Most days I live a chaste life. If they created a reality TV show of my life, it would be cancelled before the air date. Hell, the film crew would probably fall asleep in production. It’s a simple, hamster wheel existence that consists of getting up, making breakfast, reading for hours, working, and repeating that all the next day. The bummer is I want more than this.
Over the last few weeks of summer, as I’ve been on my constant rinse and repeat cycle, a growing desire to travel has crept up. More than travel, it’s a desire for more adventure. But then there’s my life and reality.
Being a 25-year-old doctoral student is a lesson in delayed gratification — working hard now to find enjoyable work and a reasonable paycheck later in life. Like many times before, on this frugal journey, I look at my budget. The numbers don’t add up. I can’t spend the money to travel to England, France, or visit Montreal. I just don’t have it, as I would need to take out student loans again to support the travel. That’s unacceptable to me. The psychological burden of student loans was too great and the interest rate of 6.8% is punitive.
I’m struggling to see the path and reason for my frugality. It’s here that I introspect, “What’s motivating me to save money and avoid more student loans?” There are both great opportunities and real challenges that create this defensive personal finance stance.
One of the biggest motivators is fear. Constant rises in income inequality, climate change, and a political environment that is skewed to the wealthiest are frightening me. If you’re not part of the bourgeois, you’ll likely be fighting, clawing, and begging your way out of lower income categories over the next few decades. Knowing that the foreseeable future will likely include environmental refugees (e.g., economists and researchers have increasingly theorized that the Syrian civil war was motivated by drought and the Pentagon has suggested that climate change may be a global threat) and massive changes in employment possibilities (I have no idea where or when I’ll be hired when I finally graduate), I’m eager to sock away some cash. Accurate or not, these are the challenges that drive me to save.
On the flip side, I’m motivated to save for a number of fun, experiential opportunities. I want to travel the world, develop a fluency in a foreign language (if I still have the brain power at that point in my life), give to the scholarship I started at Colorado State University, and develop a thriving practice as a counseling psychologist. These will all require a steady and safe savings. More importantly, they’re all worth the delayed gratification and relative banality of my life right now for more later on.
It’s with this yin-yang relationship — balanced — that I’m forgoing the travel now to live a better life later on. Until then, I’m diving into a good book and pretending to travel to faraway places and positions — loving every minute of the dream and working my butt off to make that happen.