25 Things I Don't Want to Regret Once I Retire...
I met with an elderly couple today in their home to execute some planning documents. While neither of them ever had jobs as professionals and neither inherited any money from family members, they have amassed quite a respectable sum of money as they continue to progress through the Golden Years. The lesson that they passed on to me today in our short meeting was that you have to proceed through life without regret, and live each moment so that you will not later look back with regret.
After meeting with the couple, I returned to my office and put together a list of 25 ideas, goals, etc. that I want to look back on when I reach retirement age, and say that I fully accomplished or successfully practiced each of these 25 goals. So without further ado, here is part one of my list, with part two coming tomorrow night when I return home from class (feel free to add to my list or share your thoughts in the comments):
1. Start Saving Money Now, and Continue to Save Money Forever. One of my major problems before I discovered the world of personal finance is that I would pay everyone, but I would never pay myself. I had no problem sending the cable, car insurance and energy bills each month, but I always forgot to pay myself, i.e. save. Now I've opened a high-interest savings account, and plan on saving even more as my income continues to grow.
2. Stop and Think About Prospective Purchases for at Least 30 Seconds. I'm an impulse buyer, I always have been. This might be the "typical male shopper" shining through, but when I see something I want, I typically convince myself that I can afford to purchase it. This is especially easy when buying gifts for those I love. I've taken to thinking about purchases before I make them in the stores, or if online, I like to leave the website I am about to buy from and do some research to confirm the utility of the product or search for a better deal.
3. Make and Stick to a Budget. This is difficult enough for myself and the fiancee now, with no children and relatively little worries beyond our lovable dog. However, I anticipate budgeting will become even more complicated and necessary as our family grows, which is why I've taken such a strong liking to the You Need A Budget system.
4. Max-Out Your Retirement Plans Annually. This is the first year I've committed to maxing out the plans my employer offers, but I haven't even graduated law school yet, so I think there's time here. What I do know is that I would horribly regret not electing to max out these plans 40 years from now.
5. You Own Banks, Not The Other Way Around. I'm essentially lending banks my money every time I make a deposit. There's no reason the banks shouldn't be paying me interest in the same manner they expect to earn interest. I've committed to only doing business with banks that offer competitive rates (although I'm not trolling for the best rates) and offer great customer service.
6. Carpool More. I feel this could be a great way to not only save on expenses and help the environment, but also become closer with those I work/go to school/spend time with. Therefore, carpooling becomes a win-win-win situation.
7. Dryclean Less. If I told you the amount I spend at the drycleaner each week, you would probably be sick. There's not a lot of chatter around the PF blogs regarding the high cost of drycleaning, but it is one of my biggest monthly expenses. I'm currently in the market for a professional-grade steamer for my suits/pants/shirts and hope this will trim large amounts from my monthly bill.
8. Purchase Quality Blankets. Living in Upstate New York, I pay gobs of money to heat my home through the long winter. As I have not yet decided on the electric fireplace as a supplement to our energy-efficient, but still overpriced furnace, we are using blankets more so we can keep the heat lower (although it is buzzing furiously right now). Plus, the blankets allow for more snuggling!
9. Volunteer More Often. This is a personal-maintenance issue for me. I grew up volunteering in my church, and now I'm using some of my skills to give back through VITA by helping prepare tax returns for low-income individuals and families.
10. Never Pay Retail Price. I like to haggle with people, but that's just in my nature (thank you Law School!) Plus, there's nothing better then feeling like you beat the system, and got a great bargain. I've been getting better at not accepting "we can't go any lower" for an answer, and also being willing to push the envelope as far as necessary to get the best deal. When push comes to shove, it's all about not being "sold" on a product or service when you are negotiating for it, and being able to walk away if the price is not agreeable.
11. Prepare for Roadblocks. The first step to prepare for emergencies is to save for emergencies. This is why I've been frequently trying to stash money in our Emergency Savings account. Only once I've created/maintained/replenished this buffer will we truly be on the road to financial freedom.
12. Live on Less Than You Earn. This is difficult because the fiancee and I are both in grad school, and the earnings are not that great. However, through modifying our expectations and expenses, we've managed to live pretty comfortably and still be able to afford to plan for parts of our upcoming wedding without plunging ourselves into mountains of debt (with the exception of our growing student loans). Living on less than we earn will become increasingly important as we will both work in professional settings and likely face the peer-pressures that accompany higher-paying jobs, including wardrobe updates, fancy cars, big houses, etc. As long as we can continue to live on less than we make, I believe the long-term payoff will be enormous.
That's all for Part One! I look forward to reading all of your comments and hope you will tune in tomorrow for Part Two...