In December, my husband and I celebrated 10 wonderful years of marriage. And after looking back on all of the memories, the triumphs, and the disappointments we lived through and experienced, we both realized a crucial fact – that, no matter what, neither of us would change a thing.
All of the amazing experiences we had together – including the birth of our two children –led to moments in time we can cherish our whole lives. Our children’s first birthdays, their first days of school, and all of the wonderful moments in between will be etched into our minds for all of eternity.
And, even the bad times had meaning. The miscarriage I had between our oldest and our youngest child, for instance, is the only reason we were blessed with our youngest daughter, Vivian. And the chronic back pain I experienced after each of my pregnancies, while often debilitating, was the main reason we started the online business that provides for our family to this day. Even through pain and despair, we emerged with something better than we had before – something to be grateful for.
As we recognized our anniversary, we also noticed how our view of money has changed over time – and how our new views have transformed our lives. Where we once failed to recognize the power of the money we earned – and the value of the time we spent to earn it – we now see how we wasted our life force for so many years. And now that we know better, we are hell-bent on creating goals with meaning – and achieving them.
How Our Financial Goals Have Changed Over the Years
Yes, 10 years of marriage can change the way you see nearly everything – and it can change your goals, too. Over 10 years, we experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows – both in a personal sense and in terms of our finances. Here’s how our financial goals have changed, and why I’m glad they did.
Fast forward 10 years, and now a big house seems absurd.
When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a small apartment on the top floor of a funeral home. Set in an extremely affluent area, our apartment included walking paths through some of our county’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Walking on their perfectly groomed sidewalks, we imagined who lived in these houses, what they did for a living, and their seemingly perfect lives. And we wondered if we, too, would be able to afford a large, stately home one day – the kind with four or five bedrooms, a huge pool in the backyard, and a white picket fence.
Now that we’re older and could afford something nicer, we balk at the idea of a large and expensive home. We already have exactly what we need, and we know we don’t need anything more. And more importantly, we would rather use our extra funds to see the world and save for retirement.
And, let’s face it: Now that we’re no longer in our 20s, a big house just means a bigger mortgage payment, more rooms to clean, more space to heat and cool, and more expensive repairs. While it might look cute from the curb, a big house requires a lot of work – work I am no longer willing to do.
I want less to take care of, not more.
Speaking of large and expensive houses, I have no desire to take care of one. Where I once dreamed of large and professionally-decorated living spaces, I now enjoy my average-sized home with minimal décor – and have no desire to move up or move out.
Where I once shopped for new appliances, home decorations, curtains, and rugs as a hobby, I now look for stuff that will last forever – and I keep it forever.
And where I once collected quite a few items, I now set boxes of “stuff” out on the curb on a regular basis, give away stuff I don’t use on Craigslist, and have an annual garage sale.
While I once wanted “stuff,” I now see it for what it really is – clutter that detracts from our lives. Now that we’ve embraced minimalism, my husband often jokes that we’ll have nothing left when I’m done. Funny enough, I think I would be fine with that.
We want to help our children live debt-free lives, too.
While we didn’t worry too much about debt in our early 20s, having children gave us a new perspective on life. Actually, it was getting pregnant with a child that convinced us it was time to rein in our spending, get on a budget, and make the most out of every dollar we earned.
But enduring several years of debt and the struggle that came with it taught us one more thing – that we didn’t want our children to fall into debt willingly, either. As a result, some of the newest financial goals we have involve paying for their college education – and potentially their weddings – to help them ease into adulthood without the burden of debt hanging over their heads.
Before we had kids, we only thought of ourselves, but now we think of everything in terms of “us.” And that’s probably part of the reason for our transition towards minimalism, too. The less we have and the less we spend, the more we can save for the future – both ours and our children’s.
What I want more than anything else is time.
I must admit, there was a time in my life when I paid no attention to the hour or what I had accomplished each day. I slept in on weekends, wasted evenings watching all of my favorite television shows, and existed with almost no purpose in life.
But now that we’re older – and especially now that we have children – we take note of every second that ticks by. And we now know each moment we waste doing something we don’t want to do is a moment lost – one we will never get back.
After 10 years of marriage, we finally realize the most important asset we have isn’t money at all; it’s time. And while our children are young especially, we go out of our way to spend as much of it with them as we can.
We strive for real wealth – not just the illusion of wealth.
When we were young and first figuring things out, we fell into many of the financial traps that plague today’s young people. We traded in cars frequently to keep up appearances, spent money on expensive clothing, and poured thousands of dollars into making our home appear ideal.
Now that we’re older, we realize that how other people see us doesn’t really matter. Plus, we have learned the most important financial lesson of all – that real wealth and the illusion of wealth are two entirely different things.
Cheap and easy credit makes it possible to create the illusion wealth with no basis in reality at all. And now that we’re in our mid-30s, I realize it’s all one big, pointless game. And as my mother would say, “The only way to win is not to play.”
We don’t want to be a burden on our children, or on society.
While we have always wanted to retire, getting older – and having kids – added a sense of urgency to our plans. In our 20s and without kids, it was easy to see retirement as some far-off goal we could pursue in the future. But once we had kids and turned 30, we looked around and realized that the time to get serious was now.
With children to take care of and nurture, too, it’s painful to imagine being a burden on them. Where I once wanted to retire only for selfish reasons, my husband and I now see saving for retirement as a way to avoid putting undue burden on our adult children.
They’re only kids now, but they’ll one day grow up and have families of their own – or, at the very least, want to support themselves without taking care of us, too. Both my husband and I are blessed with parents who don’t need financial support, but I know not everyone is so lucky.
After 10 years of marriage and two kids, I now realize that saving for retirement isn’t just for you – it’s for the people who love you as well. And if we all saved more, we would all be better off.
The Bottom Line
Marriage is full of ups and downs, but I can say with a full heart that it’s been an amazing journey so far. But most of all, it has been a learning experience. Over the last decade, we’ve learned so much about ourselves and where we’ve been, but also, where we want to be.
In just 10 years, we grew from selfish 20-somethings to middle-aged parents who plan for the future as best as we can. I can only imagine how differently we might see life 10 years from now, or even 10 years after that. Fortunately, I can now say we are doing our best – both for ourselves and our children. Dreams and goals may change, but my love for them never will.
Has marriage or having children changed your financial goals? How do you see things differently today?