Saving for Retirement vs Living Your Life

By Carlos Portocarrero

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Bungee Jumping

When I started reading about retirement accounts like the 401(k) and the Roth IRA for the first time, I immediately became paranoid. Even though I was in my mid twenties, I was already nervous about retirement — it’s just the way I am. I mean, what would happen if I get to age 75 and don’t have enough money to live? Who would take care of me? So right away I made saving for retirement a priority. Ever since, I’ve contributed the full amount to my Roth and I’ve gradually bumped my 401(k) contribution from 4% all the way up to 8% (I’m saving for a down payment so that’s why it isn’t higher).

But that’s a good thing, right? And what does a bungee jumper have to do with retirement? I’ll tell you why: saving for retirement is a smart, responsible thing to do — but you can’t let that get in the way of living your life today. There are things you won’t be able to do when you retire (physically, for the most part) that you may want to do at some point in your life. So guess what? That means doing it now. Things like bungee jumping.

Earlier this year M and I went skiing together. It was a great trip and we had a lot of fun. But when we were planning for it I was a little skeptical. Do we really need to go skiing? Paying for a hotel, the mountain pass, the ski rental, travel expenses, etc. — all that stuff adds up. Money I could’ve easily put into my Roth IRA account. Eventually I came around and I’m really glad I did, but it was a good reminder that, while saving for tomorrow is a good thing, you can’t forget about today. Now we have a picture of the two of us in full ski regalia with snow falling all around us. A picture we can look at when we’re old and wrinkly and reminisce, “Ahh, that was a good trip.”

Frugal Dad recently wrote about stopping to smell the roses, and that’s how I was reminded of this whole retirement vs. living thing. I’ve written about it too — but when you’re so worried about the long-term stuff and trying to be a responsible person, it’s easy to forget. So skiing and bungee jumping are good reminders.

Have you ever not done something because you were more concerned about the future than the present?

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