Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Craig Israelsen, one of the authors of Your Nest Egg Game Plan. The book has a lot of valuable insight and advice on how to get things back on track for retirement — especially if you expect to retire sooner rather than later.
One of the points made in the book is that it is possible to become too fixated on saving. I asked Israelsen about this.
“Well, most people don’t have this problem,” he pointed out. “However, it is important to note that sometimes you become so acclimated to saving that you don’t know how to switch gears when you retire, or if you get a little more room in your budget to spend a little more. You have to ask yourself what you are spending.”
Israelsen went on to point out that spending is about more than just money. We spend our energy and we spend ourselves. “I don’t like to say that we’re spending our time,” he said. “You can’t save up time — it just rolls on. You can spend yourself in what you choose to do with the time you have.”
Instead of thinking solely about how we spend our money, Israelsen encourages us to think about what our financial resources allow us to do with ourselves and our energies. “You have to recognize that our financial resources free us up to spend ourselves in certain ways, and that you should carefully consider how you spend yourself, so that you are doing so in a way that you find gratifying.”
In the end, if we focus too much on saving money, we may miss out on doing other things that we might find satisfied. “It’s a good idea to begin developing an idea of how you want to spend yourself, whether its travel, golf, volunteer work, spending time with family or some other activity, when you are young. It’s a good idea to decide as early as possible how you can set up your finances to allow you to spend yourself how you want.”
I think that Israelsen makes a great point. However, you don’t have to save all of this up until you “retire.” Instead, I think it can be beneficial to think about how to arrange your finances now so that you can do a little of the spending yourself right now. For my husband and me, this means that we actually don’t put as much into our long-term savings as we might. We plan to be able to earn money during the early stages of “retirement,” through consulting (for him) and writing (for me). So we have some leeway now to spend a little of ourselves on pursuits that bring us a greater sense of satisfaction. We don’t want to spend our prime toiling away to provide money for activities we may not be able to enjoy as well when we are older.
What about you? What are you spending? And how do you spend it?