One of the biggest struggles that I have had with our personal finances over the years has been patience. I was so eager to get into the workforce and start making money that I chose my college major by whichever major I was the closest to finishing at the time. After graduating I accepted the first job offer that I was given even though it was half way across the country because I was tired of looking and wanting to begin a career. We bought a house as soon as we could, partially because I was tired of moving around and wanted to be settled. And now I keep a close eye on my meager 401(k), anticipating the day that can retire.
These have been some of the instances where I have indulged in my need to “move on in life”. But thankfully there have been many instances where we have been able to focus on the task at hand and make more wise financial decisions that will help our family in the long run.
I’ve often noticed this tendency in myself to not be patient in my circumstances but never fully realized the importance of gaining this patience. But last night I had a dream that I thought taught me this lesson in an impactful way.
In my dream I was driving my car down a steep and winding road in the mountains. There was no guard railing and I was driving on the side of the road that was nearest to the cliff drop-off. It actually reminded me a lot of the road between Silverton and Ouray Colorado. At the base of the cliffs was a valley full of very normal looking houses but as you looked up the mountain on the other side of the valley there were extremely beautiful, multi-million dollar houses build into the side of the mountain. I don’t remember ever seeing such awesome looking houses and I seemed to be entranced by them.
As my attention was drawn to the houses I realized that I was drifting towards the edge of the cliff. Each time I would realize this I would make a quick course correction and get back to the middle of my lane but then I would look back over at the houses so I could notice some more little details that I had missed before. But, as I would do this I would notice that the car was drifting back towards the cliff. I don't remember if I was alone in the car or if I had my family in the car with me but after a few times of realizing that I was getting too close to the edge it hit me that I was risking my life and possibly my families lives just so that I could catch a fleeting glimpse of someone else's house. I felt so stupid, so irresponsible, and even embarrassed that I didn't have more self control than that.
As I thought about it (still in the dream) I realized that I knew that I would soon be at the bottom of the treacherous road and could look up from the valley and easily see the beautiful house. True, I would be looking at them from a different angle and might not be able to see as much of the same details but at least I would be able to pull over so that I wouldn't be putting my life at risk.
During the dream I realized that the big houses was a representation of the monetary frills of life; the big houses, the fancy cars, the newest electronics and giant TV, eating out everyday, world travel, early retirement, and the list goes on and on. I realized that if I spend all of my time focusing on these luxuries I would put more valuable things at risk, such as cutting myself off from my family. I realized that right now I am at a critical financial time in my life and that if I lose my focus I could end up making decisions that will affect my family for years to come, but if I can forget about the luxuries that are out there and focus on getting down the mountain I will eventually get to the point where I can look up at them and begin working my way towards them in a safe manner.
I have set financial goals, one of which is to provide a living for my family without having to rely on my wife to provide a form of income, thus allowing her to stay at home and focus her efforts on raising our children in a loving and personal environment. I know that this is a difficult goal, that is why the profession of stay-at-home-mom has been so quickly diminishing around the world. But, because this is a difficult goal in the world that we live in, we have an increased need to retain our focus so that we can stay on track.
My plea and desire for this article is to help and encourage you to determine your long term financial goals and then make sure that you stay focused on it. In the beginning it is going to be very difficult, but if you just take it slow and be patient with yourself, and in your circumstances, you can make it down the treacherous mountainside. Once you make it to the valley you can breath deeply, knowing that you have made it through the danger of failing prematurely, and start the slow climb up towards the goal that you have set.
Don't give up and don't make a stupid mistake now that you will regret in the future. You can do it, good luck.