’re animals which are built to survive, but we’re trapped in a place where it’s almost impossible not to. The work we do is so disconnected from our survival. Few of us grow our own food. Few of us build our own homes. Few of us make our own clothing. Essentially, everything we need to survive is handed to us. It’s hard to feel like we’re not drifting without purpose.

    • ‘We devote too much time to money, and don’t put enough time into relationships and passions. I think that’s one of our biggest faults as a society. Financial stability at what cost?’

      I couldn’t agree more.

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