There’s a conundrum that we all face as humans: we are born and must die. For many of us, that’s the most frightening thing imaginable. It stops us in our tracks, and we can’t cogently plan for the future. We are literally scared into avoiding death because death is scary. The irony!
The cyclical loop of fear allows our minds to run wild and appreciate only these few moments right now. We don’t know how many more we’ll have. But unfortunately, that tends to come with some significant financial consequences. The attitude can quickly become: charge it now and worry later; heck, you might die before you have to pay it back.
Because death is an unknown – we don’t know until it’s too late – many try to appreciate only the present moment. The Millennial generation, with the help of popular musician, Drake, have a helpful acronym that’s all about living in the now: YOLO. The vowel-laden term stands for, You Only Live Once. In that spirit, we are tasked with spending, eating, and drinking to enjoy the moments we do have. The hope is that when death comes knockin’, we lived our lives to the fullest. Nobody wants to die without living it up.
YOLO has inspired countless teens and 20-somethings to travel the world, and eschew traditional day jobs. And who can blame them? Countless generations before them searched and scoured the world for self-discovery, too! Life seems short, might as well enjoy it, right?
What seems absent from these aspirational lives and depictions is the reality that for most people, life expectancy is about 80 years. Most of my grandparents lived well into their 80s and 90s. That means that while we are trying to live life to the fullest by spending our way into blissful oblivion, we seem to be discounting the fact that humans tend to live long lives. Really LONG lives.
A lot can be done in 80 years, and it needn’t all occur at 18, 19, and 20. In fact, it’s rather depressing thinking the only time to travel and party like a rockstar is at such a young age. Life is full of adventure and opportunity – it doesn’t end at 30, 40, or 50.
YOLO isn’t inherently a bad term, but it’s important to remember that we have 80 years to do it. And if we have 80 years to YOLO all over the place, shouldn’t we plan beyond this one moment? We compete with unknown variables of death, desire, and saving for a long future. Evolutionarily, we have come to appreciate the present moment to procreate and build foundations for progeny.
While these archaic evolutionary bases of behavior affect our behaviors today, our society has changed significantly. We no longer deal with daily threats. Most of us aren’t running from lions, tigers, and bears – oh my!
Regardless of these competing demands – one for YOLOing and the other for living well into old age – there’s an emotion we all seek: spontaneity. Sustainable, life-long adventure requires healthy budgeting and savings. To take that random road trip, we must save and stop spending on credit. This choice necessitates a reinvention of spending habits. YOLO cannot become yet another excuse to party lavishly and become a gluttonous individual. Millennials and people everywhere have an opportunity to better themselves and the world around them. But they can’t do it while swimming in toxic debt.