The Real Balancing Act

Funny about money’s post about delayed gratification got me thinking about the real balance in life and it’s not the difficulty of balancing family and work during the early childhood years; it’s the delicate balance between wants and needs as you get older!

When you’re young, you can delay gratification more easily because you have time on your side.  It’s really hard to do for many people but you can tell yourself that you have time to buy that expensive purse or take that dream vacation.   However, as you get older and start seeing friends and family get sick or pass away, I imagine it would be much harder to deny yourself life’s little pleasures.  At the same time, you may be reaching your peak earnings, which isn’t as high as you expected, or playing catch-up on retirement savings.  Or you may even be at retirement age and while you want to spend freely, it’s harder when you don’t see money coming in.

Right now, in my 40s, I am balancing my spending and saving needs in an okay fashion.  I have young kids so a lot of spending is on their needs/wants.  At the same time, I think it’s important that I buy clothes or shoes or purses that I really like, once in a while, so that I don’t reach old age and flip out (spend like crazy) when I can least afford to.

Do you think it gets harder to delay gratification when you get older?

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8 responses to “The Real Balancing Act

  1. At the moment I’m finding it hard to delay gratification because I’m afraid it will get harder to do what I want when older (I might have more money but no time and more ties/commitments… and there’s the minuscule chance that some disaster – chronic medical condition, run over a bus etc – could put paid to that…)

    • I definitely remember delayed gratification being harder in some ways when younger, but I did get pretty good at it. It seemed like my circle of friends were pretty good at finding inexpensive thrills, willing to travel on a budget, etc.. Some were saving for a house. Now I am feeling that it’s time that my hard work/savings pay off for more frivolous fun, but you’re right that you also have more ties and obligations!

  2. I dunno, as I get older, later doesn’t seem so far away anymore. I can put something off for 5 years, or I can intend to put it off for a little while and it ends up being 5 years. Time passes by so much quicker these days.

    • I think Funny is at retirement age (65-ish) and I think, for me, things will be very different when I reach that age than now (40ish). At 65 plus, you no longer have time to put things off

  3. Interesting post!

    I have a weird perspective on this for two reasons: 1. I make quite a bit of money, so generally can save AND spend- although we still fret a bit about getting the balance right. 2. I have extreme longevity in my genes. 3/4 of my great-grandparents on my Dad’s side lived into their late 90s. My grandparents on that side are in their early 90s and going strong. Of course, I don’t know which genes I got, or what else might happen. But still, I make my financial/retirement plans assuming I’m going to live to 100. Which is…. weird. It actually makes me more likely to spend now, because I assume I’ll have to keep working in some form past usual retirement age.

  4. Thanks for the mention! Great post… And ain’t it the truth that kids require years of sacrifice and self-discipline!

    Too true that I am a survivor of the Early Cretaceous. As a living dinosaur, I’d suggest that one strategy is to purchase high-quality big-ticket items while you’re still earning and can pay for them. Furniture, for example: something from Ikea is unlikely to last through your dotage…uhm, “golden years.” When you’re living on Social Security and savings drawdowns, you can’t afford to replace the sofa or the dining-room table, so buying good-quality pieces in timeless styles (avoid the current color fads) is likely to make your surroundings and your daily life more pleasant. And get a car by a maker known to build vehicles that will last over 100,000 miles: whatever you drive at 60 or 65 is likely to be the last car you’ll own.

    Don’t assume you’ll keep working past 65 unless you already own a successful business. Age-related discrimination, which is SOP in the US, pretty much obviates your chance of getting hired when you’re in your sixties.

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