Motivation is a funny thing… No matter what kind of goal I’m working toward, motivation always comes to me in fits and starts. Generally, this isn’t something that worries me too much. If I’m working on a project that’s part of a hobby, it’s not a big deal if I lose interest in it and neglect it for a while. Even if I’m working on something important for work, I know that I perform best under the pressure of an impending deadline, so I can comfortably kick back and wait for a strong fit of motivation to set in.
Unfortunately, this would likely be a dangerous approach to financial management. Money is always a part of your life. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, whether you’re single or married, whether you’re sick or healthy. Money impacts the way you live your life now and the type of life you will have in the future. Can there ever be a time when it’s okay to indulge in a lack of motivation and disregard financial goals? I’m pretty sure that the answer to that question is no.
For someone like me whose motivation tends to suddenly vanish without a trace, this is seriously scary. So far, my motivation to be financially secure is not waning. It’s not even wavering. But I know myself, so I’m worried about how I might feel in a few years, or even in a few months.
With that in mind, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I can keep myself motivated, not just right now but for the rest of my life (yikes!). This blog definitely plays an important role. There’s nothing like the potential for public embarrassment to keep a gal on track. I really don’t want to have to write a future post entitled “My Shoes are Fabulous, but Living in a Shack is Not.”
Beyond a public admission of financial failure, I’ve thought of some other things that will help keep me motivated:
- Never having a car payment for the rest of my life. I currently drive an eight year old Honda Accord with 80,000 miles on it. Since Accords often survive for 200,000+ miles, I’m going to want a new car before I actually need one. If I stick to my current savings rate, I can build an emergency savings fund AND a $25,000 new car fund by the end of 2012 at the latest. It is amazing to think that I’ll be able to buy a new car with cash and absolutely no debt!
- Retiring at age 50. This one could be a stretch, but I just might be able to pull it off, or at least come close. With aggressive saving, smart investing, and a little career management, I hope to be in a position to stop working full time in twenty years. I might not be able to do a full retirement that soon, but maybe I can work part time doing something I really enjoy even if it doesn’t pay all that well. Time will tell, but the possibility alone is hugely motivating.
- Making my community (maybe even the world?) a better place. As I build wealth, I will be able to comfortably contribute to causes and local organizations that I care about. I really look forward to the time when I can make a generous donation without feeling like I’m making a huge sacrifice. (By the way, before anyone gives me too much credit for having this item on my list of motivators, I should tell you that I am really selfish when it comes to my time. I’m not proud to say this, but I really don’t like volunteering. I’ve decided to make up for it in the future by writing checks. That’s not too terrible, right?)
- Feeling in control, secure, and satisfied. More than anything else, I think this will be my best motivator to stay on track financially. Within five years, I should be reaching a point where I don’t have to worry about money. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to start spending freely and neglecting long-term financial planning, but it does mean that I won’t have to actually worry about money. I’ll have everything under control. I can’t wait to see what that feels like! Once I get to that point, I know I’ll never want to go back.
I’ll always have short-term goals and benchmarks to keep me motivated, but if I’m ever really struggling, I hope that these “big picture” items will help me stay on track.
I’m very interested to know what others do to keep themselves motivated… How do you resist the urge to make a big impulse purchase? How do you stay committed to saving aggressively? How do you turn off that inner voice that is so good at rationalizing bad financial behavior? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you don’t mind, I just might borrow your motivation sometime when I really need it.