Monday, February 12

Patience, that difficult virtue

The future sure seems a long way off sometimes.

Of course, not every day. Some days, I am convinced that I will retire very young and live a lovely lifestyle with everything falling neatly into place. Those days, the future is a welcoming place that is rising up to meet me. The path is clear and smooth and free of hidden twists or dangers.

But then there are the days when I feel like I will be on the hamster wheel forever. On those days, retirement is a moving target and will inevitably lead to a diminished lifestyle, my job will never let me go and my investments will all go down. Way down. This is a future that is moving further away from me each time I try to look at it. Too many of these days spells insanity.

And where does the truth lie?

Money fools us by coming with numbers to measure it. Like time, in which we assume that a minute is always the same length until we have to wait in line for the toilet, one dollar is not always the same as another. Some dollars are heavily taxed, some taxed more lightly and some are not taxed at all. Some dollars are well spent and provide great value and some are wasted. Some dollars grow and some dollars shrink. Some provide benefit to us and some provide benefit to others. And we can't always tell the difference at first glance.

You see, on my optimistic money days and my depressed money days my net worth may possibly be the same number. But in one case I like that number and in the other I don't. And in both cases I still don't know what the future truly holds for me, which is why I come to the topic of patience. In life, and especially in finances, patience is key. With some patience and flexibility the future will work itself out. After all, I will get a chance to respond to any and all circumstances that befall me by modifying my plans and practices.

And that is the key insight. The far future goal is to keep your eye on the ball. It will come at some point, but the path is made of hundreds or thousands of small decisions and minor adjustments along the way. The near future and the present are what you work with on a daily basis to make these adjustments. With good stewardship in the present, the future will take care of itself, so spend your attention on what you can directly work on, and do not let your focus falter.

You will also have a lot less "hamster wheel" days.

Today's billable hours: 7.5
Today's contracted hours: 1.0