I spent a lot of time in my late teens and twenties waiting for my financial life to improve. Buried in debt and not making a lot of money, I’d visualize how much better off I’d be if I could just hold out until my next paycheque, or until I got my next raise. I’d picture paying off one of my credit cards once I got my tax refund. I made the classic mistake of believing the edge of the rut was the horizon.
Today I still daydream about a brighter financial future, but now instead of wondering about a life beyond living paycheque-to-paycheque, I’m using a well-thought-out financial plan to plot out our financial goals. I’m saving and spending with a purpose. But I’m still impatient.
The car-loan that we took out when we bought a new Hyundai Sante Fe in 2012 won’t be paid off for another nine months. The line of credit that we took out to pay for our basement renovation last year won’t be paid off until early 2017.
That means $35,000 going toward debt repayment next year instead of maxing out my RRSP, our TFSAs, the kids’ RESPs, or saving for some other future goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still saving, but I’m waiting for the day these loans are behind me so that I can move on to more exciting wealth building strategies. The waiting is hard, and not just waiting for debt to be repaid. Even saving $200 or $300 per paycheque can feel like a slow march toward millionaire status.
I curb my impatience by tracking my net worth and making sure that the needle is still moving forward. My financial plan also includes projections years in the future – to a time when I can shift those line of credit and car payments into meaningful savings.
According to financial blogger Jeff Rose, fantasizing about having better finances is one of the warning signs that you might be financial unstable:
“Most everyone wants to have better finances. But at the same time, most recognize the need to develop a strategy to make it happen. If you have largely abandoned any practical strategy to improve your finances, and mostly fantasize about how it will feel when things are better, it’s a good indication you’re financially unstable.
You may fantasize about landing a much higher paying job, getting an enormous bonus (or a sweet stock option), coming into an inheritance, or even having a winning lottery ticket. The fact you fantasize about better finances is an unconscious admission you sense a loss of control of your circumstances.”
We make financial improvements one inch at a time and stick with our plans to help avoid impetuous decisions and mistakes. We measure our progress regularly and adjust course if needed. We allow ourselves to dream in a practical way as it relates to our future goals.
It’ll still feel like forever before our debts will be paid off and we can focus on saving again. But this time I see the horizon, and not the edge of the rut.