If I had a dollar for every time someone said to enjoy myself while I was young, I would have had enough money to enjoy myself while I was young.
When the clock ticks over to midnight on our 30th birthday, do we pass across a mystical threshold that leeches any future enjoyment from our life? Do we really buy the message that we have 10 years of freedom and the rest of our adulthood should be spent paying for and reminiscing about our youth while we save minuscule amounts for a short, decrepit retirement?
Too often we allow ourselves to subscribe to the notion that youth is for enjoyment and post-youth is for grinding responsibility. The social cues of this unbalanced lifestyle are everywhere: advertisements, social media feeds, sitcoms, and pressure from those around us. I was regularly told that I would regret the missed opportunities when I graduated and had more responsibilities. (Oddly enough, the same people spouting that cliche were also constantly ridiculing the younger generation for living with parents or being in debt.)
Reflecting on my own choices as I approach 30, my only regret is that I succumbed to the consumer mindset. I spent relatively frivolously throughout my twenties, feeling like I should enjoy myself before the dreaded aging process set in. I was living in a haze of stress and low self-worth, spending money as a coping mechanism and deferring the consequences to my future self (way to go, past self..). After graduation, I let the sticker shock of six figures of debt sink in and attempted to budget my new income around the minimum payments. At the time, I fully expected to be paying my debt back on the full 11 year payment schedule. Fortunately, the initial payments (and interest!) irritated me enough to search for another way and that’s how I stumbled across the financial independence community. Now that I’ve reduced my spending I’ve cut that timeline by half and only have a few years left before I’ll be completely debt free. I am so grateful that I started implementing changes in my twenties – I know that many don’t discover the concept of financial independence until much later, if at all. Still, I can’t help but wonder where I’d be if I found that Mr. Money Mustache article just a few years earlier!
Here’s the thing. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy our lives. I do. Do I think we deserve to throw ourselves down a financial pit in our twenties so that we can spend the rest of our adulthood climbing back out? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t wish what we apparently all deserve on my worst enemy. We are only young once, so why should we waste our youth being stressed and in debt? Why should we waste any part of our lives being stressed and in debt? The key is to construct a life of enjoyment on a daily basis, rather than for one decade. We just need to remember that enjoyment and spending don’t have to be synonymous, and that our future selves are just as important as our present selves.
So, can we stop YOYOing and instead create lives we love at every age?