Is a Debt Free Life Really the Ultimate Goal?
While You’re Chasing Your Money Goals, are You Still Living Your Life?
I’ve written fairly extensively about becoming debt free. My family still has a mortgage remaining. And we have no other consumer debt of any kind. We have more than 50% equity in our house, and our net worth is trending up. We’re well on our way towards a debt-free life.
But is that the ultimate goal? Or is it just a side effect of life well lived?
Let me clarify that last statement. A person who lived a well-lived life in my opinion, is not someone who made millions of dollars and lived lavishly. A life well lived is not the life filled with every pleasure and luxury our world can offer. A life well lived carries with it the weight of respect and dignity. It’s more about a reputation and honor in all aspects of life.
But while we’re working to be debt free, are we sacrificing the opportunities we have today to make a difference in the lives of those around us? Are we so caught up in the chase that we disregard the journey?
I’m speaking from experience here, and I feel at times, money and finances can be a bigger part of my life than it should be. Maybe it’s because I write about money?
At times I find myself looking forward to the time when we’ll have no debt. And I’m looking at what my life will be then and not really living in the now.
What I’m learning is: you can live a good meaningful life no matter how much money you have or don’t have. And as you move through the different phases of life, opportunities to add to a life-well-lived legacy will arise. Just don’t fall prey to the excuse of, “maybe later . . . when things are better”.
So, where are you in the following money phases?
Money Phase #1: When You have no Money, Money Becomes One of the Pre-eminent Things in Your Life.
As many of you may already know, or maybe you can imagine when you were once there, life with little to no money is hard. When you have to decide between groceries, gas, or the electric bill, it can be discouraging.
Not being able to keep your life together because your income is too low, or you overextended yourself is hard. And whether it was your poor choices or just not enough opportunity or maybe a combination of a variety of other factors, the result is: You have too much month for the money. Every month!
It’s at times like these when money becomes one of the most important things in your life. Yes, I get it. Family is always important. Faith is important. But when you can’t keep your lights on, it’s just downright miserable. Just an extra few thousand dollars a year could make all the difference.
It’s during this phase of your money life that’s it’s hard to be outwardly focused. Because how can you help others when you can’t even help yourself? But you can control your attitude while you’re working towards phase two.Is money an enabler, or is it an inhibitor? That is, should the lack of it keep you from living your life? Click To Tweet
Money Phase #2: When You Finally Get Some Money, Money Becomes a Means to an End.
And when you finally get the raise or promotion you deserve, things are looking up. Life isn’t nearly as difficult as it was before. You don’t have to make those decisions about food or rent, because now you can cover them both.
And while you don’t have stacks of cash laying around, you do have more margin in your life. You have some breathing room.
During this phase of life, money is longer as important as it was when you didn’t have any. Don’t get me wrong, you still need it. But it becomes an enabler – not an inhibitor.
Now that you have margin, you can save for retirement. You can pay down your debts. And your net worth is starting to rise.
Your relationship with money is starting to change. You still need money, but it enables you to live the life you want. And with the margin in your life, you can start to give more too.
Being debt free will come, but don’t forget to live in the now.
Money Phase #3: When you have all the money you need, it becomes unimportant.
When you finally have all the money you need, you’ve reached what most would call financially independent. You could theoretically live off your investments for the rest of your life. You should finally be debt free.
This is the phase of life where Dave Ramsey would tell you to give, give, give, and live like no one else.
Giving some away to help those in need isn’t going to affect your life much. When you are financially independent, a few hundred dollars or even thousands of dollars shouldn’t bankrupt you. But it can make a world of difference to those who don’t have much. You can be a blessing to those in need.
But You don’t have to Wait until You’re Financially Independent to be an Encouragement.
Here’s the thing I’ve been starting to realize. You can make a difference during whatever money phase you’re currently in. Even if you have no money, you can still be kind and help others. Because it doesn’t take money to say “Thank-you” or offer a friendly “Good morning”.
In money phase two, money can still be tight, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from giving more. There will be times and opportunities will present themselves to help in small ways. You just have to be on the lookout for them.
And what I’ve struggled with at times, is just that. I get caught up in the budget, paying down debt, and the day-to-day. My head can be down and I’m so inward focused that I’m sure I’ve missed opportunities. It’s not that the goals we’ve set aren’t important. It’s the fact that we can’t fast forward to the end and then live. We have to live life now. Give now. And focus on helping now.
With Thanksgiving this week and Christmas right around the corner, this is great time to change your mindset. Be grateful for where you are and what you have. Actively looking and seeking out opportunities to live and bless others matters more to me than being debt free. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
The goals will come. I’m sure of it. But I for one don’t want to miss the giving opportunities along the way.
What money phase are you in? And have you been guilty of looking forward to the next phase and forgetting to live now?
Thanks for reading and sharing. And please leave me a comment to let me know what you thought of this post.