For each one of us, there are moments that are defining, moments that place a marker into our brains that nothing and no one could move. The imprints of those experiences are so powerful and lasting that they forge in many ways, our personalities, our likes and even our character. It could be an event, a feeling, an incredible scent, an image, a geographical place, you name it. We all have our moments.
As you are reading this, I bet that you have momentarily transported yourself to one of those memorable pins of your life. The feelings, pleasant or deplorable are rushing to your thoughts, taking you back to that exact time. While, you’re reminiscing, let me share with you one of mines.
I was quite early in my teen years, then discovering some level of independence, at least what I thought I had back then. My entire life at that point, I had ridden on the backs of motorcycles in the streets of Cotonou (Benin, West Africa), one of which my own parents own. It was a small barely 90CC bike, it had a bit of a VESPA design and it was a tool that will later in my high school years be a tremendous blessing. But on a crisp school morning in my 7th grade year, our car decided to provide us with some unwanted and unexpected trouble. My dad was away on a work trip and mom wasn’t going to mess with mechanics. Looking back today, my reaction at that moment was very opposite of my reserved personality. I offered to my mom to ride the motorcycle to school (with my younger brother on the passenger seat). I had already been riding then, running small errands around town. She agreed and everything changed after that.
Everyone owned a motorcycle. Nobody gasped with fear as I’ve experienced here in the US, after you’ve told them that you rode a motorcycle more than 25 km to school, in busy city traffic, as a 14 year-old boy (by the way, with no protection whatsoever but that’s a different discussion for another time). As I grew higher in the ranks of middle school and then high school, I progressively got introduced to better and bigger motorcycles owned by friends. When I was about 15 years old, my interest in riding became more of an admiration for the ingenious design that a motorcycle can display. One of my friends’ older brother who was then a senior, figured out how to acquire a true bad to the bone bike. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but every attempt that I make to recall it, my subconscious mind takes me to the beautiful machinery that is a Ducati Monster. And that is how my love for motorcycles begin. Back then, I could never dream of owning one like some of my friends whose parents had the means, so I vow to one day, pay for one… and many others.
Now let’s travel back to present day. Let’s relate all of this to the topic of this article. Whether it is a motorcycle, a boat, a guitar, a home, I bet there is one thing that you want that implicates money. This is not a simple financial expenditure, it is the acquisition of a desired feeling by financial means, means that obviously affect your pocket. In the case of a motorcycle, it certainly is not the price of a car or a home, although some bikes may rival quite expensive vehicles in cost. Nonetheless, it still is quite an expenditure worth thousands of dollars. What’s the big deal?, some might say; ‘All it takes is a simple loan with a decent monthly payment and that’s it.’ Well, not quite. Without wanting to hurt feelings, far from my intentions, my short and very experiential taste of the banking world taught me, above all one thing: people in general have no clue whatsoever and no discipline about soundly managing their finances. We live in a society so driven by immediate gratification and a culture rotten by the normalcy of debt that in a blink of an eye, people make decisions that hunt them years later. I’m 31 years old, I have wanted a motorcycle for over 15 years, and I’ve had the means to buy one for years.
So why did it take me so long? It is my personal belief that some things must be earned with work and with time. Work translates into the finances and time in wisdom, right choice and delayed gratification. Yes, I could’ve bought a bike years ago, but I wanted:
- To be able to pay for it outright
- To not feel any damaging dent in my savings
- To not feel any guilt
Left and right, people swipe their credit cards for virtually anything. Beside your home and car and other major purchases, the basic concept for financial stability is this: if you can’t pay cash for it, YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT NOW. And yes, I realize that this thought process may seem out of this world, but truly, to reach any level of financial stability, one must get close to thinking that way, without being legalistic. It is not a rule or a law that strikes you when you deviate from following it. In fact, there are obviously cases when taking on a small loan may be necessary or even better. However, at the core of the plague that is destroying our generation financially, the hole consists essentially of bad decisions associated with debt. Today, about 1 in 11 households in America rents a self-storage space. What does that indicate? That we consistently buy things we do not need and pay so that they do not encumber us in our living space. It doesn’t even make logical sense.
I have been writing for Moneysmartmillennials.com for almost four years. My stand on financial stability, my desire for you to succeed has not changed. My message is the same, even after receiving the repeated answer: no one can live forever on such edge financially. And my response would be that you are right if you are thinking that way. The goal of tightening up your finances today is not to be miserable but to make decisions today that will make your tomorrow so much more comfortable. That tomorrow, my friends, is right around the corner. I have learned that the one thing that keeps the pockets full is focus. Whether it’s focusing on your desire or on a result you don’t want to get to, a clear idea of your destination will provide the intestinal fortitude to say no to frivolous spending when it arises.
As I am writing this, I cannot recall the last time I rode my bike. It’s been more than a month and guess what, I’m okay with it. Why? Because I bought it for the right reasons and at the right time, for my own pleasure. The tendency for so many is to please or impress others and when they have made the bad move (even when only internally admitted), a creeping guilt sweeps in leading them to feel an obligation to overuse whatever they’d bought, because after all it seems like a lot of money gone.
My desire for you in 2020 is to slow down and think through your financial decisions. Make the word Why, your biggest friend this year. I must admit that my natural personality lends itself to a very careful and analytical type of character when it comes to spending money. Moreover, my overall life experience, being essentially on my own financially since the age of 18 has helped forge my financial posture. This is not an excuse, nonetheless, for those who have a different type of personality. It’s all in the plan and you must make one. Choose wisely the items that you decide to splurge on and practice patience. Patience is a sign of wisdom and maturity and patience allows you to access your expenditure. I have made a habit of living on a budget and meticulously planning any big project. When I decided to buy my motorcycle, I did my research and narrowed my wish list to a few bikes that would meet my needs, or my want to be honest. Then I researched their price and decided which one I could afford with cash. When the right opportunity presented itself along with the appropriate time, I pulled the trigger and decided on a Kawasaki Vulcan S.
I sincerely hope that this article opened your eyes to your own reality. Interestingly, emotions and feelings blind us from the reality of our actions, and it is often necessary to have a completely unbiased perspective. Maybe, this read was the wake up call you needed in this new year. How would you make 2020 your best year yet financially? I recommend you resolve to do all that you can to look back, on December 31st, 2020, and say to yourself, ‘Good Job!’.