I came across a quote the other day that I really enjoyed. “The best time to plant an oak tree is 15 years ago. The second best time is today.” It struck me as such a good way to look at life. I know it’s applicable to me in a few different areas.
With retirement, I should have started saving the moment I started working. That savings should have been untouchable and allowed to grow until retirement. However, I didn’t have a good firm grasp of personal finance until the last few years, so I didn’t really begin saving until the last few years. Sure, I could dwell in self-pity, but what’s the point. Since I didn’t begin saving years ago, I need to begin right now. I have set up a plan that should allow me to retire someday, probably in my 60’s. Early retirement is unlikely, unless I dramatically change my lifestyle, but that’s ok. I have started to save and know that the retirement savings are completely off limits. So, how can you apply this to yourself? If you are not saving currently, there is no better day than tomorrow. To give some numbers on what saving might look like, let’s assume someone makes $50,000 a year. 1% of that amount would be $500 a year. Some people might say that’s a big number, but let’s break it down. On a monthly basis, that’s only about $42 a month or about $10 a week. Can you think of one recurring expense that you could cut that would save you $10 a week? If you can think of one, then you can start your retirement savings tomorrow. Sure, you won’t fully retire by saving 1% a year, but you need to start somewhere. Maybe the next time you get a raise, you up your amount to 2%, then 3%. If your company offers a matching contribution, you’re now doubling your savings. The thing is you have to start.
I didn’t have one until recently. Those random big expenses that would pop up used to destroy my finances. I would just be climbing out of a hole when something would put me back in. But, over the last few years, I’ve built up a roughly 3-month expense cushion. I’d like it to be 6-months, but I also know it won’t happen overnight. I started small, with just $25 a month. Then, as extra money came in, I would always set aside some of it in the emergency fund. You just have to start.
I was never really much of an athlete growing up. I just completed my first half-marathon a few months ago, in just under 2 hours. I had just taken up running about 5 years ago and steadily built up my endurance to run a half-marathon. My goal for next year is to complete a full marathon. I run now, so that I can stay healthy and enjoy my retirement. Point is that I haven’t been running or exercising my entire life. If you haven’t been taking care of your health before, the best time to start is right now.
It’s Up to You
In the end, it’s all in how you want to go through life. Do you want to wallow in the mistakes of your past? Or, do you want to learn from those mistakes and change your life? Maybe I’m just an optimistic person, but I choose the latter.