Easter weekend is one of my favorite times of the year with my children. The weather is finally getting nice after a long winter, so we’re starting to go outside regularly. We usually conduct some kind of Easter egg hunt for them as well, giving them a great chance to explore outdoors and work on their observation skills. They usually get a fair amount of candy during the weekend, too.
It’s a lot of fun and it’s a perfect example of the joys of childhood. Joe and Katie’s primary concern right now is hunting those Easter eggs – and coloring some, too. They don’t worry about bills or getting their book edits finished or anything like that – their biggest financial concern is saving their allowance so they can get a cooler toy.
What I realized is that this is basically the same way I operated until several years into my professional life.
I worked hard at my job, but I essentially just focused on the parts that were fun for me and avoided the parts that weren’t fun for me.
I didn’t sweat bills too much, either – I didn’t plan in advance at all for them and just paid them as best as I could whenever they came in.
Whenever I wanted something, I pretty much bought it. I didn’t really worry about the consequences of it, either.
All of these phenomena have something big in common: I just assumed that my mythical “future self” would take care of it, much in the same way I always assumed my parents would take care of it when I was a child.
In other words, my “future self” became my protector, allowing me to continue living life essentially as a child.
The only problem with relying on a protector like that is that when the protection fails, you’re usually in a very deep hole.
When I went away to college, my parents receded as my protectors. If I had been more self-aware, I would have realized that it was now up to me to protect myself. Instead, I invented a new “parent,” my “future self.” You know, the guy that would be earning a truckload of money in a few years and would solve all of my problems.
In April 2006, my protection failed. My “future self” didn’t save me. I found myself in a very, very deep financial hole and my “future self” wasn’t going to dig me out.
It was up to me and me alone.
If I had realized that whole thing a few years earler before I got into deep debt, I would have been a lot better off. I wouldn’t have missed out on anything of real value, while at the same time I wouldn’t have been in nearly as much debt or financial trouble. I wouldn’t have tossed thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars away in needless interest payments. I wouldn’t have to repeatedly robbed Peter to pay Paul. I wouldn’t have had a house full of stuff that just gathered dust. I would have had the home of my dreams right now.
If you convince yourself to buy stuff and do things under the belief that your “future self” will take care of it, it’s time to grow up. Your future self is completely unreliable and serves only as a crutch, an excuse to allow you to continue to behave as a child would.
My children love hunting Easter eggs, but my time for hunting Easter eggs is over. My future self isn’t a magical Easter bunny that will take care of everything. It’s up to me – right now – to make the future that I want.